Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How To Be a Drug Testing Family

Elizabeth Willis Barrett
September 5, 2012

I dislike the word “pee” and I had never used that derogatory word until drug abuse quietly stepped over the threshold of our home and created many changes around here.  I have currently given up all propriety and use the word “pee” often--most usually in “pee test” “and pee NOW!”   (I still refuse to use it with my grandchildren as in “Do you have to go pee?”   I really don’t like the term.) 

If you are still a bit reserved as I used to be, you can refer to pee tests as “UA”s if you’d rather or just “drug testing”.   UA stands for urine analysis which doesn’t roll off my tongue any better than “pee tests.”  So I will continue to refer to “UAs” as “pee tests” because it suits the situation better.  And the situation is this: there are way too many children becoming addicted to drugs and we as parents must do something.  Pee testing is one thing you can do to hold back the avalanche of drug abuse in the lives of your precious children. 

What has happened that our children think they can’t live life without something to take the sting away?  I don’t have an answer for that question.  I wonder if anyone does.  I do know that there aren’t enough fool-proof parental tools out there, but those we do have we’d better use.  Drug testing might not save your child.  But like seat belts--it might.

The first few times a child is offered drugs, he says, “no” on his own.  Our son did.  He even kept his friends from using drugs.  But he finally gave in and when he did, he found a world of escape that welcomed him like a long lost son and as hard and as often as he tried to leave it, that world held onto him like a jealous mother.

The “Just Say No” campaigns weren’t effective because “no” needs a backup and drug testing is the backup.  

Take your sweet 13 year old son.  Innocent.  Always obedient.  He’s at a friend’s house.  A  pretty good friend you think.  You’ve never met his parents, but he seems like a nice kid.  Your son goes down in their home’s basement family room.  Who should be there but his friend’s older sister and a few of her girl friends.  These are not dull, blend-in-the-wall sort of girls.  These make up half the high school cheerleading squad.  Your son is in awe of them.    They’re standing by an open window sharing a joint.  They ask your son if he’d like a puff.  He doesn’t want to seem like a dumb little kid to these super popular girls.  Who would?  He wants to please them.  He wants to be cool.

“Sure,” he is tempted to say.  And then he remembers.  His mom drug tests him.  As soon as he gets some of that THC into his system, his mom will know.  She will take away all of his privileges (if she’s smart) and she’ll tell each of these girl’s parents besides (if they’ll listen). Hmmm.  

“Nah,” he says.  “I better not.  My crazy mom drug tests me.”  

“Ah, poor kid,” they say.  “That’s too bad.”

They go back to their life-robbing dragging and your son is off the hook. If he had just said, “No”, the girls might have pestered him further. 

It would be nice if your child had enough self confidence to say, “Are you kidding?   And end up a drug addict with no education, no job and no future? No drugs for me, thanks.  I like myself a whole lot better than that!”

It would be nice, but don’t count on it happening too often.  Fitting in is a powerful draw.

The test becomes the scapegoat.   Let him blame his reluctance to use drugs on the test and on you --your prudishness, your invasiveness, your meanness--but give him a way out.  He needs all the help you can give him.

Here is another example: Your daughter complains to a friend that she is fat.  Her friend says, “I know a way that you can eat whatever you want.  You just take this pill and it will speed up your metabolism and you won’t have to worry about your weight anymore.” 

What a solution!  If you were a young girl struggling with her weight, wouldn’t you take an unknown pill for that kind of promise?  But that first pill could dangerously throw her into a cycle of addiction.  It would be life saving if your daughter could say.  “No, I’d better not. My crazy mom drug tests me.  And when she finds out I’ve been taking stuff, I’ll get grounded and she’ll probably tell your mom, too.”

I know, your kids would never do drugs.  They’re smarter than that.  You have talked yourself upside down convincing them that drugs are insidious, evil and simply unacceptable.  I was there once in that land of All is Well.  

We all hope that our kids are smart enough, but we don’t give enough credence to peer pressure.  It knocks and knocks and knocks until our child just has to answer the door.  And when he answers it, he had better have some tools beyond mere words to face down the temptation that marches right in with the peer pressure.  

Drug testing gives your child a stronger way to say no to temptation.  It also is a good report card to see how your child is doing as far as drugs are concerned. 

If you asked your boy how he was performing in English he might say, “Hey, Dad, I’ve got that English down.  I’m acing it.”  And you might say, “Great, Son, glad to hear it.  But let me have a look at that report card just the same.”

And even if your child didn’t want to show you his report card, you would insist.   If he really got an “A”,  you could be very proud of your progeny.   But if he wasn’t getting an “A” you would know that your treasured son not only needed to improve in English but also in honesty. 

Drug testing is like a report card.  It shows you how your child is doing and if she might need a little help.  “Any problem with drugs?” you might ask.  “No, Mom.  I’d never do drugs, you know that.”  “So proud of you,” you might say and you might have every reason to be proud, but you might not want to take her word for it.  You might want to check it out--look at her report card. That’s the Pee Test, the big UA.  If it is negative, you can praise her and reward her.  If the test comes back positive, you can fly into a red hot rage and then you can get to the bottom of her drug use before it gets out of hand.  

Getting started being a drug testing family might be a little rugged at first.  If your child had never had a report card until he was 15, the first report of his school grades would be hard for him to get used to.  The younger you start, the easier it is.  But even if your kids are older, you can establish that you are now going to be a drug testing family for their protection.  

I found a good way to teach younger kids about the addictive power of drugs. They might think they can try drugs and just stop when they are good and ready.  But like all addictions, drugs hold on and won’t let go.

Get a shoe box with a lid.  Cut a hole in one end that is big enough for your child’s hand to fit in. Put a banana in the box and tape on the lid.  Tell your child to reach through the hole and grab the prize.  Now tell them to pull out the prize.  If you’ve cut the hole small enough, they can’t bring their hand out with the banana.  They have to let go if they want their hand back.    That is a way, I’ve been told, that monkeys can be caught.  They are unwilling to let go of the prize and are therefore trapped.  If they would only let go, they could gain their freedom.

To teach them how drugs and other addictions can trap them, get another shoe box with a lid.  Instead of a banana, get a ball and cover it with Velcro. (I looked for a ball that had a Velcro-like surface but couldn’t find one.) Put an exfoliating bath and shower glove on the child’s hand.  You can buy them at Walmart for $2.98.  Have the child put his hand in the box and reach for the prize.  Now tell him to pull is hand out.  If you’ve done it right, the child can’t let go of the ball.  That is what happens with addictions.  You can’t just let go of them when you want.  They grab you and they won’t let go.  You are stuck.  You are inhibited from pursuing your dreams.  After all, how could you become a great baseball player with a box stuck on your hand?  Your kids might make a case, as my momentarily contrary grandkids did, that they could still do a lot with a box stuck on their hand.  But eventually they will have to admit that it is quite limiting.  Hopefully they will receive a mental picture that will stay with them long enough to say no to the things that are addicting.  At least long enough to say, “No, my crazy mom drug tests me.”

Since studies show that the average age for a child to start experimenting with drugs is 13, it might be a good idea to start testing at 11.  It should be done often enough that your child won’t forget that you are a drug testing family.  

Drug tests can be purchased online in bulk for as little as 50 cents for those that test for just one drug and use a dip stick--you provide the cup.  You can pay as high as $40.00 for those that test for many drugs at once and come with a cup and even the ability to send it to a processing place for further analysis.  The more you pay for drug tests, the less likely you are to use them often on each of your children.  So the $40 tests aren’t very practical or necessary.

There is a drug testing company in Gilbert that I have bought drug tests from in bulk.    Each time I thought it would be my last batch.  But the problem of drug abuse doesn’t go away.  It lingers and lingers and lingers like the acrid smell of a skunk, so I have bought in bulk over and over again. If you buy a batch of drug tests early in your child’s life and use them, you might only have to buy once.

We had access for a while to some very expensive drug tests and shared them with friends. Several months later one friend came back to us saying that she feared her son was doing drugs.  She had never used the drug test.  She was waiting to use it as a punishment instead of using it as a preventative tool.  

I took a drug test to another friend whose son was doing drugs with my son.  She didn’t want her son to see it so I put it in the back of her truck that was parked outside.  Because she didn’t want her son to think that she didn’t trust him, she never used it either.  What a waste of a great $40 drug test!  Her son is still on drugs.  

The best time to drug test is in the morning just as the child has awakened and before he has had a chance to go to the bathroom.  That’s because a favorite line of drug addicts is, “I just peed, I don’t have any more in me.” Also, the urine is more concentrated in the morning and will test well.  I’m not sure if you could ever drink enough water to dilute the test but I think my son has tried that.  Since all drug testing should be done randomly, morning time keeps the child from being able to “prepare” for it.  For instance, he could buy fake urine at a Head Shop to mess up the test. I know, your sweet innocent child would never do that, but you have to stay a step ahead of those who would.

Once I sent my son into the bathroom by himself and expected him to give me a mellow yellow unadulterated sample.  He diluted the specimen with toilet water and the test came out negative.  Now I go into the bathroom with him and stand there and watch.  I don’t want to turn my back for fear some shenanigans will go on that will ruin the test.  It took me far too long but I am finally done with modesty and rights. 

If you are just starting out as a drug tester, the best way to do it is to hand the child the cup to pee in, stand with him in the bathroom and turn your back.  The earlier you start and the better your relationship, the less the awkwardness.  

It will help if you can keep it light while you’re testing.  “Oh, I know, this is SO embarrassing.  I can hardly stand it myself!”  You can do that better when they’re young.  It might get a little harder when they’re older, but it is still imperative to be a drug testing parent. 

Your older children are especially not going to be excited about this new regime. “Yeah, Mom.  Wow, you are so progressive.  Yes, please, please let us be a drug testing family.  I can hardly wait.”

Their goal will be to make you feel stupid.  You can act tentative about drug testing if you want, but that won’t help.  Take back the reins.  Drive this parenting wagon and gallop it down the road to freedom.  Be strong.  Take courage from other parents who have finally seen the light after being herded unceremoniously into a very long and very dark tunnel.  You do not want to go there.

It is never too late to start a new pattern.  They’ll fight you on it, but when you have confidence in yourself and your parenting skills, you won’t cower under their bullying: “Get out of here!  I’m not going to pee right here in front of you! What are you thinking?  You don’t trust me, do you?  Nobody else’s parents do this.  This is so lame.  You’re crazy. I’m not doing it.”

Like I say, it is a lot better to start when they’re young but it is crucial as they get older. 

Drug testing will catch the big stuff like marijuana and heroin and Meth.   It will catch pain killers that doctors seem to hand out like M & M’s and the rightful prescriptees like to sell. But it won’t catch everything. You could test your child every day and it wouldn’t protect him against sniffing paint or huffing computer cleaner.  So along with the testing, you’ll need to continually educate him after first educating yourself.

Had I known about and used drug testing early, it could have saved our family an exorbitant amount of grief and a wonderful boy’s promising future. 

Drug testing is a tool.  It gives your child a way out and you a partial report card of their progress.  Use it!  

Monday, September 3, 2012

Talk for University Young Adult Ward  August 26, 2012
Elizabeth Willis Barrett

I like to know things precisely.  For instance, when I go into a grocery store looking for the Worcestershire sauce, I want someone to tell me exactly where it is: Oh, that’s on aisle 7 on the right hand side half way down the aisle on the second shelf from the top.  Better yet I want someone to take me right to it, so I won’t waste any time looking.  What I don’t want the store employee to say is: “Worcestershire sauce? Let me see.  I think it’s down Aisle 7.  Aw, you can’t miss it.”  Because I know I can miss it.

I feel like I have missed a few basics in my life in my desire to learn.  I’m still not positive what a browser is or a URL or a PDF file verses a Jpeg.  I’m still trying to figure out depth of field, aperture and shutter speed.  But there are a lot of basics far more important than these that are easily missed.  The one I’d like to discuss with you today is Charity.  Charity is easily missed.

What I wish I could do right now is take you straight to the Charity aisle and show you exactly where it is so that you could put it into your basket of life.  Charity is vital to your happiness, your well being and your eternal welfare.  It is a basic that you must not miss.  

Because “my beloved brethren and sisters, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth.  Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail--
But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.”
That’s why.

We are commanded to love, even if we don’t feel like it.  When asked what the first commandment of all was, Jesus answered,  “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
“And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (see Mark 12:28–31).  
If we love God, we will strive to obey all of the commandments He has given. If we love others, we will treat them as the gospel teaches us to treat them, not as interruptions to our carefully laid plans.
Sophocles wrote: “One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.”15
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said in Mormon Doctrine: Above all the attributes of godliness and perfection, charity is the one most devoutly to be desired. Charity is more than love, far more; it is everlasting love, perfect love, the pure love of Christ which endureth forever. It is love so centered in righteousness that the possessor has no aim or desire except for the eternal welfare of his own soul and for the souls of those around him” (Mormon Doctrine, 121).
We might get away without doing our genealogy or even without playing on the Ward’s Softball team.  But none of us is going to make it without becoming wholeheartedly and totally charitable. 
Charity really matters.  And like anything else that matters, there will be opposition to our attaining it.
So what gets in the way of putting charity into our basket so to speak?
One thing is envy.  It’s hard to love someone with a Christlike love when we are jealous of their looks, their accomplishments, their wealth, their friends.   There is always something to be jealous about.  
Let me tell you about a concept I heard that has made a great difference to me .  I wish I had heard it when I was as young as you are. That concept is this:  As hard as we try we are never going to get 100% in this life.  We weren’t put on this earth to “have it all.”  We only get 80%.  That person you envy doesn’t get 100% either.  He or she only gets 80%.  Let others enjoy their 80% while you enjoy yours. Be happy for their successes.  Love them.  Serve them.  We are each on a different path to get where we need to be. We each have different things to learn while in this mortal condition.
Another quality that gets in the way of Charity is being judgmental.
The Apostle Paul said that those who pass judgment on others are “inexcusable.” The moment we judge someone else, he explained, we condemn ourselves, for none is without sin.5
Do you remember President Uchtdorf’s two word sermon, “Stop It!?”
He said:  “This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following: Stop it!”
He continued: “It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children.”
Another characteristic that gets in the way of Charity is our own self consciousness--our insecurity that keeps us from reaching out to others.  When we let our thoughts be totally consumed with our own problems, our own deficiencies, our own awkwardness, we don’t leave room for love for others.  Our self-ishness gets in the way.
We might think someone doesn’t like us so we back away and aren’t friendly which makes the other person back away and not be friendly.  Which makes us say, “See, I told you she didn’t like me!”  
In President Uctdorf’s words: “Stop it!”  Assume everyone likes you and treat them that way.  Make sure they know that you like them.  Use their names.  Did you know that you can go to the ward website and memorize everyone’s name and face?  Taking time to do that would be very rewarding for all of us.  Then when I ask you what someone’s name is because I’ve forgotten, you’d be able to tell me!
If you want to work on having charity, you’re going to have to forget yourself which I know is much easier said than done, especially when you’re totally ready for Church and someone is waiting to take you there and you dribble toothpaste onto your dark suit or your brand new vintage dress.
I think some come with more charitable tendencies than others.  I know your Bishop does.  He loves everyone.  In Walmart he’ll often call me over to meet the Walmart greeter because he has stopped to talk to her and knows her whole life’s story.  While standing in line at Circle K, he’ll find out all about someone’s tattoos and piercings.  I just want to fill up my very infrequent 44 ouncer and get out without a word to anyone.
So if we need to have charity to make it to the Celestial Kingdom, how are those of us not so inclined going to get it?  Here are some ideas:
#1: Change your thinking
Charitable acts start with charitable thoughts for as a man thinketh in his heart so is he.  When an uncharitable thought enters your mind, you can delete it.  And delete it quickly before it has time to grow.  Exchange a judgmental, unkind thought with a compassionate one until it becomes second nature to think the best of those around you. 
According to Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The more we allow the love of God to govern our minds and emotions and the more we allow our love for our Heavenly Father to swell within our hearts—the easier it is to love others with the pure love of Christ.”   
Charity starts in your mind.
#2: Emulate the life of the Savior. 
Since charity is the pure love of Christ, His life and example will teach us what we must do.  Our ultimate goal in life should be to be more Christlike.  
#3: Serve
Service is a must if we want to grow in charity.  As we serve others, we grow to love them.   President Monson said, “True charity is love in action and the need for charity is everywhere.”
It takes practice to become charitable, the practice of Christlike service.
Charity can turn “have tos” into “want tos.”
“I have to go help George move” becomes “I want to go help George move.”  It will take practice serving when it is inconvenient or unpleasant but the more you do it and as you let your heart fill with love while you serve, the better you will be at it and Christlike service will become joyful to you.  
#4: Pray for it
I think the best thing we can do to be blessed with Charity is to pray for it.  
The prophet Mormon admonished: Wherefore, … pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ.....
Get on your knees and beg Heavenly Father to bless you with the gift of charity.  Then get up off your knees and work to be worthy of it.
#5: Rely on the Atonement  
The Atonement was Christ’s greatest act of charity.  Where we fall short, the Savior will pick up the pieces.  When we are mindful of His Atonement and put forth effort, the Savior will help us to master charity. 
Charity won’t come all at once, but as you practice changing your thoughts, following the Savior, giving service, praying for charity, and relying on the Atonement, the pure love of Christ will start to permeate your soul.  Those around you will become more precious and you will find a peace and joy in your life that perhaps has been missing.
Although I love the beautiful words of 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 and I hope you’ll read them, I’d like to relate that scripture in a different way:
Though I can prepare a talk and speak angelic words from the pulpit, if I don’t love the people I’m speaking to, I might as well have come up here and blown a blast on a trumpet or hit a cymbal.
And though I can prophecy about who will end up with whom, and understand all the mysteries of biochemistry and have all knowledge of pyschology and even though I have all faith to remove the Superstition Mountains and don’t care about the people I encounter at Target, I am nothing.
And though I pay a lot to fast offerings, and burn up my strength in service projects like Thanksgiving dinner at The Boys and Girls Club and don’t love those people I’m serving, I might as well have held onto my money and stayed home.
Charity calmly puts up with a lot from roommates and is kind to everyone--even old crotchety people; charity doesn’t envy the girl who gets the most text messages from the handsomest boys; charity doesn’t think he’s too cool to chat with those he considers beneath him, because he is not puffed up enough to think that anyone is beneath him.  
Charity doesn’t behave in inappropriate ways like taking advantage of a girl by making her feel like she’s the one one day and dumping her the next, doesn’t seek to always get the biggest piece of pizza, is not easily irritated (although, goodness knows, who wouldn’t get irritated when McDonalds doesn’t get your order right?) and only thinks positive things about herself and others.
Charity rejoiceth in right choices and rejoiceth in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and in general, just rejoiceth because there is so much to rejoice about.
Charity knows he or she will be given strength to bear hard things, believes in the Plan of Salvation, hopes for a bright future and endureth many dates in order to find his or her Eternal Companion. 
Our University Ward is a great laboratory for learning and practicing charity.  We are all so different in age, experience, temperament, abilities and struggles.  There are those in our Ward who are homesick, are grappling with addictions, are hanging onto their testimonies by their fingernails, are suffering from depression and anxiety.  There are some who are going to try coming to Church just one more time.  It might be your smile or your hello or your reaching out to them that will make an eternal difference in their lives and in the lives of their families.
I have seen your good works and am gratified by the charity that you already display.  I would hope that this University Ward will be so full of charity that it will be palpable to those who spend their valuable time with us.
Charity--you can’t miss it.  You must not miss it.  I must not miss it.  Our eternal welfare depends upon our possession of charity.