An Interview with Luka and Kelly Kinard about JUUL​ Transcript

Kelly Kinard (00:01):

Hi, I'm Kelly Kinard and this is my son Luka Kinard. We're happy to be here on the BH WELL podcast. Luka has a story he wants to share.

Luka Kinard (00:17):

Hi, my name is Luka. I'm 17 years old and I'm from High Point North Carolina and today I want to talk to you guys about my story with how I went through my own vaping addiction. When I first started vaping, I was 14 years old as a freshman in high school. And, you know, the way that it was presented to me was very harmless. They told me that if I wanted to get the front row seats in the bleachers at the football game, all I had to do is hit a Juul. I absolutely was okay with it just because the way they presented it to me. They told me that it was a very harmless thing. You know, they presented it to me as no nicotine, better than smoking. They told me it's cheaper than smoking. What they really presented it to me was as vegetable oil. I remember being 14 and vaping at the time telling everybody it's just vegetable oil, it's just water vapor. Everything's fine. Go out and do it. I'm 17 now. And I realize that vaping vegetable oil is not a thing, but even if it was, why would you want to do that? There was really nothing that you would get out of that, but it was a very silly belief I had just because of the misinformation that I received.

Luka Kinard (01:14):

You know, for the first month of high school that I was doing, it, it really wasn't something I would say was an addiction. It was just something I would do socially with people. It was a very easy way to go to a group of people. I didn't know it had something in common. So we already had a connection and already had a way to communicate. So that's what it was for the first month. It was just a way to get friends. But very quickly after that. I started to notice that this is becoming an addiction, but I never admitted it to anybody. I was actually very stubborn at the time. And you know, I used to be a straight A student, I used to play sports and I used to be in Boy Scouts, all really great and healthy things. But unfortunately, after that month of high school, I started to decline very fast. I became a failing student, even dropped out of high school. I quit sports. I quit going to Boy Scouts. I quit clubs and extracurriculars. So everything I had been building my whole life really to get into college and have a great successful life, I really just threw it away. And I simply just thought of it as I'm just being a teenager. Never did I ever want to admit or even think it's because I'm addicted. I didn't want to put the blame on Juul.

Luka Kinard (02:21):

So I started to do this all throughout my freshman year and my personality changed quite a bit. I used to be a very happy camper as I used to be called in elementary and middle school, but I became very angry. I had a very big resentment against the world. You know, I used to think that it was a world versus me and me versus the world. And I really just didn't enjoy even myself. You know, I was very uncomfortable with my own skin. So I constantly was just shutting people out of my life. And it didn't matter if I had known the person since the time we were on a swing set in elementary school, or I didn't care if it was somebody that I had just known in high school or any authority figure, I didn't want to listen to either. I became really aggressive, not only towards people, but also inanimate items, objects. I was breaking computers, laptops, chairs, tables, windows, glasses, dishes, everything and anything you could think of I was really breaking during these outbursts when I didn't have the vape. So fast forwarding into my sophomore year of high school, I'm doing the exact same thing, just completely worse. My highest grade my first semester of my sophomore year was about a 58, which was pretty bad. It's pretty bad. And my lowest was a seven. Um, don't recommend anybody doing that. But still at that time I didn't think there was anything wrong. I would always just say, I'm just being a teenager, just leave me alone or just shut up.

Luka Kinard (03:45):

And that was quite blatantly what I would say until September of 2018 when I had a six minute grand mal seizure, which was from vaping. And that was super scary to me because I've never had a seizure in my life before. And when you go through a seizure for your first time with no prior experience, you really don't know what you've been through. You know, you, you don't really remember anything. You just wake up and feel very dizzy, very out of breath. You feel very dehydrated. You have a headache, pretty weak. I really had no clue the significance of a seizure, but it's very serious. You know, a grand mal is the most serious type of seizure you can have. Uh, and six minutes is quite a significant amount of time. Um, but I was, I was so scared, but people were always asking me, how are feeling, you know, what's going on with your seizure?

Luka Kinard (04:33):

And High Point is a pretty big city, it has about a hundred thousand people in it. I could walk the sidewalk. I can be outside mowing the lawn. I could be with my friends. I could be out in public with my parents or school, wherever it was. And somebody was asking me, and it did not matter how kind they were to me. I would just tell them to shut up and leave me alone. And it wasn't because I didn't appreciate them. It wasn't because I didn't value them or realize that they cared about me. It was just simply the fact that I hated myself. So why would I ever want that attention on the person I hate the most. I didn't want it so I just kept on pushing it away. Now it's two months later and it's October of 2018. And my mom and my dad, they texted me and they said, Luka, come downstairs, we got to talk. It was a Friday night. Uh, at that time, you guys could probably guess what I'd be doing on a Friday night. I'd probably be going out, probably vaping, probably hanging out with friends, doing what I shouldn't have been doing. This was very much what my plan was, but I got down to that couch and my mom and dad told me, "Luka, pack your bags. At 3:30 in the morning we're going to go to the Raleigh airport and you're going to go to rehab in California for eight days.

Luka Kinard (05:43):

I said, "that is not what we are going to do." But that is what I did. That is absolutely what I did. And, you know, it was definitely not a fun experience at all. Um, you know, having to be on an airplane for 7 hours already, airplanes are uncomfortable, but sitting next to the person sending you to rehab, my mother, was a little bit uncomfortable. But then we get off the plane, we hit the highway and we get to rehab, also super uncomfortable. Thankfully in really any rehabilitation facility, they really do try to make you feel at home and comfortable. But no matter what, you know where you are and you know it's not home. You're not going to be as comfortable as you could be. And you're definitely not comfortable with yourself at all yet, especially for me. When you hate yourself and you're in a facility like that, you are forced to sit in your own skin and that is just so uncomfortable and almost unbearable. I was in there for 39 days. Not 8, as you told me. We advocate for people not to vape but we also advocate for people not to lie. So mom, I hate to say it, you lied, but it was a great one. She told me if I did not go on that plane, that they would have cops escort me onto the plane. I was like, "I'm not going like that". She also knew that eight days was a lie. But she knew I would have never gotten on the plane, if I had known I could have been there. When I first arrived they told me I could be there for 35 to 45 days or maybe 90. And then if that wasn't working out, we can go somewhere else for six months to 18 months. And that was drastic. That was definitely a huge 180 from 8 days. But after those 39 days, I've been clean ever since. Ever since the night I left which is nearly almost two years.

Kelly Kinard (07:36):

You were forced to quit cold turkey.

Luka Kinard (07:37):

I was, yes. I was forced to quit cold turkey. A lot of rehabilitation centers unfortunately allow people to use nicotine. Then if they're trying to stop nicotine, a lot of times, they'll just give them a patch. My rehab was absolutely not like that. In fact, they really didn't have any supplements for anybody going through withdrawal. Because there were kids there for other substances, whether it be an opiate or a narcotic or whether it be alcohol or weed or, for me, nicotine. There was not a single supplement for withdrawal. They did not believe in it, in fact they strongly believed in quitting cold Turkey.

Kelly Kinard (08:15):

Yeah. It worked. We're very fortunate to have him back. Like millions of other parents, we never saw this coming. We thought our high school, new high school freshmen was going in with the best foundation. He was a boy scout. He was in sports. He was a straight a student. He had new friends that he'd just met at high school orientation. We were excited for a new experience, and an exciting high school career. We thought school would be easy for him too. But it quickly changed. It probably was just two weeks in when we noticed the difference. I think we noticed the difference before Luka noticed the change. And we noticed it in just massive, massive, explosive incidents over something small. Whether it was, "you need to come home at a certain time because that's your curfew" or" you can't go out because you haven't done your homework" or "you've got a test tomorrow," something and you know, just one little thing like that would cause him to destroy our house, our property, our furniture, kicking in doors, denting the car, destroying things with a baseball bat. You know, we had never seen that before. We had no idea where it was coming from because who expects that all of a sudden overnight, but we didn't immediately connect it with nicotine. I had never heard that nicotine could cause this kind of behavior in a child. I thought he woke up with an adolescent onset psychiatric illness, we had no clue. We were just totally blindsided. So we sent him to a therapist hoping that she could get through and have him talk and maybe figure out what was making him angry because we had no idea. We had absolutely nothing, no idea what was going on. And the therapist worked with him some and then, you know, he was still angry. There was no change. And I started putting two and two together. I at first I thought, 'Oh, it's nicotine withdrawals.' And then I realized, well, he's not withdrawing because he's not quitting. And there were more and more Juul pods everywhere. And I started reading up on what nicotine does to kids. And just based on what cigarettes did to adolescents; that was scary. It causes increased impulsivity. It causes ADHD symptoms. It causes cognitive behavioral problems. Your kids can't understand what they're reading or hearing. And then little tiny bits of information about Juul started coming out, talking about the massive dose of nicotine. And then it started to become very clear he had so much nicotine in his system his brain was being scrambled. The symptoms of nicotine, what cigarettes did to kids, you could times that times a hundred, it was so much worse. And Luka, I don't think mentioned, you should go back and mention, how much nicotine he was using and how much nicotine is in a Juul.

Luka Kinard (11:11):

I was using quite a bit. So one Juul pod is equivalent to 20 cigarettes worth of nicotine, which is about a pack of cigarettes traditionally. And I was going through four Juul pods a day. If we do the math, it's about 80 cigarettes worth of nicotine a day. And sometimes it would be more, you know, sometimes it wasn't just my own personal use of four ponds. Very often. I always the person at school that would go up to everybody's cars. I was the same kid that would go to everybody at lunch or in the hallways and ask them for a hit. I was the same person that would do it in the bathroom. So it wasn't just on top of that, of me using my own four pods a day, it was also going off of everybody else. I've had a lot of flack for that though. I will definitely say that lot of people are skeptical. They'll say, "there's no way you could have done that. That's not even scientifically possible." And then a lot of people are like, "well, what did you think was going to happen? You're pretty dumb for doing that. Like nobody does four pods." But you would be surprised by the amount of kids or just the amount of stories I've heard personally after speaking about my story for the past two years almost, of just how many people have been at the same level as I was or even worse. And of course people know that stuff can happen to them. We know that it's not the greatest thing for our bodies, but it's just one of those things where you're not really thinking about your body cause you already don't care about it and just doing it already. Um, so when I, when I hear that flack of "Oh, youre so stupid", it's like, well, uh, you're right, I was definitely not using my head, but I also didn't care too because I didn't care about myself.

Kelly Kinard (12:46):

I don't think anyone really realized what such a large dose of nicotine would do to a kid's brain. Like I said, they knew what cigarettes did, but they didn't realize the kids were targeted with such a massive dose. I don't think any human has ever been tested with that much nicotine. 80 cigarettes in a day, you can't smoke that many cigarettes. So now we know what happened. But, when he was in therapy and I started to catch on, putting two and two together, I told his therapist that it was the Juul that was causing him to act this way. And she told me to back off that he needed Juul for his anxiety. And we would go back and forth. I'd tell her, but he didn't have anxiety before he started Juuling, he didn't have this anger before he started Juuling. And she'd say, well, you just need to back off. So, you know, that was very frustrating. And we continued on, she suggested since we couldn't have a conversation with him, without him exploding, she suggested a family therapist who could act as a mediator. So my husband and I took him in to family therapy and the therapist walked in and asked Luka what he was on. She could see him about to explode just because he was there. And um, she suggested we see a psychiatrist and at that point, I was open to anything. Not medicating him, but I wanted someone's input who could tell me how to get this kid off of Juul. And we walked into the psychiatrist's office and they asked me, "well what do you want to put him on?" And so that kind of dumped out of me. I didn't know what to put him on. I really didn't want to put him on anything. I wanted him off Juul, but they suggested Welbutrin that has shown with some adults to help them or gives them the ability to curb their impulse to smoke. We tried that for three months and it quickly became apparent that, well, I wasn't thinking things through to begin with. In order to use something to quit like a patch or a medication, you have to have the will to quit. Luka didn't. He saw absolutely nothing wrong with what he was doing and had no intentions of ever quitting. So no amount of medication or patch or Nicorette gum would help. So, you know, then he had the grand mal seizure and I thought, 'okay, this'll scare him and maybe the doctor could talk some sense into him and scare him enough, he'll want to quit and maybe make an effort.' Well, the pediatrician asked him if he was interested in quitting and he said, no, he didn't see a problem with it. So that was the end of their conversation. The neurologist who we saw told him to get more sleep. The cardiologist told him that his chest pain and cold sweats were probably due to chest wall inflammation from vaping. So that was the closest anyone came to, you know, acknowledging that Luka's problems could be due to nicotine. The insurance company ended up being my friend in this whole battle. It shocked me because usually you have to battle your insurance company to get treatment. But I called them, I told them my child has a substance abuse problem. He needs inpatient treatment and the substance is Juul. And they agreed. So they gave me referrals of treatment centers, inpatient hospitals, anything possible and I started calling. I called everyone. I even called outpatient places, but no one would take him because it was nicotine. Many of them, including some that were just for youth actually allowed their clients to smoke and vape because they considered it a lesser addiction or a safer alternative to what some other addiction - a trade-off addiction they'd say. Or they also considered it a coping mechanism, you know, nicotine use. They didn't understand that it had gone over into substance abuse. And so, um, I just continued searching surrounding states, going further and further west. And finally, the closest thing I could find was in California and they are loaded with adolescent treatment centers there and they, almost all that I talked to, willing to treat him and treat nicotine abuse or nicotine addiction the same as any other substance abuse. And we wondered up until the minute we/I dropped him off if we were doing the right thing. But you know, when at the end of it, he thanked us for sending him, we knew we did the right thing and we're very, very fortunate to have our son back and very proud of him. So you were a really happy child beforehand, you had a great childhood. Explain to people what it was like to change from being a happy go, lucky, outgoing kid with a lot of hobbies and interests, how quickly you changed and how it felt.

Luka Kinard (17:36):

I would definitely say it was almost a switch. It was not something I really experienced that was just kind of coming on. Honestly, I had already been through depression in middle school due to being bullied. So I had already had kind of a sense or a taste of that feeling of kind of loneliness. That's what it feels like at least when I was addicted, it was just a feeling of being lonely. It didn't matter if I was in a room full of people that loved me and cared about me, I just quite blatantly just felt like I was by myself. I didn't think that my voice was important. I think that anything you taught me was important. I genuinely believed that I was a waste of space. I always remember leaving events at school early or leaving maybe even a class early or maybe like leaving times when I'd go hang out with friends early, just due to the fact that I would just get so down on myself or I would just attend and think they don't even need me, there's no difference between me being here and not, I would just leave. I was always isolated myself and that was a very, very depressing feeling, constantly having that weigh on your shoulders, thinking everybody doesn't want you to be around and they don't care if you are or not. It definitely makes you feel like a floater or like you're just kinda there, which is a really gross feeling to have. I don't know, it wasn't something, when I was going through it, that I wished I could have my old self back cause it was like, I had really just forgotten what it was like to be happy at that point. Honestly, I just knew I wanted to be happy, but I didn't know what it looked like anymore. I had no clue. And even when I had been happy before, I don't know, I just couldn't remember.

Luka Kinard (19:15):

Slowly when I got out of rehab, it changed. Unfortunately even when you get out of rehab, you kinda need rehabilitation just to get out. It's a process when you're gone from normal society for that long, especially as a teenager and you're in high school or really any type of schooling, there's a lot that goes on and you're not there. So I had to be walked into it. It's kind of like baby steps really and it was very frustrating. I will say I was definitely happier. But I really think the two biggest sources of that happiness: one was obviously sourced from feeling better, being completely clean. The second one was just, I was so happy to be free. Not being told where I could and couldn't go in a building, not having somebody watching me, not having to worry about asking to use the bathroom or get water. It was a great feeling to have those just simple privileges back. So after a while, my happiness was definitely sourced. But as time developed, I think along with anybody, especially while growing up as a teenager, unfortunately the aftereffects of substance abuse, you're gonna have some mental health issues after, where you're kind of down on yourself a lot. And for me it influxes. There's times where I absolutely feel downright amazing about myself and there's sometimes when I feel like I'm absolutely not enough, I just gotta work harder. But it's all about your attitude. Absolutely. When you feel like you're not enough, what are you going to do to start not feeling that.

Kelly Kinard (20:42):

Recovery is a lifelong process, isnt it? It gets easier at times. There are also times when it is harder.

Luka Kinard (20:48):

I remember at the beginning of my recovery, or even sometimes even now still, it's kind of hard to come to terms with the thought that this is the rest of my life. I remember in the beginning it was just so overwhelming to think that every single day I'm going to have to go through this frustrating moment where I can't use or this frustrating moment where there's somebody scrutinizing me for being clean when I'm struggling being clean. It's definitely an overwhelming thought set that this is what's going to be your life. But I will say just because your life isn't enjoyable at that time, it doesn't mean your life's never going to be enjoyable. It just means that you're going to have an added challenge that other people won't. A lot of people also do have this new challenge. It's just all how you look at it, really. So what do I do to fulfill my addiction? There are a multitude of things, it really just depends on where I'm at and the availability of what I can do. But one thing I consecutively do is music. You can have that anywhere. You can listen to music anywhere. It doesn't matter if it's your phone. It doesn't matter if it's radio, you can hum out loud. You can hum in your head You can sing lyrics to a song in your head. Music is always with you.

Kelly Kinard (21:59):

You can blast it in the shower too, apparently.

Luka Kinard (21:59):

Absolutely. That's the favorite place to blast music. So that's definitely something that I keep around with me, is definitely listening to music. Sometimes I write. Sometimes I go for walks. I go for walks quite often, honestly. Sometimes I skateboard. Sometimes I go out and hang out with friends. It really just depends on what head space I'm in, but I always try to stay busy. That's the biggest thing. I will say your biggest key to success and staying clean and sober is not being complacent. Always stay busy, even if you're not enjoying what you're doing, just stay busy. It's really gonna deter you from even being able to use. And just even being able to think about using. All of those things I mentioned, like for example, skateboarding and walking, I have been doing that since I was a little kid. I've always enjoyed both of those. I definitely skated a lot less when I was using, just because I really didn't have any motivation to do anything. But unfortunately, a lot of the things I used to enjoy I still enjoy, I just didn't when I was using. It was also a bad association because unfortunately, with me, I would also sell vapes to people or I would oftentimes walk or skateboards to people's places to go and buy from them. So my mom often thought 'my son is on his skateboard, where's he going to sell or buy?' So I had a negative association with skateboarding at that point. I just quit completely. Same with going out for walks.

Kelly Kinard (23:24):

I never understood why he needed to take his backpack.

Luka Kinard (23:28):

For my speaker, for music! I did enjoy it, but then it was times where I just felt so trapped to the point where I couldn't do it. And that's nobody's fault, that's 100% my fault. It's not my mom's fault for making me feel - maybe just a little bit - that a lot of the things I always enjoyed, I stopped enjoying just because I didn't feel that I deserved to enjoy them.

Kelly Kinard (23:53):

So you would share with teens that it's important to continue to do what you enjoy and find something you enjoy?

Luka Kinard (23:59):

Absolutely. My biggest message to anybody who is a teenager, not even if you're using, or if you're thinking about using, jjust in general, find something you like to do and try new things. I'm not saying try new drugs, please don't mix up my words. What I'm really saying is just try new things. This world is way too big just to be limited to what you're doing right now. Yes, there's sports. There's a lot of sports. There's video games. There's a lot of video games. Music, there's a lot of music. There's reading. There's a lot of books. There's so many different opportunities. This world is way too big for there just to be one or two things you really like. So I really want you guys to expose yourself to as many things as possible because it's going to make you guys so much healthier, happier people. It's also going to make you a lot more interesting because you have all these new experiences and you're really going to benefit from it.

Kelly Kinard (24:51):

Yeah. And I think it's also important for kids to remember to be themselves.

Luka Kinard (24:54):

Absolutely, be yourself. Guys, it sounds so cliche just to say, "be yourself". Cause I know, trust me, I'm 17, I hear it all the time. It was one of those first things when I would hear it, it would go in one ear and right out the other. But really be yourself. And the reason I say that is, who are you fitting in for? If you're in middle school, is it for the people that are in middle school? You're going to see them three to four years in split and in high school, four years and then split. And then college, you're really not going to see them very long. It's definitely something I would say, who are you trying to fit in for? That's the first thing. And then second thing is, once you start to do everything else that everybody else is doing, you are just like everybody else. What is special about you? This comes off as very rude, but it's just the honest truth: If you're just like everybody else, I'm not going to feel very inclined to want to be around you. I'm going to go for that person. I'm like, wow, there's something unique about you. So be yourself because you are absolutely unique and one of a kind. Nobody can take that from you, but you yourself will decide to be like other people. So just, just be yourself.

Kelly Kinard (25:59):

So for teens who maybe would like to try quitting, but are worried about how their friends will react. What kind of words can you give them? Because every teen wants to be included and have friends. And if they're worried about losing their friends, that's a deterant to quitting.

Luka Kinard (26:15):

I would say the first thing, which is not what you want to hear at all, but this is what you need to hear. What type of friend do you have if they're not going to be your friend or it's going to deter your relationship with them because you're stopping a bad habit? In what way are they bringing out the best in you? Because that's what friends do. It's not because you guys have things in common. Friends bring out the best in each other. What are they doing to support you through that? So definitely I would sit there and say, reevaluate that friendship. But also I know it's scary and it definitely deters people, but I want you guys to realize people come and go in your life. There are going to be some people that are going to be your friends, your entire life. And that is absolutely amazing. I applaud that. But the sad reality is that unfortunately, sometimes friendships only last a year or only last three or four years. You never know when a person can come and go. So you can use that and definitely cherish the relationships you have now. But you can also use that and say, "Hey, you know, if they're not really supporting me in what I'm doing, maybe they're not the greatest of friend and maybe I can look somewhere else."

Kelly Kinard (27:28):

I think that's powerful coming from a teen. When us parents tell our kids that, we don't know what we're talking about, we don't understand but Luka's lived it and it's true.

Luka Kinard (27:39):

Oh yeah. I've lived it and it's not fun and it's not easy. I'll promise you guys, it's not anything you ever want to hear or want to deal with. But if you want to be the happiest person, you can be, you've got to let some people go if they're not helping you out. Absolutely. I've had times where I've had to sit down and literally write every single person that I know down on pen and paper, first and last name, and then go through the list and think "I don't really know what type of friend- are they a best friend, are they are good friend, or just somebody I associate with? And there was times where I would sit down and think 'Oh my gosh, I am only close with like 4 out of these like 30, 40 people.

Kelly Kinard (28:27):

It's quality that is important. Not number of friends.

Luka Kinard (28:31):

Absolutely. It's less stressful, I'll tell you that. I, at one point was a very, I wouldn't say popular, but I would say a very well known person in my area, especially. And I was always social. I was always out doing something and I will tell you what, it is a lot less stressful when you have less people in your life. And I'm not feeling coldheartedness and saying, "I don't want anybody". But what I'm trying to appeal to you is that it is okay to have less friends than more friends, as long as you've got good friends.

Kelly Kinard (28:58):

Exactly, that's what counts. So for parents, we've got some things that we can share with parents. I made a lot of mistakes. We tried punishment, grounding him. And then when you think about it, if you're dealing with an addict and they can't help it, what's punishment going to do, but just make them feel shamed, feel bad about himself. We also tried bribery that didn't work either though.

Luka Kinard (29:25):

I will say it right now. I don't remember the bribery. I don't think I ever received a single dime for quitting.

Kelly Kinard (29:31):

Well, because you didn't quit. But anyway, you know, be there for your children. Listen to them. Don't shame them. Don't judge them. They were targeted for addiction by big tobacco. So, we didn't see it coming and neither did they. They didn't realize they were guinea pigs. So to be punished, what else could the parent do to help their kid, besides finding a good therapist or counselor who deals with addiction? Um, talk to the pediatrician. I tell everyone to try everything. Not every kid needs to go for inpatient treatment. Like Luka did. He was an extreme case. There are other extreme cases we have since found. But you know, if you try everything somewhere along the way, something might work. There's free, quit programs online or through texting. There's a million different ways that things you can check into and try it all.

Luka Kinard (30:27):

I think one of the biggest things for a parent, my advice would be is that relationship with your child. I know you definitely don't want to hear how to parent from a 17 year old. But I will definitely say that the relationship is important, it's all about how you communicate. I will definitely say when my mom would sit there and say, "you did this, I caught you doing this." The first thing I'm going to think, naturally as a human, is fight or flight. I'm going to say "no, I didn't.

Kelly Kinard (30:55):

Didn't matter that he had a Juul in his hand.

Luka Kinard (30:56):

Doesn't matter if I know that I'm wrong. I'm just going to say, "no, I didn't," cause that's my natural reaction. But as soon as you start to say, "you know, hey, I feel like this is going on. Can we talk about what I've figured out and what's going on?" I'm going to feel so much more inclined to talk to you. If you say we. It's just little things like the "I"s and the "we"s instead of the "you"s. But also reassure your kid that, yes, they're making a mistake and you're incredibly worried, but also let them know (1) you love them and (2) that, just because they're making a mistake does not mean that they are a mistake. Just because they are making mistakes does not mean that they can't come back because they absolutely can. They just really need that reassurance.

Kelly Kinard (31:38):

And also my advice for parents whose kids may have just experimented or who think their kids aren't vaping and this doesn't apply to them. This actually does apply to everyone because if it's not your kids doing it, it's your neighbor's kids, your siblings, kids, it's someone, you know, your nieces and nephews. There's so many kids doing it that it applies to everyone. Everyone needs to help with this. And if your kids are experimenting and you don't think it's a big deal, it is a big deal. Because even if they're just experimenting, no amount of nicotine is good for the developing brain. We found that out the hard way too, because Luka went from being a straight A student to an F student really quickly.

Luka Kinard (32:19):

You can turn that around. Now I'm an A, B student with the exception of a C in chemistry.

Kelly Kinard (32:27):

So, you know, you were forced to quit cold Turkey. What kind of support would you have taken, which would have been helpful to you?

Luka Kinard (32:38):

At the time I don't know what could have helped me, honestly, I was just so far gone, but I think more than anything, not just in terms of my addiction, I think what would have just helped me as a person really, and probably would have affected everything is if somebody had placed not literally, or literally, placed their hand on my shoulder and say, "Hey, you got me, you know, I can be a rock". That's what I really needed. It was just, it was just a rock. And a rock to me with somebody that can tell me the truth. It doesn't matter if it's a positive or negative truth, they can do it in a way where it's not showing anger; it's not showing judgement. And that was the biggest thing I needed. I'm very fortunate that my parents did help me out but at the time I refused it because it's not what I wanted. I guess hearing it out loud, it almost sounds selfish of me to say I didn't get what I want. But really though, more than anything, all I wanted then was just somebody that I could feel comfort with. And I really didn't really have that.

Kelly Kinard (33:44):

No [you didn't].

Luka Kinard (33:46):

No, legit.

Kelly Kinard (33:47):

No. We were in such despair and so desperate for help and so absolutely distraught. We actually thought about leaving the country, taking Luka to England where Juul was illegal and having him finish high school there. We could not think of any way to get him off of that.

Luka Kinard (34:03):

I would have much rather done that than go to rehab because England sounds nice.

Kelly Kinard (34:07):

Yes but that's longer than eight days also. I don't think for any adolescent, nicotine should be a coping mechanism or a trade-off addiction. I think it's best to just wipe out the addiction entirely instead of trading it in for a new addiction. If you're letting them continue the cigarettes or vaping down the road, that's going to kill them too.

Speaker 2 (34:31):

Absolutely. So I'd definitely say, seek to understand and to be understood. That's the biggest thing. I think it's just relationship with your patients and how you're going to be just as you would want your relationship with a friend, have the same relationship you would a therapist. That's very important.

Kelly Kinard (34:49):

And understand that this is a new substance abuse. This isn't a coping mechanism and millions of teens are now becoming addicted or becoming addicts who normally were not on track to become addicts. These were kids who probably would not have become heroin addicts or some other kind of addict. You never know because addiction can hit anyone. But typically, I think the kids who are now becoming addicts might possibly, never would have otherwise. The whole addiction tore our entire family apart. Everyone, no one stopped loving Luka, but for a time we thought we lost him. We battled it for 15 months and the anger, the destruction of property that still hasn't even been reclaimed or repaired in all. It just, it was absolutely horrible. It caused a lot of depression, PTSD, fear. And it was absolutely awful. We didn't know if we would get Luka back. We didn't know, after he stopped doing Juul, what kind of damage was done to his brain. So, it's just taken time.

Luka Kinard (36:12):

Sure. I think the biggest thing that helped me would be, gosh, it sounds so rude when I say it, but just even to be a part of, or even work on having family again, it was that everybody dropped their judgment. Our family never had addiction to my understanding. So to them it was kind of taboo. It was very taboo, honestly, it hurt me when they said " this is not us; this makes us look bad". All that was dropped when I was out, it was full support. I think that can, that can go in a lot of different situations and not just in terms of my addiction, I think for anybody that's family, if you want to bring a family back together, drop all your judgments. Just because it's not how your family is, or it's not something that your family does, doesn't mean it's not your family still.

Kelly Kinard (37:00):

Right, yeah. Well, we realized when Luka was in treatment, I realized here he is working really hard to turn things around. How could we be embarrassed and not - we didn't tell very many friends and family because we thought they would judge us. But we realized we're proud of Luka. We need to stop acting like we're embarrassed by him. I feel really bad about that, but I think it's actually very normal. And every parent I hear from, experiences the same. You feel like a failure. You feel shame, you'd never expected this to happen to your family, no one does. So no one sees it.

Luka Kinard (37:43):

There was times where I felt embarrassed by my parents because of being sent to rehab. I remember prior to rehab, prior to California, I remember my mom threatening me about California. I thought it was just an empty threat. I already thought she was crazy but then I was like, okay, you're really crazy when she was threatening California. I called my friends, yelling, I said "My mom is bugging. Like she is absolutely crazy." And then I get sent to rehab and oh my gosh, that was the final moment when I was like, this lady is just nuts. And when I got back out, I hate to say it mom, but a lot of people were like "what's going through your mom's head?" Even people's parents were saying it to me too. That's definitely changed around now; I will say it's the same people saying all that have definitely changed their attitudes around. When I got out, it did not help me to be sober when hearing people say, "dude, your mom's crazy". I definitely think that what my parents did ultimately saved my life. I think it was definitely one of their, probably their, the best feel, good moments as a parent-

Kelly Kinard (38:56):

None of it was feel good I've gotta tell you.

Luka Kinard (38:58):

After, the reward.

Kelly Kinard (39:05):

Ha, well when you thanked me.

Luka Kinard (39:05):

It was a pretty joyous reward.

Kelly Kinard (39:05):

Yeah, we're happy to have our son back.

Luka Kinard (39:08):

I think it was definitely something that was so beneficial to my life. I wish they had never done it because I wish I had never gone to rehab. It was not something I ever want to do again, it was not fun, but I will say thank you because I definitely needed it.

Kelly Kinard (39:21):

And where would you be now if you hadnt?

Luka Kinard (39:23):

I would be dead or I would be in jail, 100%. Just like any relationship there's things that you need to work on. There's definitely things that need to heal. I mean, we're talking about 15, 16 months of constant trauma that happened between the three of us (my mom, my dad and I). Whether it was me inflicting trauma on them or them inflicting trauma in their own way to me. There's a lot of healing that needs to happen still, but it's definitely 100% better now than it was when I was on Juul.

Kelly Kinard (39:56):

Maybe more people would get help if it weren't something that had to be hidden behind closed doors.

Luka Kinard (40:01):

I also think that when you're clean, you start to realize a lot of the same people that you used to think, 'Oh my gosh, they'll never like me. They'll judge me because I'm an addict.' A lot of times you'll go back and be like, 'Oh my gosh, how did I not see it? They're doing everything I was doing. They just didn't share about it.' You really realize a lot of people are addicted, especially when you're clean. Cause you know, you're actively trying to stay away from people. You kind of already know the scenario cause you've been through it. You kind of look around. You're like 'I am in a world removed. It's gloomy, but it's awesome that you can look at that and see there's a lot of hope for a lot of people in this world that also aren't addicts. That has a lot of power too.

Kelly Kinard (40:44):

The thing about becoming addict is it can happen to anyone and you never see it, no one ever sees it, coming. There's an invisible line. You don't see a line, a real thing. [And think] 'If I crossed that I'm going to be an addict,' it sneaks up on people. And so with Juul and vaping, it's gotten kids into a pattern where it's going to lead to other things. Studies show that cigarettes are the gateway to other drug use. Well, now that the stronger, more potent, easily addicted, nicotine salt concoctions have come out, vaping is the expressway to other drug use. It has a higher tolerance. It's not lower on the whole with cigarettes. It's higher and kids are going to need more. They're going to supplement. And I'm afraid that we might end up with a whole generation of addicts running the country one day.

Luka Kinard (41:42):

I think my saddest thing about addiction in general is the way that treatment facilities or just treatment in general, unfortunately has treated nicotine. A lot of times they say nicotine is a useful tool, our coping skill for quitting other substances. Yeah, you're right. That's a coping mechanism, not healthy at all. It's just a trade-off for an addiction. It is so frustrating. I go to alcoholic anonymous meetings, not because of alcohol but because the meetings are great for substance use in general, you can apply that to any addiction really. And it is so annoying walking into a big cloud of smoke. It is so sad to me that we have people that put their all into quitting alcohol or an opiate or narcotic instead. Now they're dying from the nicotine addiction because their treatment, the same people trying to get them healthy [allow smoking]. It is unacceptable. I think we have to wipe out addiction and addiction does not have any trade-in. So to anybody in treatment, if you recommend or if you allow nicotine within your facility or recommend it to your patients, shame on you. Please turn that around because it definitely does affect a lot of people.

BH WELL Staff (42:59):

If you're interested in learning more about BH WELL and the Behavioral Health Wellness Environments for Living and Learning, check out our website at bhwell.uky.edu. Thanks for tuning into the BH WELL blog where behavioral health is our priority. See you next time.