Every Story Needs a Hero

Smiling students standing outdoors

(This article is from my other website, wwwJustSayNo.org.) Across the table, with coffee in hand, the police sargeant patiently answered all of my questions. As a Notre Dame grad, involved in thousands of drug arrests during an exceptional career that spanned three decades with the Columbus Division of Police, he was the perfect person to shed light on the growing problem of drug use among high school students. I wanted to learn as much as possible from him for my book, Seeing Past Friday Night.

The fundamental question

After a lengthy conversation, I asked a final question that he was uniquely qualified to answer. “You’ve witnessed it all,” I said. “You’ve seen the destruction, the incredible cost. You’re the one who explains to the parents why their child was arrested. The question is, why do some kids try drugs for the first time?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “They don’t know. They just say they weren’t thinking.”

“Okay, I get that,” I responded. “But, think about it … what is the real reason?”

This time he took longer and said, “It’s really hard to say. I can tell you what the parent’s reaction is, every single time.”

“What’s that?”

“Absolute shock. When I tell them that their 16 or 17 year old son or daughter was just arrested for selling drugs to support their own habit, they are absolutely shocked. They cannot believe it, which, of course, is understandable.”

(His words made me recall how many times parents say, “I gotta tell you, I would be absolutely shocked to find out that my kids were doing drugs.” The sargeant’s sobering words made me realize that just because parents would be absolutely shocked does not necessarily eliminate the possiblity that they will be one day.)

I pressed on with the question …

Apologizing for being stuck on this one question, I asked a third time. “Think about it. You’ve seen so many great kids from wonderful families go down a dangerous path during their high school years. In many cases, if they could only go back in time and make a better decision that first time they try drugs, their whole life might be so different.”

He pondered one more time, and after a long moment, shook his head and said, “Young or old, they all say the same thing. They just weren’t thinking.”

It finally struck me … 

That is the answer

“That’s it,” I said. “We’re  looking for the answer, and that is the answer. They aren’t doing a Ben Franklin List, where they list the pros on one side of the page and the cons on the other. They don’t decide … they react! Theres is no reason for their decision, because there is no reasoning involved.”

Like so many things we do, particularly in high school when our experience level is so disproportionate with the consequences of our actions, we just react. This is why the Just Say No program is so successful.

How would you answer?

The young schoolgirl raises her hand and asks you, “What should we do if someone offers us drugs?”

Cameras are rolling. Microphones are pointed at you. What are you going to say?

I probably would have answered, “Well, tell them that drugs are bad for you. Your grades will suffer. Your parents don’t want you to do it. It’s illegal. And tell them …”

Blah, blah, blah.

She doesn’t need a Ben Franklin sheet! She needs something simple. She needs to be armed with a simple, powerful mission statement. A mission statement that she is in charge of implementing!

Just saying no.

Not, no because of this.

Not, no because of that .

No because I said so!

She doesn’t have to explain herself to anybody. Just saying no, is enough.

If it is all about reaction … have your kids react wisely!

Despite a long list of stupid things I did in high school, when it came to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, I reacted wisely. Why?

Because my parents offered me an added incentive to say no to drug use, binge drinking, and smoking during my high school years. They agreed to:

  • Give me use of a car throughout high school.
  • Pay towards the gasoline.
  • Pay towards the car insurance.

After that, it was always a beer or a car, a cigarette or a car, pot or a car. At 16, 17, and 18, car wins out every time. From that moment on, there was no decision. Decision made. From that point I reacted in a positive way.

An agreement for your son, daughter, grandchild, niece, or nephew

Visit my website, www.JustSayNo.org and you can download a free Promise Agreement that parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, coaches, and teachers can make with the young adult in their life to give them added incentives for dealing with the challenges of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco in a responsible way.

Empower the young person in your life with a powerful, simple mission statement to keep them healthy. Empower them to Just Say No. Because Every Story Needs a Hero

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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