How did you become addicted to substances?

Question: I have full custody of my 17-year-old granddaughter, who I am worried might be experimenting with drugs and alcohol. My question is, how did you start? When do you think it became a problem?

Thank you for asking a great question! I do believe there are some teens who naturally experiment with drugs and alcohol in a somewhat harmless way that never leads to dependency. Then there are other teens who, years before they began experimenting, displayed behaviors or early warning signs indicating some internal struggle. I was that teenager. I displayed warning signs and behaviors years before I began drinking or experimenting with drugs. Although I was athletic and involved with various extracurricular activities, I struggled with learning disabilities that left me feeling insecure. I learned quickly that negative attention was better than no attention.

At a time when prevention consisted of the D.A.R.E. program, which I was chosen to participate in, I had little to no understanding of addiction. Even though we had no immediate family history of substance abuse, my parents always tried to bring awareness to the fact that alcoholism ran in the extended family. 

As a teen, I drank to get drunk. Drinking built my confidence, but I was never aware of the amount I was consuming or the dangerous situations I placed myself in. By the age of seventeen or eighteen, I was in a very chaotic and abusive relationship, drinking a few school nights a week and every weekend. Thanks to my high-risk lifestyle, I ended up having a medical procedure that left me with a prescription of Percocet. This was around 2002 or 2003, and from that first prescription, I became dependent on OxyContin, then eventually heroin. 

From the time I was very young, my parents were always very proactive, constantly seeking additional support services. But we didn’t know what we didn’t know. The information available now about prescription opioid misuse was not available then. I would suggest that you talk to your granddaughter about her experimentation, explaining the implications of her actions and what they can lead to. Recovery coaches as well as success coaches have become very beneficial for teens and young adults preventing substance misuse. Even having her do volunteer work at a local shelter or food pantry can influence change. None of us who experimented as teens ever thought we would become addicted to drugs as adults. Seeing firsthand another person’s struggles may bring awareness to the choices she is currently making.

Continue to stay proactive, and best of luck, Grandma!

Yours truly,

Keriann Caccavaro
A Daughter’s Perspective

Disclaimer: The above advice is not meant to be construed as medical or legal advice. If you need professional medical, psychological, or legal advice, please contact a doctor, lawyer, or medical center.

Keriann Caccavaro is a recovery coach, drug court advocate, and woman in long term recovery helping to support people struggling with addiction and their families. You can learn more about her on LinkedIn or Facebook.

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