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Of Joints And Junior

What former drug-using Boomers tell their kids about drugs

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All the warning signs were there: the furtive phone calls, the vague explanations, the red eyes, and the unmistakable smell. John and Debby knew something was going on with their then 15-year-old son. They demanded to see what was inside his footlocker, which he had recently secured with a padlock. Grudgingly, he opened it. Both parents peered inside. Aha, they knew it. There, in a little box, was a baggie of pot, some rolling papers, and a pipe. Just as John was getting ready to unleash his patriarchal wrath, he took a closer look. Hmm, that pipe looked mighty familiar. Debby was thinking the same thing. They looked at each other. Oh man, how were they supposed to handle this? "I had had that pipe for over 20 years," John said. "It had been in my sock drawer or something, but I smoke so infrequently that I hadn't even noticed it was missing."

It's a sticky situation that lots of parents -- particularly Baby Boomers who came of age during the free love and drugs hippie culture of the 60s and 70s -- are facing as their kids reach their teenage years and are exposed to all kinds of temptations.

For parents who experimented (or perhaps still experiment) with drugs, it can be a troublesome and puzzling dilemma. Do you use the old, and admittedly hypocritical, "Do as I say, not as I do" approach? Do you divulge all your wild days shenanigans, opting for the "Learn from my mistakes" routine? Do you warn your kids that one puff from a joint will lead to heroin addiction and a ruined life? Or do you tell them to toss out that skunkweed and turn on to the good shit? Unfortunately, none of this is covered in parenting manuals, so it's a judgment call parents must make based on intuition and their own ideals and belief system. Given today's volatile drug culture, it can be a daunting decision.

In the case of John and Debby, they came down pretty hard on their son after discovering his little stash of weed about a year ago. But John says it wasn't so much because they felt pot was an insidious drug -- in fact, John feels marijuana and hallucinogens should be legalized -- but because their young son had lied to them about it. Moreover, John says he's seen how habitual marijuana use has affected some of his friends and family, and he was afraid his son was heading in the same direction.

"At the time, it seemed like he was smoking a lot, and that's what was really disturbing me," John says. "He had this still yet unformed 15-year-old brain, and I didn't want him polluting it with drugs. I've known people who were absolutely brilliant and, to this very day, have a lack of ambition and material success due to the fact that they smoked pot all day everyday for 30 years. You just lose your motivation. That's the last thing I want to see happen with my kids."

John says that given his past, though, he couldn't help but feel a little hypocritical as he was lecturing his son and handing down his punishment. John says he did his fair share of partying in his younger days, especially with hallucinogens, and characterizes his drug use as "pretty heavy" at times.

"There wasn't much going on in Charlotte in the 60s and early 70s, so there wasn't much else to do but take drugs," he says. Once John reached college, his drug use tapered off. Marriage and kids (they also have a teenage daughter) brought about other changes.

"When I had my first child, many aspects of my life became more conservative," he explains. "But by that time giving up the occasional drug use that I indulged in wasn't a problem. I was physically and mentally beyond that point. I'm glad that I had some of those earlier experiences, but the heavy and frequent drug use didn't do anything for my synapses. I'm sometimes muddleheaded, and I wonder if I brought some of that on myself."

Today, John says he might smoke pot a half-dozen times a year if someone passes him a joint at a party. And while he considers himself relatively liberal and open-minded, he stops short of telling his kids all the things he did growing up.

"I really wouldn't want them to get the feeling that it's OK to do some of those things just because Dad did them. While the scare tactics we heard in the 60s and 70s probably backfired when people realized it was bullshit -- you can take LSD without becoming psychotic -- I do know people who died because of their drug use. And sometimes casual drug use can lead to heavier things, so it can be a slippery slope.

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