Friday, October 14, 2011

Healthy Choices for a Drug Free Life!


Katie brought home this note from school, asking us to "talk to [her] about healthy choices for a drug free life!"

I found it inside her back pack as I was looking over her school work, sipping a cup of coffee. Oh, yeah! It reminded me I hadn't taken my allergy meds or my anxiety meds first thing that morning. I walked over to the kitchen medicine cabinet, well stocked with over the counter items such as Tylenol, Mucinex, and Benedryl. But also lots of prescription medication, both current and expired. I saw a bottle of prescription pills Will had brought home for me a few days after my C-section. But not the good stuff. I had taken all of the Percocet, got a refill, tried to get more and was denied years ago. Still in there also is the prescription anti-nausea pills the doctor gave me last December, before I'd started my daily regimine of anti-anxiety medication. That was before Pat died in January of alcoholism-induced liver failure. When we were still trying to soak up all the light he still had while here on earth. When my nausea was so overwhelming, I was having trouble getting out of bed.

I popped an Allegra and a couple of Sertralines and walked back to the table to look over the note from Katie's school.

Although I am excited to send Katie to school in her pajamas on Tuesday, I don't understand how that's going to keep her from huffing whipped cream containers at the grocery store when she's a teen.

My brother Pat was arrested for stealing when he was a teen. He and his buddy were fooling around huffing nitrous oxide, aka "hippie crack," from whipped cream containers. When they were caught giggling uncontrolably in the dairy aisle, the manager called the cops. There will be no fun at the IGA. Pat and his buddy tried to explain that they weren't actually eating the whipped cream, but they got booked for shoplifting anyway.

I am neither pro-huffing nor anti-huffing, but I am anti-stealing. They should have just paid a buck and taken the can to the woods, duh. I understand nitrous oxide kills brain cells. So does our public education system with it's emphasis on test scores and conformity.

I also understand that nitrous gives you a wonderful floaty feeling when you're in the dentist chair and she's about to drill into your already sensitive, cavity infested tooth. When I was a kid I'd ask for the nitrous just for a six month cleaning. My hygenist thought I had a low tolerance for pain, but I actually had a desire to get high. I didn't know what they were giving me was a drug, per se. I just knew I loved going to the dentist.

As a result perhaps a few of my brain cells went AWOL, but I can always dazzle you with my smile if not my mental flossings.

So yeah, yeah, I'll talk to Katie about "healthy choices" just as I have the many times she's caught me putting things of questionable health into my own mouth. My mom used to hide her Coca-Cola in a coffee cup so us kids wouldn't ask for some. Brilliant! But not really what I'm going for. Instead of hiding my bad habits, I let Katie see me for who I am. Sometimes she sees me eat salad and fresh fruit and nuts and cottage cheese. Sometimes she sees me tear into a bag of Lay's Sour Cream and Onion chips and then complain of a tummy ache the next day. When Katie asks for dessert after she's just finished eating pancakes, I remind her that both things have lots of sugar and "Remember what happened the last time you ate too much sugar [insert vomit sound]?" Sometimes she changes her mind and decides to save a treat for later. Other times she wants to try her luck. I'm trying to let her make most of the decisions about her own body so she knows her limitations.

Because that's what it's all about. It's more than "just say no to drugs". What about antibiotics your doctor says are ok to take when you have an ear ache? What about drugs that are ok for adults (tobacco, alcohol) but not kids? What about sugar, which is legal for kids despite its known effect of releasing seratonin throughout your blood stream. What about those kids that take Ritalin because they can't sit still? What about the kids who need an inhaler when they run around in gym?

And I don't want to tell my daughter, "It's ok to take drugs if a growup tells you it's ok, especially if your doctor says it's ok." My mom's doctor gave her synthetic estrogen, DES, while she was pregnant with all us kids, thinking it would help prevent miscarriages. Five months after I was born, they took it off the market because they discovered that many of the children of the DES mothers were developing reprodutive abnormalities and problems with fertility. Kill some brain cells by watching late night TV and you'll see copious ads for lawyers who want to sue someone over some recalled medication. Experts don't know everything. And even though it's my role as her mother to be an authority figure in her life, I certainly don't know everything.

But I know kids learn by example. If I want Katie to be a reader when she grows up, she needs to see me reading for pleasure. If I want her to make healthy choices about what she puts into her body, she needs to see me putting healthy things into my body. But the reverse is also true. Sometimes we learn through observation what not to do. Seeing her Uncle Pat die at age forty nine of liver failure was quite a lesson about alcoholism for her. But so is seeing her mommy and daddy enjoy a framboise lambic in moderation occasionally and not get sick from it.

I'm hoping she'll eventually realize that it's beyond a simple "drugs are bad" mentality. Some drugs are good. My antihistimine and anti-anxiety medications help me get out of bed each day and live a fairly productive life. Some drugs are not so good in excess. If you drink lots of perfectly legal alcohol every day for more than thirty years like her Uncle Pat did, your liver might not be able to take it. But it might. While Pat was dying, I read a statistic that something like only 10% - 20% of heavy drinkers ever develop cirrosis of the liver.

I want my daughter to understand that drugs, or anything we put into our body, are not just good or bad. We should be teaching our kids about moderation and critical thinking and mindfullness. When my daughter is thirteen and her buddy asks if she wants to huff some whipped cream containers, hopefully she'll think it through and decide for herself if she wants to, whether or not she wore her pajamas to school in kindgergarten for drug-free school awareness week.

I want Katie to think for herself and also understand that she won't always have the answers. And when she feels clueless, she can ask me anything. I might not have the answers either, but at least she'll know I'm being honest.