Ask Dr. Merry: Teenage Son’s Marijuana Use

» Posted in Abuse, Addiction, Ask Dr. Lin, Family Life | 2 comments

 smoking

I don’t even know where to begin other than to say that our life has been in complete chaos for the last few years, mainly because of our 17 year old son.  He was always a really great kid and full of life.  But ever since he turned 14, he’s been sullen and angry and just plain nasty to us and his younger sister.  Last year, we discovered that he has been smoking marijuana heavily and skipping school.  We only found out about the marijuana when the school called us and told us they had to suspend him for getting into a fight with another kid.  We’ve tried everything, from taking things away, to reasoning with him, to even bribing him, but nothing seems to work.  Things have gotten really bad, to the point where I honestly don’t feel safe with him when he’s flipping out.  He’s always getting into screaming matches with my husband and there are so many holes in our walls now that I’ve lost count.  He’s also started to verbally abuse our daughter who’s 14 years old.  Last week was the last straw when he got into a huge fight with my husband and he ended up trashing the room they were in.  I’m totally exhausted and just longing to have my family back.  Our pastor has tried to talk to him but he just shuts him out, and he doesn’t want to have anything to do with church anymore. I don’t know what to do and am hoping for some direction please!

I’m incredibly sorry to hear what you and your family are going through – the turmoil and worries must be overwhelming for you, particularly when it’s your child who is the source of the stress. As a parent, having an out-of-control kid is very frightening, especially when it seems that nothing you do is making a difference. I have heard stories like yours in my office too many times, and it hasn’t gotten any easier to watch families like yours suffer in this way.  My heart truly goes out to you and I pray that you will have the courage to take some of the tough steps that I’m going to recommend – for your family’s and your son’s ultimate well-being.

There are a number of issues here that have to be addressed:  first and most importantly is the safety of your family and especially your daughter.  It sounds like things have escalated to the point where your son’s behaviour is becoming more erratic and out of control.  You haven’t indicated any physical violence directed towards a person in your home but if there is (or a threat of it), then you have no choice but to act quickly to protect your home.  Because your daughter is a minor, her safety is of primary concern and by law, you may actually have to report the abuse to the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) or the police.  Although you only mention verbal abuse towards your daughter, that does fall in the “gray” area that could require the authorities to get involved.  If you aren’t sure, then consult with a professional in your area who could give you some guidance.

Regardless, you must consider how your tumultuous home environment is affecting your daughter’s well-being.  In many cases, these children can struggle from anxiety or depression because of feeling powerless in the face of the bullying, unable to experience safety and security in her home.  And so, as painful and difficult as this can be, you may no choice at this point but to remove your son from your home, at least temporarily.  You may also want to consider getting some family counselling to ensure that there is healing for you and your family from the turmoil of your son’s choices and to give you support as you walk the difficult path of tackling his problems.

Another issue that has to be addressed is his use of marijuana.  You don’t indicate the extent of his usage but I do wonder if it’s a core issue that’s escalating his mood dysregulation and out of control behaviour.  Many teens buy into the myth that marijuana is harmless but in actuality, it can be very addictive and have disastrous effects on their lives, from significant cognitive decline (affecting their brain processing, memory, decision-making and impulse control), to an increase in reckless and life-threatening behaviour and accidents, to mental illness (even triggering schizophrenia or psychotic breaks) , to a myriad of health problems.

I’m not sure of the extent of your son’s use but he needs professional help to assess him and recommend treatment options.  In many cases, when teens start heavy marijuana at a young age, they can become addicted and have difficulty stopping on their own, and so they may need to go to an addictions treatment centre or some sort of addictions support group for teens (your doctor or your local hospital should be able to direct you to resources in your community).  If he refuses to get professional help, then YOU go to seek help for how to handle this.  You can then get support for how to set boundaries, draw the line in the sand and refuse to enable his bad behaviour.  Even if it turns out that he isn’t using marijuana any more, his out of control behaviour needs to be addressed decisively, consistently, and with loving firmness.

Many times, teens will refuse to admit that they have a problem and so families can get into this dysfunctional dance when they try to help:  their teens gets into trouble, the parents step in to try to help, the teens are clean for a while, but then they start using again and on and on the cycle goes.  The whole family’s life then becomes wrapped up in one escalating crisis after another.

In our fear for their safety and well-being, we parents can sometimes interfere with the hard lessons that our kids need to learn to help them turn away from their bad choices.  One of the hardest things that parents sometimes have to do is watch their teens hit rock bottom.  Like the father had to do in the biblical story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), we may have to let them go their way so that when the consequences of their choices become too unbearable for them, they finally come to their senses.  While it can feel like you’re abandoning your son, you’re actually doing the most loving thing to ensure that he is able to finally take responsibility for his own choices and that he grows through his mistakes.  This will be a time when you will likely wear out your knees praying for your son.

For parents who are Christ-followers, this can be a time of intense faith building as you learn to release to God the care and well-being of your children.  If you’re able to focus on the truth that God loves your son even more than you do, that he is sovereign and only allows into your son’s life what he will use for his long-term good, and that he has promised to redeem everything for good in your son’s life (even his worst mistakes) when he turns back to God, then perhaps you can choose to hold onto hope.  I strongly encourage you to connect with other families in your church or community who have walked in your shoes and can give you a sense of hope and strength during this next stage of your journey with your son.

 

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2 Comments

  1. My heart goes out to this family as I have been there! It is a very painful time and creates confusion and chaos in the home. Merry, you are so right about your advice. When our oldest son was addicted to marajuana we tried ‘helping’ in various ways but he wasn’t interested in our help. We came to the point that we had to tell him he couldn’t stay in our home. I never imagined that we as a Christian family would ever be facing that kind of decision. Our sons personality had changed, the mood swings and anger were frightening at times.

    We sought help and went to a counselor. It was critical to our own well being. It gave us perspective and courage to do what we needed to do. Not just for our sake but for our sons as well. It really was a testing time for us if we trusted God enough with our son. Was God big enough? Would He go after our son? We felt out of control and it brought us to our knees in a way we had never been before. We truly learned to PRAY. We prayed against the drugs, the friends…everything we could think of…and then God opened our eyes to the reality of spiritual warfare over our family. We had never fully understood this before but as our eyes were open we could see that the enemy had a grip on our son. Through the help of others and God showing Himself to us we started praying directly against the powers of darkness that were at work against us – we put our armour on and claimed the power of Jesus in our home, our family and our sons life. Our prayers changed from ‘protect our son’ to ‘bring him to the end of himself’. A difficult prayer – but one that is neccessary for his own freedom. Our other 2 children were following behind and also turning to the party scene and marajuana.

    We truly feel your pain. We shared our story in a 4 minute video that is now on utube and going all over the world. It shows that we are not alone in this struggle. God has done a great work in our family after almost 8 years of struggle. We continue to trust Him with our kids. I know you will be encouraged by this video – take a few minutes to watch it with your husband

    http://loriehartshorn.com/parenting-groups-p5.php

    Ask the God of heavens armies to fight for your son. He will do it!
    Lorie

    • Thanks for your comment, Lorie, and your willingness to share your own personal story!! It’s stories like yours that give hope to the families that are currently going through what your family did. And thanks also for your reminder of the importance of fighting the battle through intense prayer!!

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