Smoke, out

Joey Garcia

My son, a high school senior, has a 22-year-old girlfriend. He failed most of his classes, and is scrambling for credits to graduate. His girlfriend supports him in that goal, but she is a high school dropout. She is also a smoker. Recently, I found cigarettes in my son’s bedroom. He said they were hers, but I knew he was lying. He knows his grandfathers died of lung cancer after decades of smoking, so I was angry. When his girlfriend came by, I asked if she left the cigarettes. Without hesitation, she said no, she smokes a different brand. My son later confessed that the cigarettes were his. I canceled his Christmas present (a ski trip), but don’t know what else to do.

Be grateful that your son’s girlfriend answered you honestly. She may be a high school dropout, but she’s educated enough to value her integrity. After all, she could have covered for your son, but she chose not to do so. Maybe her influence on him is more positive than you believe.

Given the tendency toward tobacco addiction in your family, your fear about lung disease is understandable. We know smoking can cause emphysema, heart disease or cancer. Studies on vaping are still inconclusive, but we know secondhand smoke can cause asthma attacks, sudden infant death, heart disease or cancer. Scientists also say the farming and processing of tobacco has a negative effect on our climate. So have you considered inviting your son and his girlfriend for tea and conversation about your concerns? Try challenging them to quit together. Appeal to their common sense by showing photos of the damage smoking causes the body. Or point out how much money they can bank by not buying cigs. Dangle a tantalizing (but not extravagant) prize in exchange for kicking the addiction. Your son might initially shrug off the invitation to improve his life, but I bet his girlfriend will go for it, and that means he’ll get on board, too.

My family hosted a foreign exchange student last year, and he and I fell in love. He’s back home, and I miss him so much. We Skype but it’s not the same. He’s depressed and says if we can’t be together, he will kill himself. I can’t imagine my life without him, but when he talks like that it scares me. I am trying to convince my parents to let me visit him next summer but that’s not going well. My grades are dropping because I’ve been so worried about him, and because I’m not sleeping (there’s a huge time difference between our countries). We’re both almost 18, by the way. Any suggestions?

Step back from the situation, and look at it another way. Your boyfriend threatens to kill himself when he doesn’t get what he wants. Does that sound like someone you should travel thousands of miles to hang out with? He’s not in love, he’s in need and nothing you say or do can remove his pain permanently. That’s because your boyfriend is struggling with serious mental health issues, not a broken heart. He needs to see a psychiatrist right away. If you want to help him, fill your parents in immediately and ask them to contact his parents. If they refuse to get involved, insist or contact the organization that fostered the foreign exchange. By taking action you are helping him grow into a stronger, more balanced version of himself.

Meditation of the week
“The poetry of a people comes from the deep recesses of the unconscious, the irrational and the collective body of our ancestral memories,” said Margaret Walker. As the light births in the winter darkness, what poetic wisdom guides you?

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