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Motrin today, marijuana tomorrow?

May 13th, 2005 · 1 Comment


In a post on Bainbridge Buzz titled Thoughts on Prom Night, island counselor Michael Dorsey listed facts and statistics, legal and biological, concerning drugs, alcohol and sex. Continuing the conversation in the comments section, he suggested that perhaps we as parents encourage quick fixes to problems: our attitudes and practices with legal substances may promote the idea that drugs can solve our situations. While he is quick to mention that the roots of addictions are complex, his comments and specific mention of cough syrup, an over-the-counter-found-in-the-medicine-cabinet-standard caught me by surprise and got me thinking.

I don’t think we have cough syrup in the house. Oh, maybe we do. We have other bottles too on the cabinet shelf. From my family history and our desire to avoid extraneous substances or chemicals, I didn’t grow up taking medicine except occasional aspirin. But I do give my kids Motrin or Tylenol when they have a fever above 101. I don’t think I’m training them to take drugs to solve problems. Medicine can lower a fever and help a sick child feel more comfortable. I shouldn’t let them suffer. Michael Dorsey’s piece reminds me to continue in my caution, and to give out dosages only when necessary.

But I’m seeing a bigger application for me as a parent. Let’s face it: am I providing a good example? When I’m in a dilemma, feeling tired or exhausted, sure, I want a quick fix. Who doesn’t? Fortunately I’ve trained myself to turn to caffeine rather than other possibilities. But is that any better? I am in the middle of teaching myself new habits. I’m taking naps instead of pushing myself and trying to say “no” and “stop” when I feel life is going too far off course. Is drinking coffee and chomping chocolate any better than relying on a smoke of something or a gulp of liquor to get by? Even practices and attitudes that seem to be good can become dangerous. Exercise can be helpful and healthy but one can also become addicted and anorexic. Anxiety is anxiety, regardless of disguise.

I’m grateful to Michael Dorsey for the whack on the side of the head. What may matter more than my specific reaction to my stress – choosing to drink a latte instead of liquor, for example – is my stress itself. There’s nothing I can “take” to get a quick fix. Okay, maybe a nap. Taking a nap does help solve some problems, like my cranky attitude, headache or lack of energy.

But the danger may not be as much in what I do but in why I am doing it. Why do I want a quick fix? What’s hurting or frightening me? What is the truth of the situation? How does love fit into the picture, love of myself, love of others, love of God? Patience and grace may be better answers than any cup of coffee. Instead of grabbing something to satisfy the stressful emotions, I should instead open my hands and let go of what has grabbed me.

The only thing I can take to fix it is to take action in my own life. And I can take time to relax and unwind, time to reflect and seek spiritual and emotional refreshment, to get my mind and priorities realigned again. The dilemma won’t disappear, but I can strengthen myself enough to help me wait and wade through the mess, guided by God. I can take a step into freedom instead of fear, and teach my children to do the same.

Tags: island

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Bob V // May 14, 2005 at 8:06 am

    Quick fixes are the best kind of fixes!

    Seriously, they are. Who purposely seeks out the slowest, least effective fixes?

    It is important to look at what precisely is bad about any particular fix. For instance, liquor is a quick fix for stress, but it has bad long-term effects. We know that people who are addicted to liquor suffer. It is the longer term suffering that is bad, not the quick fix part.

    I think it is important that we not fall to the individualist fallacy. Certain things outside of us are helpful: food, water, and tylenol when we need it. I think our duty to our children (of which I have none!) is to inform them about both the short term and long term consequences of the various fixes that they try. They also need a framework and examples to know how to evaluate which fixes represent a good deal.

    (Incidentally, I gave up caffeine several years ago and haven’t really missed it.)

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