Better than the alternative

A friend of mine recently reached out to me about her son. He started smoking dope a while back, and she figured I knew things that she didn’t. Then he got busted with pot, prescription drugs, etc. in a situation that suggests intent to sell. Because he’s only 17 and a first offender, he’s convinced that he’ll get off easy. He’s probably right, but the problem is that a first offender becomes a second offender — and he almost certainly won’t get off easy the next time.

My friend is now in the horrible position of trying to figure out what’s best for her son. Whatever she decides, he will probably hate her for the foreseeable future. From my perspective, the best case scenario is that he stays out of jail until he turns 18 and then moves to Colorado where he can be a stoner in peace (his stated goal). Keeping him out of jail and reasonably healthy won’t be trivial. Her situation sucks.

His situation sucks, too — high school is hard, losing your girlfriend is hard, growing up is hard. It’s easy to forget that people take drugs because drugs feel good, because taking drugs simply feels better than the alternative of not taking drugs, at least in the short term. I’ve talked to this kid a couple of times, and he seems nice and pleasant and normal-for-a-17-year-old. I suspect he feels at home and comparatively happy with his circle of friends who do drugs — much more so than with other people. He can’t currently see an alternative that looks more attractive. I get it.

How do you convince someone that there’s a better alternative than drugs? I don’t know that you can. Religion works for some people. Work helps others. Pursuing a relationship helps others. Maybe music, art, writing … whatever. Seeing this kid over the weekend and realizing that he genuinely doesn’t see alternatives and that I couldn’t effectively present any to him … well, it made me feel shitty, too.

I’ve been in a pretty dark place since I talked to him last — a place where I know something is wrong with my emotions but I genuinely don’t know what. It’s easy to mistake “I don’t know what I’m feeling” for “I’m not feeling anything,” but those are two extremely different things. I’ve definitely been experiencing the former. For some reason, I get like that every fall around this time. Maybe it’s because the most traumatic events in my life have happened in the fall (going crazy, 9/11, etc.). You’d think I would be used to it by now, but this fall malaise knocks me for a loop every time.

I was very fortunate to get a massage yesterday afternoon, and that did something wonderful — it pushed those indistinct feelings into my body. Now I just feel like I have a cold or a mild flu. Maybe that’s been the problem all along, but it’s such a relief to be able to say, “Oh, I feel sick — this will just go away in a day or two.” The last few days, I’ve wanted to do nothing but sleep. That’s still all I want to do, but at least now I’m confident that in a day or two, I’m going to wake up and feel better. Unfortunately, it’s going to take a lot more than a few days for my friend or her son to say the same.