Written by Ryley James
Anonymous request for advice from Ryley,
“My sister who is bisexual and a teen is experiencing a rebellious phase with marijuana misuse. Do you have any experience in this area?”
While I did go through a rebel phase (it is hard not to with parents who don’t particularly support or care about who you are), I never did drugs or anything like that. I was more concerned about how I was going to pass my classes and pay for school and the rest of my generalized anxiety disorder. I was never doing drugs, and by the time I was in a place both mentally and physically where I could have tried it, I was in a safe space where I could successfully weigh the pros and cons of the situation. I decided that it was better to leave the smoking to my friends who did that than to try it myself. For me, my rebel phase was more about my body and what I looked and felt like.
As soon as I could do so without consequences, whatever I could do to make my parents uncomfortable with who I was and what I looked like, I took that chance. I got my first facial piercing the moment I got out of high school, I dyed my hair strange colors as soon as physically possible after graduation, I got my lip pierced soon after and my first tattoo for the same reasons. Even now I pick my clothing not only based on what will make me feel good about myself, but what would have my parent’s telling me am not allowed to leave the house until I put on something more conservative. Even if I didn’t do the same thing she is doing, I did go through the same phase, and I probably felt similar things to what she is feeling.
I had been living in a space where I felt like I was confined to a role I didn’t fit, and as soon as I had the means and the space to do so, I changed something I could control so that even if I had to
continue living that role I could do so knowing I was living it my way.
Rebellion itself (be it mine or that of any historical or literary context) has always been about control;I wouldn’t doubt that her’s is too. If I am correct, she is doing this as a way to take back control of her life during a time when she feels like she doesn’t have control. The best thing for you to do in that situation, is to take a step back and just let her do it.
Let her feel in control of what happens to her, and don’t be high and mighty if things go south.
Don’t try to lecture her on safety, don’t try to insert yourself into the situation, don’t try to steer her decisions. It is scary, yeah, because when it comes to keeping her safe there really isn’t much you can do with a hands-off approach, but in the long run not only will it be better for her to have these mistakes and victories under her belt, but it will be better for your relationship too.
If she comes to you for help, hear her out like an adult. Listen to her problem, help her look into solutions, and if she picks a solution that you wouldn’t go with but ultimately won’t end up hurting herself or others, don’t try to shut her down or steer her away from it. Don’t treat her like a child. Treat her like a person who can make informed decisions, because that is what she is.
More likely than not she knows more about her situation than you think she does, and even that you do. She is bound to make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean that she is uninformed or doesn’t know what her situation is. You can be there to catch her if she falls even if she doesn’t want you there to help her every other step of the way.
Be a safety net, not a strait jacket, because that is what she needs right now.