August 22, 2011 —

When I first met G, he was an easy going ten-year-old boy in my 5th grade D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) class. He was one of those kids that just seemed to be happy wherever he was. G effortlessly joined group activities. He was bright, with a passive disposition. He offended no one, and rarely expressed a forceful opinion. While his personality made him very likable, I noticed that G didn’t have any close friends. It wasn’t that people avoided him; it was just that he didn’t seem to pursue friendships the way other kids did. G was an interesting case, and I made an effort to get to know him better. I ate lunch at his table. I stopped to talk when I saw him down town, I gave him tours of the police station, etc. We built a strong rapport, and by the time G was in the 9th grade, we were old friends. However, when G entered high school he had picked up some poor acquaintances. We talked about his new group of friends often. G claimed to be in control. He candidly shared stories of his friends’ indiscretions and explained why he would never do the same kind of things. Not more than a few weeks after one of these discussions, G overdosed. Lying in his living room was an empty bottle of over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine. In speaking with him after his overdose, he was cavalier about his mistake. I gave him the full force of my packaged pep talk, but I knew that I had already lost him. It was a lack of motivation that brought G down – he had no goals, no passions. He wasn’t working towards anything. This left him wide-open to harmful influences. In sports, we often say that the best defense is a good offense. The same can be true in life. Educate yourself and your teen about the dangers of all kinds of substance abuse, including OTC cough medicine abuse. Teach, warn, guide and support, but never forget to focus your children. As parents, it is crucial that we do our job to point them towards success and encourage them to own it. Children are never too young to develop a sense of purpose.

Timothy Shoemaker is the 2011 National D.A.R.E. Officer of the Year and former N.J. State D.A.R.E. Officer of the Year. He is also the author of a free eBook for families, titled The Drug Proof Home.   Learn more about Timothy at TimothyShoemaker.com.