Case Study 1 – A 14-Year-Old Boy’s Pot and Alcohol Use

Dillon, a 14-year-old Native American, lives with his mother, stepfather, younger brother and sister in a small community. Dillon was involved in substance misuse, especially with pot and alcohol. He also was into “Goth” music culture, particularly the music and lyrics of Marilyn Manson and Trent Reznor’s band, Nine Inch Nails. When the substance misuse influenced Dillon to take some lyrics literally, he considered killing himself. At this point, Dillon was living a life of isolation from family and friends, and he had stopped showing any interest in soccer, painting, and playing his guitar. It was then that his mother and stepfather were successful in persuading him to enter a residential program for those struggling with substance misuse.

Dillon was fortunate that both his mother and stepfather were aware of the generational effects of post-colonial contact upon Native peoples, particularly regarding substance use. Both of his parents talked with the counselors, educating them about the generational pain and suffering caused by the negative effects substances had upon the Native community. When this social context was highlighted, Dillon could separate himself from thinking that the problem he was having with substances was self-created and self-imposed.

Dillon began to understand that multiple social and political, factors contributed to his situation. He saw that he could stand with others in his community against the effects of substance misuse. Dillon also realized he could be a model for other young persons in the community who were currently struggling with substance misuse.

An amazing conversation took place between Dillon, two counselors, and eight cousins and friends of Dillon. The cousins and friends came to offer their reflections on the Dillon they knew when substance misuse captured his imagination and life, and the Dillon they saw re-emerging from the haze. Seeing the difference between these stories — stories of hope versus stories of defeat — provided Dillon with encouragement, and a renewed commitment to continue the changes he had made in his life. Dillon reconnected with cousins and friends who do not abuse drugs and went on to successfully complete the 10th grade.

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