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Under the Influence by Patty Sawvel


I know you guys have heard me admit that when I was younger that I tried drugs but that I think things are different now.  I have talked to my kids about the fact that it’s hypocritical to feel that way but I do.  A friend of mine, Patty Sawvel, had the unique opportunity to research drugs and their affects on a community.  She has since written a book on it.  I would love to share what Patty has to say with you.


Under the Influence

By Patty Jo Sawvel

Several years ago, I moved to North Carolina with three teens in tow.  And, as a mom, I was scared to death.  I still hadn’t answered the question of why some teens choose to use drugs.  And even more specifically, why do two teens from the same family make opposite choices about drugs and underage drinking?

I was obsessed with this is because during my own childhood, four of my siblings chose to use drugs and alcohol.  Two eventually freed themselves, but two are still battling (or surrendering).  The other four never had a problem and as for me, I intentionally chose to never even experiment.

Now what made this so perplexing is the fact that we were raised with plenty of spiritual guidance and our parents did not smoke or take drugs.  And when they drank, which was in moderation, they never ever got drunk.  So I knew that more was involved than simply setting a good example and talking to your kids.

Well, thankfully, in 1996, I was given an opportunity to fully explore this and many other related questions when the Kernersville News hired me to investigate its local teenage drug problem.

What I found is that young people are pretty amazing.  They may not always want to talk to their parents, but given the opportunity to talk to a reporter—they pull out all the stops and give you the straight and honest truth.

Amazingly, in the course of 15 years of research and interviews, I was actually able to find four young people from two families. In each case, one chose to use drugs and developed a long-term habit.  The other sibling chose to never experiment.

The young people agreed to tell me the “whole” story—as seen through their eyes—if I would change their names and some minor details as they didn’t want to hurt or embarrass their parents.

In the end, I discovered that even at an early age, there are THREE RISK INDICATORS that parents and other concerned adults can look for.  More importantly, the earlier adults discover a child’s risk factors, the sooner the parent can begin shoring up the vulnerabilities.

In brief, it was discovered that a child’s relationship to CONTROL, COPING SKILLS, and CONNECTEDNESS are direct indicators that can be successfully resolved.

But that’s not all.  In talking to teachers and long-time educators, I discovered that the “child” that comes into the classroom today is NOT the same “child” that walked into class 25 years ago.  So what changed?  I had the teachers do some research with me and we made some profound discoveries.  We were able to pinpoint why children today seem to be more anxious, more distracted, and more irritable.  And, we were able to come up with some solutions.

And when I started asking around for “parenting tips,” I found that there is a lot of inaccurate and even dangerous advice lurking out there.

So four months ago, I released a book to help people who are looking for real answers and answers that work.  It’s titled, Under the Influence: The Town That Listened to its Kids, and it is a real life success story about one town that put its teens in the driver’s seat of change and created a national role model program.

I wish someone would have had a book like this for me when I was raising my children!  I would have paid $1,000 and saved myself 15 years.  But then again, the journey has been worth the effort.  Check out the book at

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  1. Mayor Gia
    February 21, 2012

    Interesting! It’s so weird how people with similar life experiences (even in the same family) can go such different ways…
    Mayor Gia recently posted..Dear Boyfriend, Sorry ‘Bout the Crazy.My Profile

    • Lynn
      February 21, 2012

      I know right?

  2. Name *
    February 21, 2012

    It sounds fascinating, and I think it’s something I would like very much to read. In my case, it’s because I’m the one who chose intentionally never to experiment and my sister is the one who it killed. (Technically, suicide. Really? A lifetime of mental illness and addiction. But she was a sincerely evil person, so this isn’t a statement about loss but of why this topic fascinates me.)

    Anyway, Lynn, don’t feel like a hypocrite. Feel like you’ve been there and maybe learned something valuable that you can teach your kids. My parents were hippies. They tried it ALL in the 60s and early 70s. And so they knew very well how things had changed. They were quite open with my sister and I about their experiences and the ways drugs had become more deadly by even the eighties. I was willing to learn from their mistakes. Evil sib? Not so much.

    • Lynn
      February 21, 2012

      well, I’m sure that Patty would love you to order the book!

  3. Missy | The Literal Mom
    February 21, 2012

    Wow. Totally want to read! Is it out now?

    • Lynn
      February 21, 2012

      Yes…there’s a link to her site on the post.

  4. By Word of Mouth Musings
    February 21, 2012

    Thanks for the share!
    Oh how I worry for my kids in this world of ours today … glad there are friends who have been before me who make for good voices of reason.
    By Word of Mouth Musings recently posted..Wordless Wednesday at By Word of Mouth MusingsMy Profile

    • Lynn
      February 21, 2012

      Well, I’m sure Patty would be happy of you read her book

  5. Tricia @SassyPantsMomma
    February 22, 2012

    I will definitely be ordering this book. I have a 13 yr old and an almost 11 yr old and while they both seem to be going down the right path now, I know that can change in an instant.

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