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Substance Abuse

with Dennis and Barbara Rainey | July 19, 2007

Teens are naturally curious. That's a good thing, but it can also be a bad thing, especially when it comes to alcohol, cigarettes or drugs. Dennis and Barbara Rainey talk about the dangerous and often deadly trap of substance abuse.

Teens are naturally curious. That's a good thing, but it can also be a bad thing, especially when it comes to alcohol, cigarettes or drugs. Dennis and Barbara Rainey talk about the dangerous and often deadly trap of substance abuse.

Substance Abuse

With Dennis and Barbara Rainey
|
July 19, 2007
| Download Transcript PDF

Dennis: Do you think we have a problem with substance abuse?  We've got a massive problem, and the problem is not a teenager problem.  In my opinion, it's an adult problem.  It's the failure of parents to be involved in their children's lives – guarding, protecting, and keeping them away from this type of substance that can destroy their lives.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, July 19th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  What have you done to warn and protect your children about alcohol and drug abuse?  Stay with us.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.  Last week and again this week, we have been talking about some of the pitfalls, some of the traps that face our teenagers as they walk through their teen years, and we've been talking about the need for proactive parenting; the need for us to pass along mature, godly wisdom to our sons and our daughters as they go through their adolescent years, which is something that the Bible talks about over and over again.

Dennis: It does.  In fact, Proverbs, chapter 13, verse 14 says, "The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life to turn aside from the snares of death."

 You know, the Book of Proverbs was written by Solomon, I think, primarily to teach his son.  Proverbs 13, 14 really exhorts a child to listen to the teaching of a wise person, because it brings forth life, but it also warns that, as parents, what we're helping our children do is turn aside from a snare that would produce death.

Bob: And the trap that we're going to be talking about on the broadcast today is one that has tragically claimed the lives of countless thousands of young people.

Dennis: Well, listen to these statistics, and these come from the PRIDE, which is the National Parents' Resource Institute for Drug Education, which, Bob, is an incredible survey of more than 129,000 students in the sixth grade all the way through the 12th grade, done in more than 26 states across the country, and they found that of all sixth through twelfth graders, 29.5 percent of them had used an illicit drug at least once in the past year.

Bob: Three out of 10?

Dennis: Three out of the 10 – marijuana, of those in grade 6 through 8, 13.6 percent used marijuana at least once this past year.  And then you take alcohol, of those who are in middle school – 44.5 percent have used alcohol at least once in the past year.  Then there's smoking – of those in middle school, 31.1 percent have smoked cigarettes at least once during that school year, and of those in high school, 48.2 percent.

 Do you think we have a problem with substance abuse?  We've got a massive problem, and the problem – this is going to sound radical – the problem is not a teenager problem.  In my opinion, it's an adult problem, it's the failure of parents to be involved in their children's lives – guarding, protecting, drawing boundaries around their children's lives, and keeping them away from this type of substance that can destroy their lives.

Bob: I've got to confess to you my own naivete in this area.  When I was in the 9th grade, I was standing at my locker one day, and a fellow who was on the football team with me came up and leaned up against the locker next to mine, and he said, "Hey, Bob, you interested in a bag of marijuana?"  And I said, "No, I don't think so."  He says, "Okay, it's cool," and walked away. 

 I went home and told my parents, and we called the police, and the police captain came out to our house and took a report, and then I got to thinking, "I've got to go back to school the next day, and the word is going to get around, undoubtedly."  Well, the word didn't get around as to who, but we did hear later on that this young man had been expelled from school.  Obviously, I was not the only target of his interest in selling marijuana. 

 But that's about the only time in my life that I've had any kind of a run-in with illicit drugs, and throughout high school and college I didn't drink, I didn't smoke, and I was pretty square.

Barbara: Yeah, I was, too, Bob.  I didn't do any of that stuff and, for me, it was primarily because I was afraid to.  I just didn't – I was just chicken.  I didn't want to get into alcohol, and there were kids who started drinking when we were in high school and started smoking when we were in high school.  Drugs, I don't think, were much of a problem when I was a teenager, however, it was starting to make inroads into college.  But I just didn't want to have anything to do with it, because I just was afraid of it.

Bob: Afraid of what it would do?

Barbara: Afraid of what it would do and afraid of the consequences, and I knew it wasn't right, and I just wasn't going to mess with it.

Dennis: You know, I had enough choices when I was a teenager – I'm glad I wasn't a teenager in this era, because between alcohol, marijuana, the pills that people have to numb them, I mean, children today have a lot more alternatives when it comes to substance abuse, and parents have a bigger task, I think, because they're available, in many cases, in people's homes.

Bob: And in some cases, Dennis, the problem that our kids are facing really stems back to what's being modeled for them, again, by their parents.

Dennis: Yeah, I look back to some of the decisions that Barbara and I made early on in our marriage, and this is one of them.  We were going to model a life that didn't bring this stuff into our home, and I can't help but wonder today if we got on the phone right now and called Ashley and Benjamin and Samuel, our older three, who have now moved on beyond the teen years – I think it would be interesting to know if any of them had ever taken a drink.  I don't think any one of those three has ever sampled alcoholic beverages and, as far as marijuana, smoking, doing any other kind of drug, I don't think that they've even been there.

 And I don't pat ourselves on the back at that point, but I think our own stand of deciding what we're going to model and really paying attention to that.  I think we underestimate how a parent can give approval, not merely to a drink or to a drug, but to a lifestyle that accompanies them.

Bob: You know, there's a lot of discussion around the scriptures in this area, about whether it is unbiblical to take a drink, and we read passages where Paul exhorts Timothy to take a little wine for your stomach for medicinal purposes, Jesus turns water into wine at Cana, and so a lot of Christians think to themselves, "It's not prohibited in the scripture.  I have freedom in Christ." 

 Drunkenness is forbidden, but taking an occasional drink, having a beer with the guys at a football game or a glass of wine with dinner – there's nothing biblically wrong with that.  On the other hand, Barbara, you and Dennis have said even though there's nothing biblically wrong, it's not going to be a part of our lifestyle.  Explain that.

Barbara: Well, I think that, even though we agree that there isn't anything biblically wrong with it, we just felt like, early on, that with our kids we did not want that to even be a temptation to them, because if they felt like it was okay for Mom and Dad to have wine with an occasional meal, or to have a beer now and again, even though it was not something that was an ordinary occurrence, even though they would understand that it was an exception, I just don't think our kids in this culture have the maturity to be able to say, "This is an exception." 

 I think they look at us, and they go, "Well, if Mom and Dad do it, it must be okay," and they make these mental leaps from seeing what somebody else is doing to deciding it's okay for me, when they don't have the maturity to know how to balance it or don't know how to do it in moderation, and so they decide, well, it's okay, and they just – they go bonkers with it.

Dennis: I'll tell you, it's not just teenagers, either.  This story is not about a parent raising a teen, but it applies to what you're talking about –  I'll never forget a peer who developed a problem with drugs, and it all started when this particular adult was over at a friend's house, and they went out for an outing with a pair of people who were very godly, very mature Christians, and during that outing, that other couple served my friend a glass of wine, and alcoholic beverage.

That started that man, in his mid-40s, down a trail that nearly cost him his life, his marriage, his family, his ability to earn a living, and it all started with him looking at a peer, someone that he admired and looked up to, but nonetheless a peer – age-wise and professionally – and I want to tell you, if it can have that kind of an impact on somebody who is 40, what kind of an impact would it have on a 12-year-old, an 11-year-old, or, for that matter, a 16-year-old who is trying to find a point to anchor their lives in this stormy gale called life where they're living.

They don't have many anchor points, and I think our teens need to be able to look at parents, and I don't think we should be worshipped.  I'm not talking about that, but I do think our model needs to be as consistently strong and upholding the highest values that we can possibly represent to our children, because today's teenagers – listen to me – today's teenagers need us.  They need parents they can depend on; parents who represent something. 

And to be a Christian parent today and to be doing some things that are just a little foggy or just a little gray, and, you know, it's not that much.  Let me tell you something – these children are like radar units.  They lock on us, they watch, they look, and they make determinations off of our lives – whether we like it or not – and so that's why Barbara and I decided we won't do that.

Bob: Well, certainly, one of the dominant themes of adolescence is how close am I to adulthood?  And so if young people are watching parents and their behavior and their activity and saying, "That's what it looks like to be an adult," they're trying to rush adulthood as quickly as they can.  The sooner they start drinking, for example, they think they're closer to adulthood, and that will lead them down a path well ahead of their maturity.

Dennis: Well, advertising – that's the pitch of all the booze advertising that occurs on TV, in newspaper ads, magazine ads, billboards, and one of the things we've done with our children from an early age is we've sought to unmask the deceit of this advertising with our children as we drive by those billboards, as we open those magazines, as we see those advertisements while we're watching the football game on television.

We talk about what the lie is behind that advertisement – that you have to drink to be happy, that you have to drink to have fun.  And then, as our older children have left and gone away to college, we've continued to test their convictions by asking them why their friends drink, why people who live in the dorms or the sorority or the fraternity – why do they have to go out and get plastered?  What is it that's taking place there?  Are they running from reality?  Are they searching for some kind of peace?  Is it that they don't like who they are while they're sober, and they do like who they are when they're drunk?

 We've talked with all of our children about becoming the person that pleases God, and having an identity in Jesus Christ that is winsome and feeling good about that identity so that you don't have to take a drink to feel good about yourself.

Bob: Apart from the desire to be older or more mature, what is the lure for young people to sample cigarettes, alcohol, or illicit drugs?

Barbara: Well, I think that's the big lure, really, but I think what hooks them is their insecurity, because kids are so insecure.  They don't know who they are, they don't know where they belong, they just have all these areas where they don't have confidence yet, and so they get hooked on that because that gives them that false sense of confidence when they're drinking or when they are smoking and looking cool and grownup, and I think that's what keeps them doing it, because it fulfills that need they have to feel some sense of confidence and self-esteem.

Dennis: I couldn't agree more with what Barbara said.  I think we forget what it was like to be a teenager and to be growing up and feel so uncertain of who you are and try to find ways to carve out your own personhood and identity as a young man or a young lady, and I think there are two other things you add to that mix – the most powerful of which is peer pressure.  And, of course, that's where they're getting their identity – from their friends and peers, and I think that's one of the major reasons why a lot of children drink – is they're hanging around with other children who do.

Bob: Well, but if they're hanging around with kids from the youth group, then …

Dennis: But, see, there is where we get tricked.  In fact, that brings up a great story that occurred a number of years ago with one of my sons.  They came back home, and one of them said, "Dad, I'm not quite sure how to tell you this, but a couple of the boys from the youth group got plastered."

 And I said, "Who was it."  "Well, I'm not sure I should tell you."  And I said, "Well, let me tell you something, son.  If they got drunk, and they were driving a vehicle, and that had come out in the story, and it was you, I would want to know.  Because, at that point, as a dad, I would want to step into my son's life, and I would want to correct this, lest they lose their life, and you can lose it, you can ruin it, and you can destroy it all around a substance called alcohol, or a drug that you might take."

Bob: You mentioned that peer influence is one of the critical issues leading kids.  In addition to peer pressure, what's the other factor that you think is leading kids to sample alcohol and drugs?

Dennis: It's real simple – stress.  I think grades, the stress of popularity, the schedules they keep, stress is a biggie, and I think a lot of kids are trying to escape lifestyles.  In fact, this is such a huge issue, Bob, that in our book, "Parenting Today's Adolescent," we actually call this a trap – busyness – and address this issue of crowded schedules, jamming too much in and trying to achieve too many objectives today as young people.

 Parents are responsible for the lifestyles of our youth in not allowing them to live their lives on the edge.

Bob: Barbara, what would you say to a son or a daughter who says, "Well, in Europe, Mom, everybody drinks wine with every meal from the time they're six years old.  They don't have the hang-ups that you guys have."

Barbara: Yeah, I would probably laugh and chuckle like we just did and say, "Yeah, we don't live in Europe, either.  This is not Europe, this is America, and it may be true over there, but it's not true here, and we're trying to set a high standard for you, and we want to raise you in a godly way, and we're just not going to do that."

Dennis: Yeah, and they've got some real problems because of it. 

Bob: And the tragedy here is that some of these kids get so close to these traps, that they fall completely in, and there are kids who aren't alive today.

Dennis: Yeah, you're pointing out the destructive nature of these substances like alcohol, pills, marijuana, other forms of drugs that are abused by young people and, you know, Bob, some time ago you were at my 50th birthday party, and you remember what happened – all of my children came back from the different spots where they were – Samuel came down from college where he was at the time, and Ashley and Michael drove over from they live and having been newly marrieds.

 And a part of that celebration was my son Benjamin who, at the time, was in Estonia, got on the phone and began to weep and began to share his appreciation for me as a dad, and the entire staff was there as they had him patched through and, man, it was the best birthday party I've ever been a part of for my life. 

 Just hearing my son on the phone and hearing his appreciation for me as a dad and a man, you know, if you could just die at that point and move on to the next – to eternity at that juncture. 

 But when I got back to my office, there was an e-mail waiting for me on my desk that I've got in my hands, and I think it points out the danger of what we're talking about here, and how drugs can ruin a young man or a young woman's life.  And it's from one of our staff here at FamilyLife.

 It says, "Dear Dennis, Happy Birthday.  I'm glad to see you taking it so well."  It wasn't really that bad, Bob.  This particular parent goes on to say, "I don't mind being 54, it's just a number.  Good health is more important than age." 

 And she went on to say a few other things there, and then she said, "Hearing your son overseas was special and hard.  I couldn't help but feel the contrast.  You see, today my son goes to court to be sentenced to prison for drugs.  Pray for him to come to repentance.  I have not seen my son in more than four years.  I know God has heard my prayers for him and that God will do what is best for all concerned."

 I don't know why our children, so far, have done so well.  It's the grace of God that He has overruled many of the mistakes that Barbara and I have made.  But I looked at that memo, and I thought how easy it would have been for one of our children to have taken a step and headed down in that direction and today it could be one of my sons or my daughters going to prison for drugs. 

 And I'll tell you, if you go out to that finish line, and you look at that point, what's that worth?  It's worth taking the strongest stand, being the most diligent parent, hanging in there and persevering when your children fail and when you fail, and not giving up in diligent prayer for your children to ask God to keep them from evil and harm and from temptation, and ask God for victory.

 You know, in all these traps we're talking about here, you can't ignore the fact that it is the Lord who builds the house, and it's the Lord who must protect our children, and it's the Lord who must be at work in our children's lives on behalf of His agenda for them, calling them to do what's right when no one is looking. 

 And I pray for those parents right now that if you're facing a tough situation with a prodigal child who is still living in your home that God will give you the grace, the perseverance, the love, the compassion, to go after that child and to love them out of their sin.  May God grant you success as you raise those teenagers.

Bob: You know, in the final section of your book, you and Barbara talk to parents of prodigals with encourage them and provide some comfort along with some specific steps that they can take and some things that they probably ought to avoid.

 I want to encourage our listeners – if you don't yet have a copy of the book, "Parenting Today's Adolescent," we do have the book available in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  Don't wait until your child is a teenager facing some of these challenges, or maybe a teenager in trouble before you order a copy of this book.  When you kids are still 8, 9, 10, before adolescence hits I think, Dennis, that's ideally the time for a mom and a dad to read through this book together; to take each one of these traps that you outline, maybe go out on a series of dates where on each date you talk about your convictions in these areas and what do we want our standards to be and how do we want to communicate that and how do we want to enforce that in our home?

 The book "Parenting Today's Adolescent," will help you in those discussions, and you can get a copy from our FamilyLife Resource Center by going online at FamilyLife.com.  Click the red button that you see in the middle of the screen that says "Go."  That will take you to an area oaf the site where there is more information about this book and about other resources that are available from us here at FamilyLife to help parents of teens and parents of preteens.

 Again, the website is FamilyLife.com, click the red "Go" button that you see in the middle of the screen to get to the right area of our website.  Or just call us at 1-800-358-6329.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and someone on our team will be available to either answer any questions that you have about the resources we have, or place an order for you and make sure that these resources get sent out to you. 

 And there is an additional resource I want to mention – that's a book that has just been written by our host, Dennis Rainey.  It's a guidebook for dads called "Interviewing Your Daughter's Date," and for the last few weeks we've been making this book available as a thank you gift to any of our listeners who are able to help the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount.  We appreciate your partnership with us, and we'd like to say thank you when you make a donation to FamilyLife Today, and this month we're doing that by making available Dennis's new book as our thank you gift.

 If you make your donation online this month, when you come to the keycode box on the donation form, just type the word "date" in there, and we'll know to send you a copy of this book, or call 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, you can make a donation by phone and just mentioned that you'd like a copy of Dennis's new book and, again, we're happy to send it out to you, and we appreciate your support of this ministry.

 Tomorrow we want to tackle what winds up being a surprise issue for a lot of parents.  It's a teenager who always seemed like an even-tempered, mild-mannered, lovable son or daughter who, during the teen years, seems like he or she is angry about a lot of stuff.  Maybe everything.  We'll talk about unresolved anger in the heart of a teen on tomorrow's program.  I hope you can be with us for that.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today. 

 You can also order materials online at FamilyLife.com if you do have access to the Internet and if that's easier for you, simply stop by our website and follow the signs to the FamilyLife Resource Center, and if you know somebody who ought to have heard today's broadcast, you can e-mail them and invite them to listen online at FamilyLife.com.  This program will be available for the next 30 days or so, if they'd like to tune in and listen anytime over the next month, invite them to do that.

 You know, recently here at FamilyLife we had to make a difficult decision.  There were a handful of radio stations that featured our broadcast that had to be discontinued because we had not heard from listeners in that area, and we want to be good stewards of the funds that God has entrusted to us, those donations that we've received from our listeners – we want to make sure that we're applying those wisely, and when we don't hear from listeners in a particular area, we're left to assume that for one reason or another our broadcast is not connecting with people in a particular city, and those funds would be better used elsewhere.

 It's always a tough decision to make, and we always get cards or letters or e-mails from folks after the program has been canceled saying, "Is there anything we can do to get FamilyLife Today back on our local radio station?"  Well, the best thing you can do is, again, to do something proactive and write us.  Let us know that you listen to FamilyLife Today and you support what we're doing on the broadcast.  In fact, if you can include a check for any amount, become a FamilyLife Champion.  Let us know that you stand behind what we're doing.  That goes a long way to helping us know that we are connecting with listeners in a particular area.

 Now, our mailing address is simple.  It's FamilyLife Today at Box 8220, Little Rock, Arkansas.  The zip code is 72221.  Once again, write to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 8220, Little Rock, Arkansas.  The zip code is 72221.  Let us hear from you, and when you do, let us know the call letters of the station on which you hear FamilyLife Today.  You can also contact us by telephone at 1-800-358-6329.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.  Or if e-mail is the easiest for you, stop by our website.  You can leave us e-mail from there.  Our Web address is FamilyLife.com.  While you're there, take a tour of the site and find out how you can register for an upcoming FamilyLife marriage or parenting conference, how you can listen to past editions of our broadcast, or how you can order materials online.  Once again, the Web address is FamilyLife.com.

 Tomorrow we're going to talk about the final deadly trap facing adolescents.  This one may be a little bit of a surprise for parents.  We've talked about media and pornography and drugs and dating and sexuality.  Tomorrow we talk about unresolved anger and what that can do in a family relationship.  If your kids have been showing their anger, tune in tomorrow as we talk about how you deal with that here on the broadcast.

 Let me thank our engineer on the broadcast today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.

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