I'll be quiet...(I'll be peace)
July 17, 2010 5:37 PM   Subscribe

After the tragic death of a friend in an accident while on psychedelic drugs, I told my parents about brief psychedelic drug experimentation in the past. Problem: now family think I'm a hopeless addict, completely distrust me, think they have failed completely, and are scared to pieces that I'm going to die and am a bad person. How do I convince them otherwise?

I used LSD and mushrooms once each over a year ago, and had an extremely positive, (subjectively) enlightening experience. I don't feel like I need any more, and probably won't try them again. I know these things aren't without side effects, but I feel like the risks vs rewards were in my favor. I've never tried other drugs and they don't interest me.

With news coming out of a friend dying, I was under a lot of pressure from my parents regarding this issue, and decided to tell them the truth.

They are devising ways to make my life as restricted as possible (for parents of a satellite 20-something- i.e. threatening to pull insurance, take back family car because I can't be trusted not to go after another fix and get myself killed).

They're telling me I need to go to rehab and my life will be ruined because of this. They think my potential is shot, that I've completely destroyed my body, and this bums me out as a child, because I know that this isn't true I hate that this makes them feel like failures.

They've told me directly that they have failed fundamentally as parents because of this. (This may also be related to distancing myself from the family religion.)

Every emotional issue I have encountered or error I have made has been linked back to this experimentation by my parents.

My family are very conservative and no amount of research will convince them that I'm not addicted to these "hard drugs" and am not completely out of my mind to think that trying this a long time ago was a reasonable idea.

(As a sidenote, I have shared this information with two different psychologists and neither thought it was a big deal).

They decided my worrisome little sister (16) who still lives at home needed to know about "my problem" so now she's worried to death that her big brother is a long-gone druggie and can't be convinced otherwise.

My dad has "a friend who was addicted to lsd whose arms are completely covered in tracks marks from where he would shoot up his fix." Overall, my parents only know the scare-tactic side of the issue, and don't care to hear any scientific evidence that shows them that I'm not completely crazy or had a death wish. My friend tripped and did something dangerous, but they don't accept that I'm not him and can't be vicariously linked to his accident.

My father openly admits to having driven drunk numerous times as a youth, and isn't proud of this at all, but doesn't see a correlation between the danger of his activities and mine because "he feels bad about what he did and has been cleared through his church," but I don't.

My parents have good intentions, and I love them, but telling them the truth has made my life all kinds of stressful. I've promised that I won't try this stuff in the future.

I've talked to my family for hours, but they are immovable in their opinion, and use a number of fallacious arguments to make their point. They can't accept that this was a positive experience for me.

To be honest, I haven't been troublesome to them at all through my life (no traffic tickets, totally obedient, high self-motivated academic and community achievement), and it sucks that now they're going to hold this over my head for the rest of my life.

What can I do as a child to resolve this situation and comfort my parents and myself?

tl;dr: 20-something tries lsd/mushrooms, has positive experience, but has no urge to ever try them again. under pressure tells family much later, family thinks he's a crazy "addict" and that they've failed catastrophically. child lost as to what to do.

throwaway: myfamilythinksimmuyloco@gmail.com

posted by anonymous to Human Relations (41 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I would offer to take those at home drug tests anytime they want. At least then you have actual proof that you haven't been doing drugs instead of just saying you haven't been.
posted by GlowWyrm at 5:43 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is not snark: You can stop thinking of yourself as a child, and stop living as a dependent.
posted by Houstonian at 5:47 PM on July 17, 2010 [55 favorites]

Living well is the best revenge. Prove them wrong in every way, and they'll eventually get over it.
posted by cosmicbandito at 5:48 PM on July 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

It sounds like you've said pretty much everything you could to reassure them, and if they can't accept that, it begins to become their own burden.If you can't become independent easily right now (you're in school or something), do everything else you can to become independent and be the responsible adult they otherwise know you to be. Eventually they should see that you are not your friend and that their fears are unfounded.

In the meantime, do what you can to get out and away from the situation to distract yourself from the stress.
posted by ldthomps at 5:54 PM on July 17, 2010

This is not snark: You can stop thinking of yourself as a child, and stop living as a dependent.

Yes, this is the answer. You ask "what can I do as a child?". The answer is: nothing. You're not. It is time to establish adult boundaries and an adult relationship with your parents.

In that respect, I think GlowWyrm's advice is absolutely terrible, awful, bad.
posted by Justinian at 5:56 PM on July 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

Sounds like involving a religious minister of some kind (ideally their denomination) would work with them. Find one with experience working with real drug addicts and tell them your problem with your family. Hopefully the minster will agree to mediate and tell your family there's nothing to worry about. This does not have to involve you becoming religious again - it should just be a pastoral care task for the minister, aimed at healing your family's situation, not an intervention aimed at "rescuing" or reconverting you
posted by Bwithh at 5:58 PM on July 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

I think the only thing that will heal this is time.
You can take the "high" road, so to speak. Nod in agreement at whatever extreme views are directed your way, then just go about your business.

It will be challenging, they may never let it go, but you'll get some peace eventualy.
posted by Ignorance at 5:58 PM on July 17, 2010

My mother went through something similar. She found solace in living well (as cosmicbandito said above) and proving them wrong. Eventually, she became the most successful of all her sisters (who followed in their mother's church-going footsteps, whereas my mother was much more liberal in bringing up my siblings and me) and raised the most well-adjusted kids in the extended family. Not sure if my grandmother accepted that my mom wasn't a total fuck-up simply because she'd done some acid when she was younger and spurned the church, but she definitely shut up about it after a while when she saw that my mom was as normal as anyone.
posted by fso at 5:58 PM on July 17, 2010

An ex-Mormon chemical engineering student I knew in undergrad once mentioned something remarkably like this incident when talking about being estranged from his Mormon family. It's horrible that your parents' brainwashing is leading them to do this, but you might have to get used to being distant from them.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 6:02 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

as others have said - you're not a child. stop acting like one and they'll eventually stop treating you like one. as long as they financially control you, you will feel a certain pressure to please them.
posted by nadawi at 6:14 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

In my humble opinion: it is impossible to be "addicted" to hallucinogenics. Yes, they may cause turmoil and/or distress, but they are nothing like alcohol or meth or all kinds of things about which I know really nothing.

Everyone should sometime experience hallucinogenics. I was in my early twenties. It is not something one can or should do every day (sorry, John Lennon) but it is something that must be experienced to be understood.
posted by emhutchinson at 6:14 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with all who say it's time to be the adult in your family dynamic. Accept that words won't change their opinions, and live your life according to your values.

I would add, as someone who's recovered from a conservative upbringing, that you've learned one of life's most important lessons: your actions and beliefs are your own, and you can choose to tell people about them or keep them to yourself.

Next time you're on the fence about which route to choose, ask yourself, "What good can come of telling this person? What do I expect their reaction will be? Would it cause anxiety or conflict, and am I interested in raising those feelings?" Your answers will differ based on who you're talking to and what you're thinking of exposing.

Make sure to apply this line of questioning outside of family dynamics too, such as when you're wondering how cool it is to complain about your hangover at work.
posted by nadise at 6:15 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I realize we're in a difficult economic time to be doing this, but the more you can disentangle yourself financially from your parents, the better. Even when you are an adult, if you are dependent on your parents for, say, a car, it's easy for both sides to feel the parent-child roles reinforced. They're well within their rights to take back the car for any reason, no matter how ridiculous, if it's their car. It's easy for you to think, Mom and Dad will take away the car if I cross them. And it's easy for them to think, If Junior doesn't do what we say we'll take away the car. You get to choose whether you assert yourself as an adult ("Mom, Dad, this is no longer up for discussion") or whether you try to make sure they don't take away their financial support by playing the role of a child ("Mom, Dad, what do you need me to do to prove I'm not a drug addict?").
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:18 PM on July 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Similar to the minister, if they have a physician they trust who was trained in the last 30 years he or she can be useful. Tell them to go talk to him / her about what rehab would be appropriate for someone who used mushrooms a year ago and is not currently interested in drugs. It's hard to go through medical training and not develop a sense of reality wrt drugs and drug addicts.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:19 PM on July 17, 2010

Sorry to be blunt, but your parents sound pretty screwed. I think telling your sister was quite cruel to both you and her. That achieved nothing other than violating your trust after you admitted something you really didn't need to, and put the fear of god (so to speak) into her over something she's probably too young and/or inexperienced to understand.

I agree with both Houstonian and cosmicbandito. Stop thinking of yourself as a child, and live well. If your parents continue to think you're a failure, well... there's not much more you can do about it - it's their problem.

Maybe try to talk to your sister privately, but maybe when she gets a bit older (depending on her maturity level, and your relationship with her).
posted by Diag at 6:20 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Go the direct approach. Act like a grown-up. Tell them exactly what you've said here, and then ask them how THEY'RE going to fix it.

Say, "You're upsetting me. You're upsetting yourselves. You're upsetting my sister. What's your reasoning behind this? YOU KNOW ME. You raised me. C'mon: is this really how you want to behave?"

Point being: there's nothing broken that YOU can fix, the issue is theirs. Make that clear to them.
posted by goblinbox at 6:24 PM on July 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

My first thought was to say dose them. Get a hit and split it between the two at dinner and then have "a talk" about how bad drugs are- I know, bad idea, whatever.

Barring that, I guess it depends on how much your life is wrapped up in your family. If you are truly a child of your parents, then, please, do everything you can to get back in their good graces. If that means going to see a pastor, or going to a psychiatrist, go.

If you are not and are just looking to smooth things over and move past this, then do what others have said above- become a dependent and break out from their shadow.

As for your sister, if you 2 are close, then explain to her how crazy your parents are and reassure her that you aren't lost to the needle (though I think trying to shoot acid would kind of suck).

Hallucinogens were fun for a while, I had a couple of bad trips, maybe did it a dozen or so times and am glad I did it, won't ever do it again- they aren't physiologically addictive at all, not that you have to be reassured.
posted by TheBones at 6:25 PM on July 17, 2010

...and if they won't adjust, move on. If they cut the insurance, buy a bus pass.

Many of us have to "break up with" our parents at or about your age. It seems to be a psychological break that enables parents to cycle 'from you're a child and I have to dominate and fight you' to 'you're an adult and I want to listen to you.'
posted by goblinbox at 6:26 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would not try to convince them that it was a positive experience for you. I would focus your message on the part where you wrote: "I don't feel like I need any more, and... won't try them again... I've never tried other drugs and they don't interest me." That's a message that they can appreciate. It's sad that you may not be able to share your experience with them, but it may be impossible for them to reconcile the idea of drugs being positive in any way.
posted by the jam at 6:28 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

As Justiana said, my advice WAS bad. Due to skimming or you calling yourself a child, I somehow missed the fact that you are 20. If they take the car away I'd suggest you do something wild and crazy like...get a job and buy your own car. As an adult all you are responsible for as far as reassuring your parents that you are not doing drugs is just telling them so. It's completely up to them whether they believe you or not. Whether they believe you really isn't your problem.
posted by GlowWyrm at 6:29 PM on July 17, 2010

I think you may have buried the lead here:

This may also be related to distancing myself from the family religion.


Granted that people think irrational things all the time, especially about their kids, there is no rational pretext for continuing to harp about a one-time event, provided there are no continuing repercussions in real life. While I would be disappointed to learn that one of my children took any illegal drug, and might flop on the floor, piss, moan, etc., I couldn't see continuing to see it as an ongoing plot, provided I was satisfied that it was indeed a one-time event. Which, obviously, they're not, but it's impossible to prove a negative, so yeah...

I'm assuming you're in college at your age and that cutting all the financial strings is a non-trivial problem. If I'm wrong and you're just kinda sponging on them for no apparent reason, then it's time to stop. All the following advice does assume you're in college...

- are they really doing anything about restricting your freedoms and resources, or just talking about it? If it's the latter, perhaps best to just ride out the storm. Time heals all wounds, and provided no weird behavior on your part, they will probably move onto whatever next big issue is on the agenda, like making sure your sister isn't having sex (J/K!)
- the religion problem also complicates what otherwise would be good advice given above - getting some minister from their church involved. I don't know if the nature of your religious conflict is something like they're Methodist and you've gone Presbyterian, or more like they're Amish and you've decided to become an atheist - depending on how severe this break is, how comfortable you are with their minister(s) (presumably YOUR ministers before you left home?), and how realistic said ministers are about life, this COULD be helpful, or could turn into a "reprogramming session." Only you can decide - in any case if you have some degree of trust with these ministers, I would approach them and sit down with them BEFORE involving your parents. Of course, if they're on the conservative side and don't have good training in counseling, they may tell all to your parents, so you have to think that one out ahead of time.
- even without involving the church, a (very) brief home visit might be helpful in helping them to see, hear, smell, etc. that you're the same old you. Undoubtedly would start with some tense conversations, but if you have any kind of fundamentally good relationship at all, I would think this would help.

If none of the above sounds good, which probably means you consider your parents and their church fundamentally very whacked, probably best to just maintain a "normal" amount of contact by e-mail, calls, etc., HOPE they don't cut you off, and work on "plan B" in case they do.

As a parent myself, I can say that almost all parents have a great deal of anxiety about how their older children are doing and turning out. May not seem fair, but what you do really does reflect on them. The good news is most parents, believe it or not, WANT to believe that their children are doing okay.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:32 PM on July 17, 2010

If they're really religious, then they probably hold their religious leader's viewpoint in high regard. Offer to go with them to discuss the matter with their minister/pastor/priest/rabbi/whatever. (You need to go along to make sure that the facts are presented accurately.) Worst case scenario, he/she agrees with your parents and you're in the same situation you're in now. But more likely, he/she has seen enough cases of REAL drug problems that he/she can give your parents some perspective on how one-time experimentation is not a big deal.

Although your use of the term "cleared" as in "he feels bad about what he did and has been cleared through his church" makes me wonder if your parents' religion is Scientology? If so, then I don't think talking with the religious leader will help.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:43 PM on July 17, 2010

Anonymous, I probably did more drugs than you did and I am probably the straightest arrow on Metafilter. If you want my contact info memail me.

By the way, I would call their bluff. Call a rehab and tell them what you have told us, then let your parents call the same rehab and let the rehab tell them they don't want to waste time on you because you aren't an addict. (But make sure YOU pick the rehab, if you get my drift.)

I also think the nature of their religious beliefs matters and perhaps you can have a mod post a wee bit more detail. Is this scientology? If so, do NOT do what I suggested in the above paragraph, for reasons I am sure I do not have to spell out.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:00 PM on July 17, 2010

It sounds like to them, you arguing that it was a positive experience just proves to them that you're still under the influence. Their belief that drugs are purely evil is a type of faith; as you said, real-world facts have no effect on them. Because drugs are purely evil, no one can have a positive experience with them, and anyone who thinks that they did must still be under their influence.

I would try dropping this argument, and focusing on the fact that you haven't done drugs in a long time and have no interest in doing them again.

As for financially disentangling yourself, I'm not sure what I think about this advice. There are valid reasons for a 20-something to still be dependent on their parents. It also might come across as abandoning or rebuffing the family if you disentangle yourself while your relationship is still tense. However, I do think that holding down a job is a great way to demonstrate that you're still with-it and responsible, whatever you end up doing with the income. It also means that you have another lifeline if your relationship with your family goes south.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:52 PM on July 17, 2010

I would let things die down for a while and just not engage on this issue, if you can. People can only sustain panic/outrage/drama for so long, without anything new to fuel it, which clearly there isn't. If they are so crazed as to try to put you in rehab or something, then you're going to have to move out any way you can, because they've gone over the bend.

Families can be fucked up; I love mine, but have gotten tired of explaining things like my feminism, support for gay rights, etc. to them, and just...stopped telling them stuff. I know they often assume the worst and think I'm going to hell, but I can't control that, and life is too short. I built my alternate family out of spouse, some enlightened inlaws, and friends, and use that for support.

This may be hard if you're close, and because you're young, and some things do have to get told, but it's perfectly ok to not tell your family about things that they can't or won't deal with. You have to build your own life, and part of that is deciding how much to share with others.
posted by emjaybee at 7:58 PM on July 17, 2010

Even if the psychedelic usage issue never existed in the first place, you must make every effort to be as financially independent of your parents as possible. Money ALWAYS has strings attached. If you want more independence and less crazy-smothering-parenting, the only way out is your own income from your own job. No amount of discussion will cut it. It just won't work.
posted by Asparagirl at 8:04 PM on July 17, 2010

They're scared. They saw someone you know die and imagined themselves in his parents' shoes. Give them some time to deal with this, and perhaps it can be an opportunity to connect with them and let it register that "doing a good job as parents" doesn't mean your children never make mistakes, but that they learn from them. Even though you don't characterize your prior drug use as a "mistake" (and I'm not saying it was), perhaps this is a way you can talk about it with them to help reassure them that they're not horrible parents and that you won't wind up dead. I think that fear (their bad parenting = your certain death) is the thing that's underneath all of this.
posted by judith at 8:26 PM on July 17, 2010

I agree with others here. Stop allowing yourself to be treated as a child. You can educate your parents to the fact that the mushrooms and LSD you took are long out of your system (well, the LSD is debatable, but even if trace amounts remain, it's trivial). Your parents sound like they're the type who would rather die than learn that their deeply-entrenched beliefs are wrong, and if that's the case you should let go. Maybe this isn't how you imagined becoming an adult, but these circumstances may be the thing that forces your hand.

In short, educate your parents that their beliefs are in conflict with established facts, be polite, be calm, be rational. If they threaten to take away money from you, or insurance, or whatever else, let them. Stand on your own. Don't let them own you like that. Above all else remember that this is their problem, not yours.
posted by zardoz at 8:52 PM on July 17, 2010

It sounds like you generally have a very honest and communicative relationship with your parents. Even if it's not sincere, I think the best approach is to confide that you have been "scared straight" by your friend's death and will never, ever try drugs again and, in retrospect, realize that your long-ago decision was immature and dangerous. That's what every parent wants to hear, and it's probably alarming that you haven't expressed an ounce of remorse, fear or regret.

You don't have to believe what you tell them, and you don't have to quit drugs forever, but you do need to never again tell your parents about your drug use. I know that some people enjoy the occasional joint with their parents and have an open, trusting dialogue, but for the vast majority of families, even the most liberal, that is bullshit. Your parents are fundamentally wired to be terrified of your drug use. Why try to convince them otherwise?

Pretend your friend died in a car crash because he/she wasn't wearing a seatbelt. You tell your parents that you sometimes drive without a seatbelt. Won't they be waiting for the other shoe to drop, as in, "Gee, Mom and Dad, that was really stupid of me and I'm lucky to be alive..."?

If you don't mind "acting" in front of your parents, I would specifically recommend dropping the issue for a while (like a day or two) then go to your parents, weeping about how you miss your friend and regret your past decisions. The suggestion upthread to take drug tests is good, and if they're REALLY worried, a short course of counseling might do the trick. Jeez, you could even go to an AA meeting or two to be even MORE "scared straight".
posted by acidic at 8:57 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

May not seem fair, but what you do really does reflect on them

This is such utter, utter bullshit. If you're a 20-something and dosed a couple of times between one and two years ago, you were an adult when you did so. It doesn't say anything about anyone except you, and even at that doesn't say much about you anyway.
"Reflects badly on your parents" usually means they're afraid of what friends/neighbors/co-workers/congregants/relatives will say (as if their kids are all perfect.) Well, they'll just have to get over that.

As to your problem, it sounds like they want to hear that you regret having done it (the jam pointed out something similar above.) If you walk that back ("I now realize it wasn't worth it 'coz my friend died" etc.,) maybe you can get them off your ass. Yes, one has nothing to do with the other, but you already know they can't see that. Just tell them what they want to hear - people who insist on being lied to don't deserve the truth.

On preview: don't try to educate them. From what you've said here, they won't listen.
posted by trondant at 9:01 PM on July 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Way to take stuff out of context, trondant.

And yeah, people do make assumptions about other people based on what their 18-20 year old children do. On this planet, anyway.
posted by randomkeystrike at 9:18 PM on July 17, 2010

I am very sorry for the tragic loss of your friend. I was in an eerily similar situation about 15 years ago, when my mother asked me if I'd ever done drugs, and I foolishly told her the truth (that I enjoyed smoking pot sometimes and had tried psychedelics). They reacted the same as your parents. The worst was that they wouldn't let me be alone in their home or give me a key, because they thought that as a "pot junkie" that I would sneak in and steal their Barry Manilow records to sell so I could buy "another fix." The amount of time I got to spend with small children in my family as reduced, as there as concern I would give toddlers bong hits or tell them that "drugs are good! or would be under the influence while caring for them. It was so awful. You are not alone here. Also, I dislike telling you this, but my honest answers to that single question put a big dent in my relationship with my parents. It still comes up and really bothers my mother. She really wants to know all the details still and is emotional about it. It doesn't matter that I haven't smoked weed in 5 years or that I'm successful and well-educated and have never been in trouble with the law.

I think you have been given some great advice here. If I had the chance to go back 15 years, here is what I would do if you want to mend the relationship with your parents early on: Repent like crazy. Tell them you now see the errors of your ways. Tell them you totally regret trying drugs and that you'll never do drugs again. Say that drugs are bad and apologize for hurting them. Tell them what they want to hear. They don't understand about positive mind altering experiences, they are just worried that you are going to end up sleeping in a gutter with needles full of LSD (haha) hanging out of your arm.

Then, you need to set up some boundaries with your parents. You don't have to confess or tell them everything. That is the privilege of being an adult. You don't have to lie, but you do not have to divulge private things, especially if you know the information you have will be hurtful or used in the wrong way. If your parents ask you about your sex lives or you or your friends, just say no. If your parents demand to know what you talk about with your psychiatrist, just say no. Also, start taking steps to be completely independent from your parents so they can't use things like threatening to cut off your car insurance to punish you.
posted by pluckysparrow at 9:55 PM on July 17, 2010

No reputable rehab program is going to take your parents' tales of your horrendous (nonexistent) addiction seriously-- which leads me to believe they have no intentions of sending you to a solid, evidence-based program.

Your job, then, is to avoid ending up in whatever bogus rehab program they have in mind for you, since it's probably some arm of the very religion you've opted to avoid. Preferably, you will do this in a manner that will also move you towards greater independence.

That means *not* agreeing to let them randomly drug-test you; this will invade your privacy, not convince them (you could, of course, be buying clean pee from the Internet...), and make your life suck as long as you have to deal with it. That means *not* letting them pack you off to whatever "rehab" they have in mind; you're doing fine, and all that's going to do is waste your family's money and possibly harm you. That means *not* involving their handpicked religious advisors; you are unlikely to get those folks on your side of any issue involving drug use, especially if your parents brief them first.

If you have a job, now is the time to start satcheling money away. If you have another source of insurance-- your college, your job, if you can find a reasonable individual insurance plan to cover you-- you should start investigating coverage separate from theirs. If you have a therapist, which it sounds like you might, it's time to call them up, lay this on the line for them, and enlist them to help you plan your getaway. If you can commute by bike where you are, start doing it and avoid the family car, or get your own beater car or scooter/ small motorcycle.

If they keep going after you on the topic of your drug habit, just shake your head, look at them as if you care about them but they might be a little daft, and reiterate that there is no problem, you're not doing anything like that now. You're sorry you did it, but now you've moved on and are concentrating on your future. That's the only answer you need to give, as many times as you have to give it.

If they ask any other questions about things you might have done, you should answer them in a fashion that gives them no reason to be concerned-- you do not owe them the truth if they're going to use it against you like this. Keep up the saving up, and keep your business to yourself. It will feel weird-- they expect answers and you've been conditioned to give them, but now you know that they expect answers *and* they're not going to be supportive or trust you. Keep seeing the therapist. Keep working on getting around by yourself. Keep in touch with your sister as you can.

After a few months of this, you should have the ability, financially and emotionally, to just ignore whatever mistaken beliefs they hold and keep getting on with your own goals. They should figure out that you're earning money, are stable, haven't run anyone over, and are edging towards independence. The shock of your friend's death will have blown over for them, and hopefully they'll find something else to occupy their time.

I'm really sorry for your losses-- both the loss of your friend, and the loss of innocence that comes with "holy shit, I told my parents the truth and now they've gone rogue."
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:47 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

This has almost nothing to do with drugs. Your parents have been waiting for this opportunity for a very, very long time. Not in the sense that they were rubbing their hands together, plotting out what they would say. It's just that they were always going to do this, and it was just a question of what was the thing they could come down on you and when it happened. Judgmental people love to judge.

This could be a job they didn't want you to take, the "wrong" significant other, some sexual experimentation, or just about anything. Your father is clearly either highly mistaken or simply making up stories from whole cloth, given that, well, I've never heard of anyone shooting up LSD on a regular basis. Have you? Clarification on this matter is not relevant and saying, "Umm, dad, that shooting up LSD thing is not true" will not get you anywhere. They aren't interested in being convinced or doing anything but judging you. Discussion of the relative harmlessness of mushrooms will not get you anywhere, no matter what evidence you have. This is especially true if they have religious involvement, because they already have a source of unimpeachable truth. Facts are stupid things, after all.

You will probably not be able to convince your parents or break them of their habit of judgment. That's okay. What you can do is make sure that you are not subjected to it, either by putting them at a remove or setting some very firm limits.

Get your own car, deal with your own insurance, and put a wide swath between you and your parents. Then, inform them that they can re-enter your life when they are ready to stop being ridiculous and judgmental. Cards on holidays and birthdays. Tell them almost nothing in these cards. If they do want to re-enter your life, you have to be up front. "One word ... one lousy word about it and we'll go back to the way it was and you won't see me for a while. You will then have to re-earn my trust."

Oh, and you could probably avoid telling them the truth about anything significantly deep in your life for the future. They'll just find something else to focus on. Some people aren't honesty-compatible.

Make sure your sister has your contact information squirreled away for when they pull this on her.
posted by adipocere at 11:00 PM on July 17, 2010 [7 favorites]

Apologize, cry & promise never to do it again. You might want to do this not just in front of them, but also in front of the minister/therapist of their choice. After it's all over, keep your parents on a need-to-know basis.

This is not the emotionally honest choice, but if you are in school or just starting a career, you need that health insurance. Of course, this advice assumes that you live in the US; if live in a place with a better health care system and public transportation, then you can probably afford to cut those financial ties and live honestly.
posted by betweenthebars at 1:31 AM on July 18, 2010

Okay, I have had a lot of conflicts with my family and obviously this will flavor my response. They're controlling, they grab anything that even *looks* like a "string" and try to pull. So when you say your family is using their various strings to try to pull on you, I say, get rid of the strings.

In your shoes, I would be entirely unwilling to lie about it (express remorse, etc) because I simply can't feel comfortable lying. And according to what you're saying, they're NOT going to let up if you don't comply with everything they demand. And hey, what comes after compliance? More demands, probably. So let them do what they're threatening. Get a job and support yourself; don't let them have that "I'm taking away your money" threat. Take away your health insurance? Get a job with benefits or get insurance through your school. Take away your car? Move closer to work/school and walk, bike, or buy your own.

It sounds like you're probably relying on them for a lot right now; they're going to take merciless advantage of that until it's no longer a factor. When you're self-supporting, you can face them on equal footing and they don't have anything they can hold over you.

If you're self-supporting and they're still wailing about how you've ruined your life, then this is clearly about them, not you.
posted by galadriel at 6:31 AM on July 18, 2010

The drug issue is a red herring. I went through something similar at your age with my mother (who is Mormon) on another issue. There's just something about religious/conservative households wanting to test the loyalty of their children to parents and/or God about the time they are becoming more independent. I know this is something not everyone will agree with.

FWIW, it's sad but I had to begin to distance myself from my mother. I moved across the country just before I turned 21. We still talk often, but it is almost always at a very surface level. I don't confide in her much of anything. Do I wish it were different? Of course I do. But this is the only way to prevent everything being thrown back in your face. Even with this approach I hear things repeated and twisted back to me months and years later.

I'm sorry about your friend.
posted by wingless_angel at 6:56 AM on July 18, 2010

I do suggest financial independence in most cases but health insurance is a BIG DEAL and you need to hang on to it, so do your research.

Check to see if they really CAN pull you from the health insurance. Call the insurance company and ask. Call their HR people and ask.

If it's a group plan through their employer, they can't change their policy until open enrollment (or whatever) or if there is a "qualifying event". Once a year they get a chance to change their benefits but they can't change anything until then unless they adopt a kid, get divorced, lose their job(s), or whatever. This could be a month from now, in which case you should be very worried about it and proactive about it, or it could be nearly a year from now in which case you can let this die down.

(I agree that this is more about your religion--seems like you weren't doing anything they could easily pinpoint as against their religious beliefs so this is a scapegoat that they can flip out about.)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:03 AM on July 18, 2010

I've been in a similar situation, and I can tell you the one thing that worked. Call their bluff. If they really think you are addicted to LSD they are not going to want to kick you out of their house, etc. Your parents will only treat you like an adult when you are willing to stand up to them.

You don't have to get a job, get your own car, get your own insurance, move, cut the purse strings, whatever. You have to convince them that you could, at the drop of a hat, do so. So start looking for a job. Leave the classifieds around. You don't actually have to apply, you just have to look like you are. And when they ask, you can tell them that you are looking for a job so when they kick you out because you are an addict you can support yourself. And I guarantee you the threats will stop a week after you do this. Start shopping for cars. You don't actually have to buy a car, just show you are doing the research to know what it would take to get one. Thus it looks like if they cut you off you are just going to get a car. So they can't use that as a threat. Get the picture?

Threats to kick someone out for minor things are almost always just threats. Stop letting fear of your parents run your life and you can probably have your cake and eat it too.
posted by An algorithmic dog at 9:36 PM on July 18, 2010

Go to confession.

My father openly admits to having driven drunk numerous times as a youth, and isn't proud of this at all, but doesn't see a correlation between the danger of his activities and mine because "he feels bad about what he did and has been cleared through his church," but I don't.

Act like you feel bad about it and go to confession on their church.

Or even better, stop being their child and be their adult offspring.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 2:04 AM on July 19, 2010

I would not do a fake confession or "Apologize, cry & promise never to do it again." Hold your ground and deny being an addict. People like your parents could easily use your fake confession against you someday to try to interfere with your life by claiming that you're an admitted drug addict -- they won't let you forget it. Just a few things my manipulative relatives have used info like this for: threats to interfere with college financial aid and other sources of support; threats to manipulate choice of college and living arrangements; threats to interfere with employment background checks; making defamatory statements to third parties... it really doesn't end. Don't give them ammunition.
posted by yarly at 8:17 AM on July 19, 2010

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