Kids at risk

August 19, 2016

Cain lives … but so does Abel

Folks who write about kids at risk use “evidence-based” data to inform us about what’s cooking in the world of adolescence. They will most assuredly tell us what’s happening “on the ground.” I tire of the worn out cliché—“on the ground?” Where else do things happen but “on the ground?” If they happen in the air— eventually, it’s going to happen on the ground—according to Newton. What goes up must come down. This is the one certainty whenever we evaluate the adolescent experience of drugs and/or alcohol. What they experience as an “upper” eventually becomes a downer. And when they land, they land hard. Sometimes upside-down—but always on the ground.

Every drug experience eventually comes to earth or below the earth. This stuff kills kids. The kids know this. But it seems to make “no never mind” to them whenever they land with a thud.

Blog pic 8-16-2016 RosecranceMy family loves to ski—I don’t. Expensive lift tickets, scary rides on a chair lift, and screaming, careening down a mountain do not stop the average skier from taking a plunge down a mountain.

Non-skiers don’t get it—what’s so great about flying down a hill when the ecstasy lasts for only a moment? “Big deal,” I say. “To each his own,” they say. Non-users don’t get it. What’s the buzz about getting a buzz from a drug-induced high? Average card-carrying addicts all say: “Don’t knock it until you have tried it.” Responsible adults and other preachers “knock it.” Trouble is, such advice does not work. Doesn’t put a dent in the drug-running gig because kids continue to use.

The demand to get high is so high and the benefits from running the stuff are so rich that the threat of consequences makes very little difference.

Getting “high” will always be worth it to those who use. We “straights” and other “goody-two-shoes” just don’t get it. We get skiing. We get our habit of working like crazy to prove our worth. We get exercise until we become buffed out freaks. We all have an addiction of one kind or another. The difference is some addictions land us in jail and a world of hurt and shame while others, like smoking, are merely subtly dangerous. Another name for obsession is addiction. Regret for using drugs does not kick in until a gateway drug— such as pot or booze is replaced by major league stuff—crack, oxycodone or heroin. Higher highs are possible. Regret comes later. Shame follows. Finally, despair shows up to smear the hopelessness around. They all come—regret, shame, and despair. I am not a believer in the “slippery slope,” but I would vote against legalizing pot because it opens a door to harder drugs— drugs that are harder to kick. Killer drugs that captivate, capture, and exterminate people in odd and awful ways. It’s the old “what goes up comes down” law of addiction.

Not much has changed since Cain and Abel. We claim to have learned commonplace decency and civility. Seriously? Our kids are at risk now more than ever. Getting high is easily achievable because drugs are more available than ever before. We need to accept this. We can pray about it, preach about it and claim to have taken preventive steps by offering “natural high” opportunities for our kids such as retreats, mission trips and regular youth gatherings. But it won’t change the “at risk” factor for kids. They are sitting ducks. Cain is very much alive. But so is Abel.

Here’s the hope … Abel lives. We live in incurably dangerous times and the acceptance of this is important for church leaders to own. But do not forget the hope: treatment is a worthy option for troubled kids. It is the only alternative. It goes far beyond denial or doing nothing at all. It goes further than a helpless hand wringing fret or a prayer without feet.

Take God seriously. God is an awesome God. Take Easter seriously—even humorously—yes, humorously for its outrageous, disturbing and transformational promise.

God is not finished with his intention to make all things new. Hope and healing are on the way. We wait and see. Better yet: we take action.

We move forward to partner with God to bring it on.

Here’s a vignette, if only to put some teeth into what sometimes seems to be mere “hopium.” I did business with a stockbroker the other day. He’s a new guy on the company block. Ten years ago, he was a zoned-out patient in our adolescent program. Now, he is going to handle my money! Cain lives. But so does Abel.

The Rev. Dr. William Lenters, D. Min. is chaplain of the Rosecrance Health Network.