Have you talked to your kids about the harmful effects of drugs? One mum in Singapore shares her experience of finding out that her teen had been abusing ‘ice’ and reflects on what she wishes she had said to him before he started experimenting with drugs
A mother in Singapore (who wishes to remain anonymous) shares how she found out that her son started taking ice ‘during his army days’ when he was 19 years old which led to a serious drug habit and eventually his arrest. We all know Singapore is safe but drugs (as well as vapes) both of which are illegal here can still be obtained often through social media sites. This mother shares what she wishes she could say to her son if she could go back in time and talks candidly about what could have triggered him to experiment with drugs (a heartbreaking admission from her son is that it helped him have heart-to-heart talks with his friends) while she believes it was an act of rebellion.
What were the initial signs that led you to suspect that your child might be using drugs?
My son started taking drugs during his army days when he was around 19 years old. He began withdrawing from his group of friends and from the family. He preferred to be alone. I also realised that he was easily getting agitated and irritated, was constantly appearing restless, and developed a habit of sleeping a lot during the daytime. I also saw him become considerably thinner than he used to be.
Drug abuse disrupted his daily routines, as well as prevented him from tending to his responsibilities at home, at work, and at school. Family relationships became strained — he became unable to have meaningful conversations with his father, and even resulted in him being rude to me at times. This often led to quarrels within the family.
What drugs was he using? Given drugs are illegal in Singapore, how had he come about getting them?
According to my son, he was abusing ice (crystal methamphetamine) which he had gotten through a friend’s contact.
Has it worried you about how seemingly easy it was for your son to procure drugs?
Yes, very worrying. I heard from him that he got to know these drug dealers through common social platforms such as Instagram and Telegram. Back in 2021, when he was arrested for the second time, I asked the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officers to catch these drug dealers to stop them from harming our youths.
How did you find out for certain and how did you react when you found out about your son’s drug use?
I found out that he was abusing drugs when he got arrested by the CNB when he was 23 and was sent to the Drug Rehabilitation Centre (DRC). It was a very troubling time for the whole family, as we were very worried about his wellbeing. We were also in a state of shock when he was arrested.
What are some of the vulnerabilities that you think led him to try drugs?
On the surface, it looks like the convenience of access to drugs, as well as him seeking curiosity and excitement might have led to him abusing drugs. According to him, he said abusing drugs made him able to focus and have heart-to-heart talks with his friends.
On deeper reflection, I feel that he might have abused drugs as a way of rebelling against his father. His dad is constantly picking on him about sleeping late, waking up late, playing games, telling him to watch out for his friends, society, food to eat, etc. My son didn’t take this as advice and thought his dad was picking on him and instructing him.
If you could go back in time to before your son started using drugs, what would you have said?
If I could go back in time, I might try to openly express that I accept my son and love him for who he is. I would have also spoken to my husband about doing the same too. This would have created a more embracing family environment for my son. This would have ensured that he would not have to seek acceptance and a sense of community from external parties, such as drug abusers and drug dealers.
Were you worried about legal consequences and how did you manage this?
I was definitely very worried that his future would be ruined, and that he would be unable to reintegrate into society and stay away from drugs. I was also worried about how the world would view him, and how this would affect his prospects in school or at work.
When my son was arrested, I saw a psychiatrist, counsellor, and psychologist on a bi-weekly basis to seek help and to be counselled.
How were you able to get support for your child?
I supported him by writing and mailing letters daily to him while he was in the DRC, visiting him once every two weeks, and bringing him self-help books that he requested for during these visits. I constantly motivated him through my letters and during the visits that no matter what happens to him, he is still my beloved son, and that I will always accept him and support him.
What kind of support or resources did you find helpful yourself?
I found this Facebook group helpful: Seth Philosophy Support Group Taiwan and Singapore
What concerns do you have regarding your child’s drug use and its potential consequences?
I have fears that his triggers, or vulnerabilities to drugs, may lead to him succumbing to drug addiction again. I worry that he may have to go back to the DRC, or have a criminal record, or be sent to prison, which may lead to severe repercussions for the rest of his life.
How is your son now and is there a worry of relapse?
He has been doing well now with the support of his colleagues and bosses who have acted as great support systems and mentors to him. He has been spending his time taking part in meaningful recreational activities such as going to the gym, doing yoga, and playing sports. He has also developed an interest in becoming a yoga instructor.
There are worries of a relapse within the family. Hence, we will always remind him of treasuring his freedom and chasing his dreams, in particular his desire to travel the world with his friends. We will also try to get him more involved in the responsibilities in the family and at home, such as doing some house renovations when needed, chipping in on the bills, and taking care of his younger cousins when they come over.
We always encourage him to speak about any of the challenges he may be facing at work or with his personal life and any triggers towards drugs that he may be struggling with. By finding out his struggles, we can help him find ways to destress and advise him on how to solve them in a positive manner.
What have you learned, and are doing differently with your son to strengthen your relationship with him?
Holistically, I have learnt that a positive family energy is very important. How we truly see our child will be projected and felt by him. Even if you were to sing praises but feel differently inside, it will be transpired to the child. There will be incongruency. So we need to stop worrying and thinking negatively or poorly about our child.
Communication, active listening and asking questions to our children are very important. Giving affirmations and validation are also crucial.
Every now and then, we will watch shows/movies together or use TikTok / Instagram stories to remind him about his freedom, his dreams and his travelling plans. We do our best to talk to him about what he seeks out of life as the brain will then focus and direct him to chase these goals.
What do you think parents can do to spark meaningful conversations with their children on the topic of drug abuse?
Parents can make use of teachable moments. For example, when they are watching a movie and a scene pops up involving drug abuse, they can use it as an opportunity to talk about how drugs are harmful despite their portrayal in the media. Also they could check out Architects Of Life organises the Triad Trails, a walking tour where youths can learn more about the harmful effects of drug abuse.
Thank you so much for your openness in sharing your story with us. We wish your son all the best in his future and hope he stays on a good path.
Support and resources for families affected by drugs:
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