Friday, October 20, 2006

Living? Or just living for the weekend?

It's Friday. It is the beginning of the weekend, a time to catch up with chores, spend time with family and friends, and relax. For some, it means it's time to get blotto (does that still mean what it used to mean when I was younger?) and to stay that way until it's time to sober up and go back to work on Monday.

My son and I have been talking a lot about drink and drugs lately. He takes a city bus home from high school every day and encounters other, older students, who speak to him about getting drunk or 'wasted,' and who even offer him drugs. One older kid offered him free samples of whatever drug he was pushing, marijuana I think.

I pointed out to my son that offering free samples is a form of marketing. In order to create a customer, you have to get him or her interested in your product. If someone tries your soap, or soup, or marijuana, and likes it, he or she is likely to come back to you as your customer. The name of Robert A. Heinlein has come up in this blog and in Bellezza's recently. He coined the term TANSTAAFL, an acronym for There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. The peanuts at your favourite bar may appear to be free, but the cost is really buried in the cost of the booze you consume. The proffered sample of marijuana may appear to be free, but its cost will quickly be recovered in the high mark-up typical to illicit drugs.

My son, so far, has had the good sense to say no.

Why use drugs at all? Or booze? What is the attraction? Why does someone take that first drink, that first toke, or pop that first pill?

Peer pressure surely plays a part. Teenagers, in particular, like to feel like they belong. They might participate just so they can be like their friends. Or, they might give in to the taunting typical of teenagers and even some adult bird-brains: "Whutzamatter, are ya chicken or sumthin?"

I have tried to teach my son that doing something just because 'everyone else' is doing it is foolhardy and weak. That is never an acceptable excuse.

What about adults? What is their excuse for irrational behaviour? I am not speaking here of just having a drink or two. I have a well-stocked liquor cabinet and occasionally take a drink. Sometimes, my wife and I will have a bottle of wine with dinner. No problem, right? That is moderate behaviour and is perfectly OK. I am referring instead to those who live for Friday night and the weekend so they can drink or drug themselves into a stupor.

Again, why do people do this? Some people, I explained to my son, find false courage in a bottle or in a drug. It enables them to get past their shyness or inhibitions. It enables them to do things they might otherwise not do, and then not to care afterwards. Other people, I explained further, hate their lives (and sometimes themselves) so much that they take every opportunity to escape from reality. Booze and drugs are the tools they use to accomplish that.

I asked myself, even when I was a teenager, why people do this. Why would anyone live a dismal life, spend two days escaping it, and then have to go back to that same, dreaded life, on Monday? Why not do something about the underlying problem instead? In an unhappy relationship? Break-up. Or get counselling. Crappy job? Find another one. No-one else will hire you? Improve your skills or your education so you will have more to offer. With the money saved by stopping to use booze and drugs to escape, there will be funds available for more constructive use. Bored? Do some volunteer work. Take classes in the evening. Get a hobby. Talk to friends, spouse and children.

One of my companies produced financial software back in the 1990s. One of the products, Success Financial Software*, helped with financial calculations of various types. It is no longer in production, but anyone can download a free version here, then use it to calculate how much money would accumulate if they no longer spent $80.00 (or whatever) on booze or drugs every week for the rest of their lives, and invested the money and generated interest income instead. It is amazing how much money some people manage to piss away on things that aren't even good for them. This one thing alone would be enough to make me swear off booze, drugs, or even cigarettes.

I am not railing against anyone's right to do whatever they wish to do with their own bodies. I just want everyone, especially teenagers before they develop any bad habits, to understand the implication of their actions. Every dollar spent polluting their bodies is a dollar that they can't use to invest towards their future financial security or to help take care of themselves and their eventual families.

Well, that was hard work. I think I'll go home tonight and pour myself a drink. Maybe a nice, ice-cold, delicious, glass of orange juice.

*It is a DOS program, but will run fine under any version of Windows. You may not be able to print out reports, however, because the program used the old DOS 'print calls' which are no longer supported by Windows.


  1. I have never been able to understand an irresponsible use of substances, whether it's drugs or chocolate. Self-discipline is a wonderful thing. Plus, I was always afraid of losing control in college, if I partook too heavily, and ending up on the bathroom floor (or worse, sidewalk) with no one to take care of me. I'm the kind of person who likes to take care of herself.

    But, in reading your post, I'm reminded of another thought. In living for Friday, are we wasting the rest of the days of the week? What good is one doing with Monday through Saturday if on is pissed off, and not committed to one's life? How can we be good employees, good partners, good parents (not in that order) if all we're thinking about is oblivion at the end of the week?

    I love how you cause me to ponder important questions in your posts.

  2. A friend of mine has hinted to me that I might just be an old grouch, incapable of having a good time. I try to explain to him that I get my kicks, my highs, just from life itself. There is so much to wonder at, to experience, to enjoy. Why dull one's senses and miss out on all this?

    You are right, of course, in that for some people at least, the regular workweek is an inconvenience to be endured, when you put your life on hold until you come to life on the weekend. What a waste!

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  4. Free drugs is definitely a marketing scheme. It's not just that it is free, it's what it symbolizes.

    Everyone is (smoking cigarettes / having sexual intercourse / drinking large quantities of alcohol / street-racing). This group is engaging in something 'adult' or 'counterculture' but whatever they are doing and why they are doing it, these people are part of a group.

    If this group looks to your son like a good replacement for his primary group (family/close-friends - I think you're safe here) or a reference group (I think you're safe here, too), then you have a problem.

    However, the way I find it happens is this: Membership to the group is attractive, because it is secretive or elite and/or because it holds certain treasures that come with earning membership.. special knowledge and understanding about something other-worldly, there is a fascination about the world a boy/girl is beginning to question that his/her parents believe in and are preparing him/her for.

    To begin with he/she sees the parents' beliefs and values and constructs and concepts in certain terms - terms taught by and adopted from the same source - used to weaken credibility once the snakes get in with their slithering manipulative tongues casting doubt and questions as to why they believe and who taught them that and who taught them they should believe that anyway and whose nomenclature were they using to measure these things and how could it possibly be bias-free and so only unenlightened morons could believe that they sky was blue just because someone told you and why wouldn't you look for yourself..

    The child grows up 'naively' experiencing his world through his parents eyes, to one degree or another and trusts this world and the experiences of his parents until one day that child, inadvertently, gives someone else the power set doubt and question into his/her mind. Naturally, this happens all throughout life and we are called to answer for ourselves in many situations on many levels, but when it happens in childhood (young adulthood) and our answers stem from the mouths of our parents, we can be made to feel childish and ignorant.

    The snakes are talented and practiced in attempting to make a boy/girl feel that he/she is lacking, is being played by his parents, is in fact still a child by the very fact that he/she won't cross the line and is never going to figure it out and as his/her generation moves into status and power and adulthood and as his/her parents will die after growing old and stupid and he/she will be left with the group around him/her who have figured it out and so he/she will be left out of his/her own future because he/she is holding onto prescribed ties to his/her aged, decrepit, old-school, unknowing, fool-hardy parents. This is much easier done, if the child has previously felt betrayed, abandoned or neglected by the parents or if the relationship is not strong or if it lacks trust.

    An example of this occurrence could be religion, not as an argument for religion, but as an illustrative example...

    Many parents raise their children to have faith and believe and to pray. They do this for a number of reasons that they have thought about and mulled over throughout their lives, the stories of which sometimes do and sometimes do not come down the line, the effect of which is speech, rules, regulations and code imposed on the children with the children having to trust the source, because they haven't had the years of experience, spiritual, physical, metaphysical, mental, historical, etc.. to come to the understandings that their parents have. Some of those children choose to ignore this faith and move away from it, it doesn't seem to serve them in their daily lives now and more than that, their particular group of peers may chide the child for holding onto folktales and myths from an earlier, less evolved time.

    They understand what their parents meant for them and why they felt faith to be important, but may come to believe that it is an old method of creating power over people by the churches and that it is a fantasy for weak-minds that have lived in hardship, so as to keep strength through their lives.

    They rationalize and justify it in their parents, but they leave it at the door, when they leave home. It is not for them.

    I am not arguing religion, here. I am using religion to show that the concepts and beliefs from the parents while they may be held as truth with respect and in love now, are easy pray for the groups that work to minimize and mock and disregard and ignore and archive or revolutionize the parents teachings.

    To not have your children fall prey to this, is to keep them close to you, but teach them to think for themselves, not just about the subject matter, but about motivation, their spirit and the subtle manipulations of the darker part of the world around them that is always working to have them fail.

    A child that thinks to himself that he does not want to jump off the bridge because his friends so, may be thinking that if he friends decide to jump off a bridge they have become stupid and insanely thrill seeking and not something he wants to be a part of. But, if his friends begin to include people who seem credible, he may think it over and still decide (because young adults are still children) and he may decide to jump off the bridge, because the wise, credible, revolutionary, all-seeing, knowledgeable, charismatic, reputable individual before him, tells him that the fall won't kill him and that the current won't sweep him away if he employs his own discipline in moderation, or if he hits the water in a certain way - only people that jump the bridge and land with their feet dive to the depths of the undertow.. things like that.. credible people selling something will answers for everything. Used car salesmen. And still, if your son refuses, that salesman will walk away and tell him to give him a call when he feels like being independent and mobile in an easy no-hassle guarantee.

    No one wants to be a good boy for Daddy and Mommy and find out later that while the world was growing and moving along without him/her, while he/she was trying to make sure he/she had a good place in it, that he/she was actually being a fool and holding onto something foolish for childish reasons and that in being a good boy, he/she gave up growing up and the special knowledge of his/her generation and the benefits and inclusion and understanding.

    Everyone has seen those movies where the forty year old, quiet, creepy guy lives at home with his aged parents and cares for them and dresses properly and goes to church and doesn't have his own life and is socially inept and doesn't know why. When we see those characters in film, we all think, 'loser', 'creep'.. we are all curious as to how he became that guy and in some insy-winsy-tiny respect we can all relate to him or the fear of becoming like him.

    Children need to be educated on different manners and types of manipulation, suggestive selling, subliminal messages, hard sell, soft sell, up sell, ulterior motives, esteem and boundaries and confidence. And, no matter how much they understand about these things, they have to trust the source more than they trust the seller.

    Tell your son that though he knows you are not a stupid old man now, there may come a day when he does, but tell him to have faith in you, because if he does, you will prove to him that you were even smarter than he originally thought. And, you won't even have to work at it. If he trusts you and watches the people around him succeed and fail and rise and fall and live and die, he will see for himself.

    I think that is why they say that parents to their children are like God, because God asks the same thing of us. Faith. Blind trust. Because rationality and justification and persuasion can ruin lives when employed for the wrong reasons by the wrong person.


    Not doing what others do just because they do it, is a very good lesson, though simple.

    Thinking for one's self is of utmost importance, which is a secondary lesson to the first. Education and knowledge is power. Faith is more powerful. Faith in oneself, faith in one's father, faith in one's mother, faith in God, if you will. In combination, faith guiding informed decisions, a child may survive his/her childhood.

    Thus, we have parents to care for us, explaining, instilling, guiding, balancing, for two decades before we are really able to care for ourselves. What other mammal has their babies will them so long?

    Simplified, peer pressure is about conformity, yes. But, it needs thorough discussion, examples and reiteration, because it's more insidious than it seems. And parents must be vigilant. Because the problem with drugs is that they act as their own reinforcement.

    If the boy/girl has already been feeling that he/she is missing something or that his/her generation is moving along without him/her and he/she tries a pill, that pill reinforces itself, because it offers an alternate reality that is counter to daily life. An alternate reality that offers peace, love, unity, respect, (plur), understanding, acceptance, knowledge, all based in false information, false rewards and a false sense of belonging and wellbeing in the extreme.

    In reality, the drugs of today causes separation and psychosis. I am sure it was the same with pot in the sixties or acid.

    A child needs to know that everything that is in the drug is accessible with their own mind and heart, with less spiritual, mentally and physical risk, with more self-respect, a more stable environment to access it at will later, with an offering of a greater understanding, but that it takes time and awareness and effort. Books, yoga, the gym, massage, meditation, prayer...

    If your son is approached again, tell him to smile knowingly and tell the dealers, "Thanks man (or replace with lingo of the day), but I can get there on my own." They may try to convince him that he can't, but if he shows confidence, maybe they'll try to follow him instead, if not, he needs to be prepared to leave them behind.

    Good Luck and you are in my prayers that your son never tries any of them. As harmless as marijuana is made out to be, it's apathy and stupidity rolled into a lung-burning, brain-cancer-causing cigarette. My question to pot-heads is why, why bother? When they answer why-not, I realize that the apathy and stupidity has already set in.

    Your son sounds like a diligent, thoughtful young man with close relations to you and your wife.

    A child that is parent-bonded will fare better than a child who is peer-bonded and your son sounds like he's your boy.

    Let him know that those convincing, conniving snakes are the enemy and to act toward them like he will have to in business, react smart and confident, eliminate their threat, learn from the interaction and always be aware that they may try heading up the path again.

    I am sorry to have written at such length. I can't seem to edit myself for length these days; I am having a really hard time being concise (side-effect of the dexedrine - I know - hypocrite that I am)

    Blessings to you.

    ps.. anyone who says that pot isn't a gateway drug lacks imagination. Not everyone that smokes pot uses hard drugs, but I don't know anyone who has dropped acid or E or K or GHB or eaten mushrooms who has not smoked pot.

    And, in response to your comment on dulling the senses and missing out - most drugs listed above don't dull, they 'heighten', but either way, the user misses out on the real thing and having been once an advocate of use and now an advocate of clean living, I have to say that real life is a deeper, more intense trip than any pill I've ever used. Convincing the kids, before they are convinced otherwise and maintaining that conviction in them is our cross to bear. You have my prayers.

  5. Penny: I read through your words a couple of times. I always like to make sure I understand the flow of ideas when someone writes, and I think I do understand yours. I believe you have a pretty near perfect idea of how all the dots connect when it comes to what 'drives' children and how they make their choices.

    I found it very interesting that you pegged the fact that parent-child bonding was not something that should be allowed to fade away as the child progresses through adolescence and beyond. Without going into too many specifics, there is an excellent book on that very topic called "Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Matter" by Gordon Neufeld Ph.D., and Gabor Maté M.D.

    I don't know much about specific drugs but I accept your poistion that drugs generally are enhancers (I'm presuming that you are leaving marijuana out of that particular grouping) and point out in my defence that since my experience has been almost exclusively with alcohol, I presumed that other drugs would be similar in effect. In any event, as you point out so well, it doesn't really matter. Whether you dull or enhance an experience artificially is irreleavnt. In neither case is it natural. That is what really matters to me.

    Thank you for shedding so much light on this issue!

  6. I'll have to pick up that book.

    Again, sorry my post was so long - happy you took something from it.. I have to watch myself on that topic - I can get carried away so easily.

    I downloaded your program - pretty cool. I just used it.. confused all to heck as to where the 'back' button was.. but I got it figured out. :)