SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


It begins with the family
By Sandra Rusin McCray


February 23, 2006
Thursday PM

The "Wake Up" letter from Kayleigh and other letters that followed suit regarding the problem with drugs in Ketchikan caught my attention. First of all it is difficult for me to compare the drug and alcohol problems within our society to current events and the future of Ketchikan. These are two separate issues that do not have anything to do with each other but each warrant discussion. I choose to discuss the problems associated with drugs and alcohol within this letter.

I do this because of my experience with this problem. My drug of choice was alcohol. Too many people do not want to believe or understand that alcohol is a drug. It is a powerful drug that is used and abused by many people in society and not just in Ketchikan. I do believe the State of Alaska per capita has the highest rate of alcoholism in the nation. Many people talk about marijuana being a gateway to more powerful drugs. I happen to believe that alcohol can also be the gateway to the use of just about any other drug a person is willing to experiment with. Alcohol happens to be one of the most powerful drugs that is used today and is accepted. I think if each and every person reading this letter thought about it for a minute you could think of someone close to you with an alcohol problem. I do believe that alcohol is the only drug you can die from when detoxing from the affects of long use of this drug. Yes you can die from a heroin overdose but during the first 72 hours of detoxing from alcohol (If you are an acute alcoholic) can result in death if you are not medically detoxed. (Alcoholic convulsions, Heart attack)

On to the point that Kayleigh was making that young adults drink and use drugs because there is nothing else to do. I happen to have grown up in a medium sized city in the 70's. (Eugene Oregon). I went to a fairly big high school and there was plenty to do. I was born into a upper middle class family that afforded me a comfortable lifestyle and I wanted for nothing. I lived in a beautiful neighborhood with all the luxuries my parents could give me. They encouraged me to participate in school activities, we did regular family vacations and they supported me on positive choices. My parents were involved with all of their children. We were their life. There was a lot of things for me to do.

Now that I am 50 years old I can reflect back with a bit more wisdom. I, like kids then and kids today, used the same language "There is nothing to do". It's all about choices. Even at 15 when I made the choice to drink a homemade beer with my girlfriends. All I ever wanted to do was to hang out with my friends. I had choices and this was the choice I made. The lure of alcohol was strong. I was a kid trying to be part of. Today I look back and think part of what?

I, as many kids then and now, had parents that I kept trying to fool. We all did this and the kids do this today. As much as they tried, and believe me my parents were involved in every part of my life, I still found ways to get alcohol. I was one that kept going with this type of lifestyle for quite sometime. Remember I'm a child of the 60's and 70's. I drank and partied and I drove all the time. If I lived the lifestyle today that I lived back then I'd either be dead or in jail. People just did not understand the power of alcohol or drugs back then and even today people are still learning how they can affect your life. If you got caught drinking and driving the police just sent you home. I remember them laughing because they thought it was funny. They just did not understand. DUI's were just starting to happen.

When I finally learned that I was an alcoholic I quit. I did not realize this until my middle 30's. That's a lot of heartache, grief and hangovers! It's been a struggle at times but I've lived a clean sober life now for quite a long time now. For an alcoholic or addict one day can be a long time. I thank God every day for the blessing he has given me.

As for our children, I have only the experience of getting my husband's children when they are 15 and their mother can't figure out why the kids are drinking and using. And the kids can't figure out how I know that they are using. I am strict, I am rigid, I am consistent and I have stayed a part of each child's life from the moment I received them. I learned very fast to depend on none but myself when it comes to knowing what to do for my stepchildren.

My stepdaughter today is living in Colorado for teens with drug and alcohol problems. Believe me when I say this child just dabbled. She was caught by me a couple of times and that was it. I immediately put her on regular UA's and when she failed for the third time it was the last time. I gave her chances to straighten up and she did not take me seriously. Many people today say "Gee don't you think that's a bit tough?" NO, I DO NOT. Parents, I am telling you to watch for the signs. They are not hard to see if you keep your eyes open. A little of this or a little of that in my eyes is too much. It breaks my husband's and my heart to send this beautiful child away for a year or more... but there comes a time that you have to tell yourself "This is not about Me". This is about my child and her future.

I am not trying to escape to responsibility of raising this child in my home by sending her away. I have made the choice to live in a remote area and unfortunately there is not help for our kids that struggle with drugs and alcohol in this community. I am not saying this is the answer to our problems. To just send the kids away. What I am saying though is if you are a parent and you suspect your child is using (even just a bit) then do something about it. It is not the "pot" of yesterday. The drugs the kids are using today are much more powerful and addictive. Who cares where they come from or how they get here. Drugs and alcohol are here, they have been around for a long time and I for one do not see them going away very soon. So it leaves it up to you "The parent" to be the parent. It's ok to let your kids know if you used drugs when you were their age and to tell them it's not ok for them to use. Your child may hate you but you are not raising kids to be your friend. They are going to hate you for awhile but I know from experience with my 24 year old stepson that calls me mom and says thank you for being the B****!!! you were about drugs and alcohol with me. It's ok to be a hypocrite. It's your child's life. It all starts at home. The schools are not our children's parents and it's every parents responsibility to help our children make the right choices. I am not trying to preach to people about your role as a parent. But I truly believe that the home of a child is where the child should be taught right from wrong. Do all you can do. Your child, like you, will make mistakes in life but that is what life is all about. The love and support of the family is where is begins.

Sandra Rusin McCray
E-mail: sandrarm[at]
Ketchikan, AK - USA

About: "I have lived in Ketchikan since 1999. I have no children of my own but have helped raise 3 of my husband's children with one here in Ketchikan. Sought help with alcohol through Alcoholics Anonymous since 1992."


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