CHOICE AND CONSEQUENCES
*This blog may contain comments or opinions that are sensitive and potential “triggers” for some and are my thoughts and opinions only.
CHOICES have consequences. That’s a pretty obvious statement that demands no further analysis or debate. What does demand a conversation is whether the consequences are a sufficient deterrent. The death penalty, the threat of prison, losing your drivers license, losing your job, losing your children, risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and overdose. All these are potential consequences of choices made. Some of these we may have more control over than others. We pay a very heavy price, a massive cost to society on top of the personal misery this creates for those afflicted and the collateral damage imposed on family and friends. Perhaps we should focus more on changing behavior instead of imposing penalties? Isn’t it easier to stop something in which you’ve never started?
After our oldest son, Seth, died from a heroin overdose on 10/4/16, I decided I would set up a non-profit. I struggled with a name to call this new organization. I really wanted to focus on the fact that due to a series of very poor choices Seth made over a period of 8 years, the consequences of his actions eventually caught up with him at the age 23. I didn’t want to focus solely on sobriety or recovery as I just wasn’t getting pulled in that direction, that wasn’t where my heart was. Sure, I have sympathy for a 35 year old alcoholic or a 40 year old addicted to opioids but where was I going to be the MOST impactful, right now?
I felt as if I was going to try to “save” everyone, I may end up helping no one. I didn’t want to spread my focus too wide immediately and become diluted in my approach so I narrowed it down. I initially felt compelled to turn my attention towards what happens prior to the abuse or addiction. Age of first use in the U.S. is typically thought to be around age 14. Age 14! Think about that for a second. This is around 8th grade. These are mostly children, not even young adults yet. Their brains are still developing at this point like sponges soaking in everything around them, good and bad. With the objective clearly defined the The Choices Network, Ltd was born in March 2020.
I wanted to initially focus on helping adolescents develop strategies to make better, more informed decisions when confronted with having to make difficult choices such as vaping, drinking alcohol or smoking pot. You don’t have to quit something if you never start. Sounds obvious in theory but the fact that it isn’t obvious in practice is why I am driven to learn more. I became so obsessed with this that I developed the Don’t Start Initiative (DSI) with the acronym ABC.
A=Awareness of being in a situation where a choice is to be made
B=Breathe -Techniques I learned during meditation practices
C=Choose-Choices precede consequences
I am very excited to get this out to give parents as an additional tool to have available to teach children “how to think” through these situations when inevitably confronted. More information on the DSI and the ABC model can be found on our website www.livingundeterred.com
At my company, Premier Investments of Iowa, Inc we have 6 full time employees and 10 financial advisors. It seems lately the “Premier nursery”, as we call it, grows each year and we welcome new additions with open arms. I enjoy seeing the posts and congratulations when happy soon-to-be parents let us know the great news. As exciting as this is I am also aware of the statistics when children begin experimentation with drugs and alcohol and I can see the future conversations these parents, my friends, will be having. Far sooner than they realize I hate to add. In researching for my new book, “This Ones for You-An Inspirational Journey Through Addiction, Death and Meaning,” I spent time discussing the issue of vaping with children today. If you are the parent of a child under the age of 10 I implore you to understand what vaping is and how it has swiftly become the new “gateway drug” in America. On one day alone last year the local high school where our kids attended confiscated over 100 vapes!
Seth had very little fear of anything. He seemingly appeared immune to fear and this led him to a number of alcohol-related arrests and drug-related crimes after high school. Jail and eventual prison ensued. It did not seem that these consequences had any deterrent effect on him. I kept waiting patiently, hoping naively that this would just play out and he was only in an “experimental phase.” This wasn’t the case as it turned out.
The allure of getting high was so strong he bypassed all the conscious “risk warnings” associated with taking drugs, specifically heroin. When drunk he assumed the “risk warnings” didn’t apply to him and driving a car was just fine. For many of us the consequences are a sufficient deterrent and we develop an “off” button, but for some like Seth, these rules didn’t seem to apply. Why? I really don’t know.. yet. I am hopeful that through The Choices Network and the many new relationships I have developed that we can uncover more on this. Are the potentially severe consequences for poor choices a viable deterrent? I don’t know for sure if they are, however what I do know for certain is I will remain fearless, just like Seth.
Happy Holidays and choose well!