What Moms and Dads Can Learn from Justin Bieber’s Downturn

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Pop star Justin BieberAfter Justin Bieber was arrested last week for drunk driving, police said they stopped the 19-year-old pop star for drag racing. He allegedly failed multiple sobriety tests and admitted to smoking marijuana, drinking, and taking prescription drugs. Justin’s manager and father figure Scooter Braun tweeted, “@justinbieber love you and I will act in the manner of someone who truly cares.”

Justin’s arrest is surrounded by the usual rumors, sensation, and gossip, with some sources saying he may have been below the blood alcohol limit of 0.08. We don’t yet know if Justin has an addiction or what its extent may be, but we do know that he’s facing the pressures of celebrity, the myth of the drug-addicted artist, and a family history of drug and alcohol addiction. How can a young person break the cycle of addiction, and how can his family and friends step up and help him out? When a loved one is in a tailspin of drugs and reckless behavior, how should you “act in the manner of someone who truly cares”?

A Family History

A person’s genes plus their environmental influences account for about half of their vulnerability to addiction. According to court records quoted in the online tabloid the Mirror, a judge was concerned about Justin’s dad’s substance abuse years ago and ordered Jeremy Bieber to refrain from alcohol and drugs before and during visits with his son. Justin’s mother, Pattie Mallette, has also been open and honest about her past addiction. Pattie turned to drugs and alcohol at the age of 14 to escape the trauma of childhood sexual abuse, but she eventually found recovery and has courageously spoken out about her experience. “I’ve always asked him a lot of questions and always tried to protect him from going through the same sort of thing,” Mallette said.  She’s right to be aware. Since a family history of addiction is an important risk factor, Justin should pay attention to the experiences of his parents.

How Families Can Help

If you have a family member with a substance use problem, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration advises loved ones to set a good example. Don’t enable loved ones’ behavior by shielding them from the consequences of their actions, and don’t drink or use in front of someone who has a problem. It sounds as though Justin’s dad, Jeremy Bieber, wasn’t following this advice. Witnesses say Justin was partying with his father both the night he was arrested and the night he was bailed out of jail. Talking with loved ones calmly, honestly, and factually can make a difference—even if they don’t listen at first. Malette has talked about her relationship with her son, her past, and his choices. Last year, she indicated that she was letting Justin make his own decisions, and as much as she wanted to deal with all of his problems, her parenting style was changing: “I hope to still be a respected voice in his ear.”

Stay Strong

In a recent Q&A with Phoenix House, author Ann Dowsett Johnson gave advice to families whose loved ones are struggling with addiction:  “It takes an inordinate amount of courage and persistence to break through the denial of addiction. I just want to give my support to those who are in that position and say you will be listened to and you will be heard, no matter how much pushback you’re getting.” Justin Bieber has called his mom a great role model and friend. Now is the time for her to be less of a friend and more of a guiding force. Let’s hope that he looks to her example of recovery, and that the people in Justin’s life are intervening to help him make a change.

 

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