Sitting in her comfortable living room in Covina, Karin Sanchez describes a weekend camping trip her 21-year-old son has taken. For the average parent, it would be an unremarkable conversation, but as Sanchez speaks, her normally sturdy demeanor crumbles--her voice shatters, her eyes flood with a rush of relief.
For seven long years, throughout her son's adolescence, Sanchez has lived the anguish of a cocaine addict's parent--driving the streets when he was a runaway, foraging for telltale drug paraphernalia. Four months ago, her son went clean; now she is telling how he has begun to hunt rabbits and fish for trout.
"It's a miracle," Sanchez says simply.
In a similar suburban setting in Orange, 20-year-old Lisa Parker is finishing up the day's work as an assistant in her mother's desktop-publishing business. In the basement office Parker shows off a newsletter layout she has helped produce, then goes upstairs to join the family for a plate of \o7 churros.\f7
For Parker, addicted to a full array of drugs, including cocaine, from ages 11 to 18, the hearthside warmth is a sort of spiritual balm "for people who have come back from hell."
Like Sanchez and Parker, millions of parents and teen-agers nationwide have experienced the pain and destruction embedded in cocaine and other drug abuse. According to the federal Office of Drug Control Policy, 1.4 million Americans use cocaine.
But use rates of this most addictive drug have dropped dramatically. Last year, the number of teens who said they had used cocaine fell 46% from 1987, according to a survey by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, a nonprofit group of advertising and media agencies.
With less peer approval, more teen-age addicts are seeking treatment programs, while parents are becoming more willing participants in their children's struggle toward recovery.
Experts say they know of no published studies of recovery rates from cocaine or other drug addiction. But Rod Skager, a UCLA education professor who conducted a drug abuse survey for the California attorney general's office, says, "We do have instances, many of them of dramatic changes, associated with treatment."
Indeed, addicts and parents who work together to conquer addiction are often brought closer, drug therapists say. Here, Karin Sanchez tells of a parent's fight to keep her sanity until her son came in from the cold, while Lisa Parker recounts an addict's odyssey through an adolescence strewn with bloody needles, police warrants and broken dreams.