Will our teens be capable of withstanding the temptation of excess alcohol consumption? How do we impress upon a mind in rebellion, the dangers of drinking too much?
Lets take a good hard look at the world we live in. Looking, seeing and telling the truth has a lot going for it. It is true that teens are consuming more alcohol than ever before. Why is this? What has changed since we were this age? Is the world, like a great drunken fishbowl, slowly filling up to overflowing with beer, wine and spirits? And if so, why? Teens didn’t arrive in this world, singing Irish drinking songs and toting six-packs from some inebriated underworld. Before they were here, we were.
The question is what kind of world is this that encourages the idea that alcohol and fun are inextricably locked together. Mike is an 18-year-old freshman in college. He never drank in school and saw no reason to change that. His philosophy was simple: you don’t have to drink alcohol to have fun. Mike was not uncool. When he finished high school he couldn’t wait to move into an apartment with four other students. Mike’s views on alcohol stand out among teens. It is not the general view. But listen to the rest of the story. For eight months Mike valiantly railed against what he considered to be his fellow students’ “imbecilic attitude” toward partying and having fun. “I can’t stand it, mom!” He’d say, glaring fiercely at his parents. “It’s just so stupid! All they do is drink and get drunk and fall down”.
Now Mike was no blue stocking, spoilsport, or super religious fanatic. He skate boarded in the summer, snowboarded in the winter, listened to Radiohead loudly in his beat up Honda Civic and wore his jeans so low on his hips that his underwear peaked out. Mike broke up with his fresh young girlfriend of two years because she entered college and proceeded to drink herself into a stupor with her conservative parents’ full blessing. To them it was a rite of passage. Jane was on some obscure alcohol induced spirit quest that would lead her dazed and confused into the hallowed halls of adulthood. Well, finally Mike fell to peer group pressure.
Drinking didn’t make everything ‘fun’ that was true, but not drinking was a solitary pursuit. How long has society been behaving like this? Well last year I studied the ancient Greek philosophers. It was edifying and enlightening in a whole new way. Socrates apparently held alcohol soaked symposiums that would have put today’s teens to shame. So much liquor was imbibed in the higher pursuit of truth and beauty that references to the previous evening’s overindulgence is now captured for all time in the loftiest of philosophical texts. Hmmm… Indeed, what kind of world is this that teens are trying to make sense of? Now I am not minimizing the serious effects of alcohol consumption on teens.
Too many young lives have been tragically lost to alcohol experimentation that has been an accepted part of teenage ritual. Yes, alcohol in excess is indisputably bad and dangerous, so is smoking, drugs, promiscuous sexual behavior, and eating rich, fatty foods. This is not up for discussion. What is up for discussion is how it got that way. Parents of teens need to take a good hard look at the messages they are sending on the subject of alcohol.
Would alcohol be less of a potential monster if it weren’t both demonized and idolized? We parents might want to consider viewing alcohol in a less intense way. In France, one of the most civilized countries in the world, children are brought up drinking watered down wine with meals. The result is that drinking alcohol loses its power as some reactionary statement. It is robbed of its mojo. It’s nothing special.
Jane’s parents taught her something different: alcohol is a powerful statement in the name of fun. The more you have, the funnier it gets. This is the tragedy of extremes. Isn’t it time we unmasked the monster and revealed it for what it is? Teens are waiting for us to teach them about alcohol. Instead of giving it some mysterious power over them and us, it’s time we teach them that no substance has the power to unravel a person who takes responsibility for themselves.
We teach teens to take responsibility by taking responsibility for ourselves. The beginning of this profound process is developing unerring courage to face things as they are and tell the truth. The shine has never gone off truth and in the face of that luster, well, alcohol is just drink and power goes where it belongs and we are not victims any longer.