How to Talk to your Kid About Drugs…If He’s an Alice in Chains Fan

If you’re a parent, you know that part of the game is having those six or seven conversations about the Big Uncomfortable Topics (Sex, Death, Drugs, Suicide, and at least a few more).  I somehow managed to hit two at the same time tonight when Neil and I were running through the lyrics of the song “Would” by Alice in Chains (a fine piece of metal/grunge if there ever was one) while waiting for a The Movies (a Sims-type movie-making game) to install on my computer.

We decided to check out the “Would” video on Youtube while waiting, and after remarking at the raw power of lead singer Layne Staley’s voice on the track, I noted as an aside that he’s now dead.

“What happened to him?” Neil asked.

I replied by making a needle stabbing gesture to my arm and bluntly saying, “He offed himself…heroin O.D.”

This in turn led Neil to asking several great questions, ranging from “What’s heroin?” to “Why do rock stars seem to do that sort of thing a lot?”

We got to talking, although I think the whole subject is just incredibly sad. The same drug originally designed as a substitute for morphine (prominently used to stop the shattering pain of critically wounded soldiers) — can wrench the guts out of a normal person who gets addicted while using it to escape some pain in their life. With heroin especially, the physical addiction and withdrawal symptoms are legendary, and Layne Staley’s final years were ones I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

And then you’ve got the even better question of why it’s often the good times—when fame and fortune are suddenly yours after years of sweating in obscurity—that throw so many musicians off their footing. What is it about having so much money and so many new “friends” around that can make musicians and celebrities want to withdraw into themselves—or do stupid things to mess it all up?

These are great questions, and for my part, I was just glad to be having the discussion with a ten year old to whom the whole thing was entirely theoretical (although we both agreed that we’d like get a chance to see how we’d handle fame and fortune ourselves someday!)

Eventually, the game got loaded and we moved on to the task of laying out a 1920s film studio and grooming our own stable of virtual stars (who, ironically, can also get addicted to food and alcohol in the game!).

“Pfew!” I thought as the game began… well, that’s one conversation down…

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