The beginning of the college year is upon us, and many young women and men will leave home for the first time. Whether in Christian schools, community colleges, or public or private universities, our kids will be confronted with people, ideas and opportunities they never encountered previously. This is part of what college is meant to accomplish.
Unfortunately, college also offers opportunities for the young to stray into dangerous activities and habits. Alcohol and drugs are readily accessible on or near many campuses. Even the students at our most ardent Bible-based centers of learning can get them if they want to.
Without being preachy, I can tell the reader that a lot of my time as a physician has involved dealing with the consequences of alcohol and drug misuse, abuse and addiction. So before we send our kids off to school where we can’t hover over them every minute, it would be wise to do a couple of things.
First of all, we should talk to them about the very real dangers of mind-altering substances. We should explain the devastation of addiction, the horrors of car crashes and other accidents that occur under the influence, and the nightmare of criminal prosecution for drug- and alcohol-related crimes.
We should remind them that some drugs create addiction much faster than others — methamphetamine and heroin, for instance — and that alcohol and drugs can kill all too easily through accidents of bad judgment and by suppressing the ability to breathe and protect one’s airway. We should discuss the pain of regret that could come from those substances as well, the way lives can be turned upside down. Dark stuff, I know, but important.
However, we should also remind them they can speak to us and that we will be there for them. As Christians, we talk a lot about grace and forgiveness, about Jesus’ love for us in our sinful state. Then we expect our kids to be perfectly moral. But life doesn’t work that way.
As the kids go off to college or other pursuits, let’s remind them that we know they will do things we disagree with, we know they will make mistakes, and we know they will sin. Just like all of us.
But we should also remind them that through it all, God loves them, and so do we. And that substance abuse is so dangerous that we’d much prefer their honesty to their fearful secrecy.
Because in the light we can help them; but in the darkness, they’re all alone.
Here are some online resources that may be helpful: