A Teen's Guide to Living Drug Freeby Bettie B. Youngs, Jennifer Youngs, Tina Moreno
Dedicated to the fresh, new perspectives of today's teenagers (from twelve through twenty), this new volume shares advice, commentary and stories on dealing with one of the most prevalent challenges of adolescence: drugs and alcohol. But more and more, teens are using their courage and knowledge to meet this challenge head-on, choosing to live a drug- and… See more details below
Dedicated to the fresh, new perspectives of today's teenagers (from twelve through twenty), this new volume shares advice, commentary and stories on dealing with one of the most prevalent challenges of adolescence: drugs and alcohol. But more and more, teens are using their courage and knowledge to meet this challenge head-on, choosing to live a drug- and alcohol-free lifestyle. This book gives teens insight on what to do when things seem beyond their control and it will help them to:
- Know the facts about how drugs and alcohol physically and mentally affect the human body
- Understand why, how and when chemical dependency sets in
- Succeed in saying "no", even when friends or peers are saying "yes"
- Deal with the situation when friends' or family members' usage is out of control
- Know what to do if they become chemically dependent
- Realize that using drugs or alcohol can alter ambitions, change priorities, misalign goals, and undermine relationships
- Manage their roller coaster emotions by providing alternatives
Divided into six units, each chapter opens with a story from a teen and concludes with "Questions to Think About," to allow the realistic and honest message to set in. Resources and referrals, as well as information on twelve-step programs, are also included.
Read an Excerpt
Do You (or Someone You Know) Have a "Problem"?
A couple of my friends and I decided to go to a Saturday matinee. We agreed to all meet at Chloe Batina's house. I was the first one to get there. When I arrived, I was a little surprised to find Chloe holding a really pretty, decorative wine glass. I thought it was strange to drink water from what was obviously a fancy (and maybe expensive) wine glass, but I dismissed it as just the glass she'd wanted to use. Within minutes one of our other friends, Melania, arrived and Chloe sort of gulped the remainder of what was left in her glass. Then, she quickly went to the sink, washed out the glass, dried it off and set it up in the cabinet.
Within another couple of minutes, our other friend, Elizabeth-we call her Lizzy-arrived, and we friends went off to the movies. We had a really good time, just like we usually do when the four of us get together. And we decided that we'd reserve next Saturday for a "repeat performance."
The next Saturday, we did just that. Then we went back to Chloe's after the movies, took out frozen pizzas and began our "party." As promised, I'd brought a six-pack of Pepsi, Lizzy brought a six-pack of Coke, and Chloe and Melania furnished the pizza. But Chloe didn't drink soda; instead, she poured vodka into a small water glass. She asked us if we wanted some, and then told us that she couldn't serve us "a lot" because her parents "would notice." No one took her up on this-not one of us friends had ever had alcohol before, and drinking vodka sounded especially terrible, and with pizza it sounded positively gross. Still, while none of us had ever known Chloe to drink before, it wasn't like it was earth-shattering. But we were surprised when she poured yet another small amount of vodka for herself after she'd drunk the first "helping." Seeing Chloe drink hard liquor was kind of unsettling. At least I, for one, was troubled by it. By the time we were ready to leave, Chloe had done this a total of three times!
At that point, I no longer thought that it wasn't a big deal: She became really argumentative with Melania over a simple comment Melania had made about the value of not taking trig during the regular school year and waiting to take it in summer school. Her argument was pointless and senseless, too, because she wasn't taking an advanced math track like Melania. And she got really loud and started telling some really dirty "boy" jokes, as well as filling us in on the latest gossip on some of our more "colorful" classmates. Her gossip seemed really farfetched, so I chalked it up to exaggerations.
Because it was finals time at school, the next three weeks passed really quickly. During this time, we friends didn't get together for our regular "matinee date," but we did meet one Saturday morning to cram for a civics final. Chloe didn't join us for that.
The weekend following the finals, Terrance Connelly had a "FINALS ARE OVER!!!!" party, and so we four friends made plans to go together. I was more than ready to be with my friends to dance and have some fun.
It was a good party, and everyone had so much fun-especially Chloe, who not only could be heard across the room but was also the center of attention as she danced on top of the coffee table-which, as you can imagine, made Terrance nervous. And when he called to her, "Scratch that, and I'll be grounded for life," she came back with a really rude comment, one that I could never put in writing. It was clear to everyone she'd had "way too many" as someone said. Well, she really made a spectacle of herself, and I think it's fair to say that like me, most all of her friends were embarrassed for her. Her behavior was that bad-though I'm pretty sure she had no idea what a fool she made of herself.
The next Monday at school, as you can guess, everyone who had gone to Terrance's party teased her about her behavior there. But you know what? Chloe didn't remember any of the worst of the way she acted. Feeling sure that she would want to know that she had been really wild, even weird-basically, drunk-Lizzy and I "filled her in" about how she had acted. We were hopeful that by telling her, she wouldn't let it happen again.
We were wrong. She did nearly a repeat performance the very next weekend at Tanya Williamson's party (a birthday party for Jordanne Guy); as well as two weeks later at Brian White's long-planned "end-of-soccer-season" barbecue. Watching Chloe do this to herself over and over again throughout the following semester was really confusing to me; she acted so "slutty" when she drank, but it was just one phase of her now fairly predictable chain of events. She'd drink, then get loud and then louder and then obnoxious and then start swearing louder yet. Then, she'd get really argumentative no matter what subject or topic was being discussed (sometimes we even had to pull her off someone she was trying to fight). Then she'd become quiet and withdrawn, and go off in a corner and fall asleep.
All of this got her nicknames around school, everything from "Party-Hearty" to "Party-Central" as well as an assortment of other not-so-good names, all having to do with the way she acted "while under the influence." It wasn't only embarrassing that my once-good friend had become such a "freak show," it was also sad, especially because while her "popularity" grew in notoriety-if that's what you can call it-so did her reputation as someone typically out of control. Chloe had become the hub of the party, as well as the "butt" of jokes.
My embarrassment had grown to being concerned for her, and I felt I should do something-but what?
My first decision was to part ways with her, or at least hang out with her less. I invited her to my house next to never, and never asked her to join me for studying. Though we didn't see each other as much, I always heard about what she was up to. Everyone always talked about her or was reporting on her. The drama and rumors at school were always about some of the "more stupid" things she'd done, or about Chloe being "true to form." "Alien abduction, alien abduction, alien abduction" was the phrase (the "password") that classmates repeated and passed along as they hurried to their classes when they knew that Chloe had been drinking and was "in space" because of it. Like I said, it was sad. I kept wondering, "How could Chloe go from being such a nice and normal person, to someone who, as Chad Brenner described, was a 'real drunk'?"
Our classmates all talked about Chloe; even trashed her, and yet we all liked her-and covered for her. I guess maybe we were all minding our own business-and completely ignored the danger she was putting herself in. I mean, it was obvious that she wasn't just drinking at parties, but also at school. Practically everyone knew when "Chloe's loaded." Thinking we were doing her (and ourselves) a favor, we covered for her, like the time in history lab when the teacher called on Chloe. Karen Torres, knowing Chloe was "really gone," spoke right up and answered the question for Chloe. I'm sure she did this because she knew that if Chloe answered for herself, she'd make it obvious that she was "out of her mind" and then she'd get in trouble-like being expelled from school. So in a way, we all protected her "secret."
Unfortunately, Chloe spiraled down to a place that was, as she later called it, "really dark."
Then one day, Lizzy called to tell me that Chloe had attempted suicide. Lizzy said that Chloe had been out drinking with some guy from another school and had been date raped. The feelings of shame, along with her despair over not being able to control her drinking, had caused Chloe to feel so helpless that she'd actually wanted to take her own life. Luckily, she didn't die. And luckily, she was placed in a hospital for "observation" and treated for depression-and her alcoholism. Our friend Chloe was an alcoholic.
Her suicide attempt scared me. It's made me think about the responsibility we have for looking out for each other. I mean, what if I had told my parents about Chloe's drinking early on-and they had called her parents (which is exactly why I hadn't told my parents)-and they had gotten her help for her drinking? So what if she hated me for it-would that have been as bad as her ending up in a position where she was easy prey for date rape? Would it be as bad as her becoming willing to take her own life? And what if us friends at the parties with her didn't egg her on by showing her all the attention we did when she was drinking? Why hadn't we tried to stop her from drinking as much as she did and take her home when it was obvious she was on her way to passing out in the corner? Often she even drove: Why on Earth did we allow her to get behind the wheel of the car in her condition-her "stupor" as we called it? Certainly when we saw her stumble out the door, or even if we didn't see her leave because we left before she did, we always wondered how she managed to make it home in her condition. Sometimes we would ask, and when we did, she'd say, "My car knows the way!" We're all smart enough to understand the nervousness we felt behind our chuckles.
And what if we allowed the teacher to see that Chloe couldn't answer the question because she was barely conscious? The teacher would have gotten a counselor involved immediately, and then maybe Chloe's condition wouldn't have gotten as bad as it did. I mean, I'm sure that none of the friends at school wanted to admit out loud, "Our friend Chloe has a problem," but we all knew it. I just wish that early on I'd confronted Chloe myself-not just about her behavior while drinking, but about the fact that she was drinking in the first place. Instead, mostly I'd smile that smile that says, "Glad it's you making a fool of yourself and not me!" Why hadn't I spoken to her directly and tried my best to convince her that not only did she have a "real problem," but she needed help? I wish I had.
Doing nothing doesn't do justice to our friends. My advice for anyone and everyone is: Don't run from your friends' drug or alcohol problems, but do all you can to help them get the help they need. Speaking the truth is often the ransom you need to pay when your friend is "abducted" by drugs and alcohol, like Chloe was. You just might be able to intervene before they've crossed the line from "using" to losing control of themselves and being chemically addicted-like my friend, Chloe.
Delia Anne MacNaughton, 17
Crossing the Line: What's the Difference Between "Using" and "Addiction"?
There are a lot of good reasons to live a drug- and alcohol-free life. The risk of becoming chemically dependent (addicted) is just one of those reasons. Reading about Chloe's progression from beginning to drink to eventually attempting suicide makes it clear where that risk can lead. But maybe you're a little more cynical, a little less sure that using means you're going to want to end your life, or even that it'll impair your ability to study for your next test.
Sure you know that, yes, as a minor, alcohol and drug use is illegal, but you don't intend to drink and drive, nor use and drive-nor be with anyone who is driving while under the influence. You're smart enough to know that many teens do "experiment" with alcohol and drugs, and many simply say, "It's not for me" and never use again. And you know that some will use from time to time without becoming chemically dependent (addicted). Maybe you (or your friends) use "every now and then"-you have a "sip of beer" or take "just a little hit." You know that while you've earned the right to say, "I used," it doesn't mean you're necessarily going to become chemically dependent.
So you also know that while using can lead to dependency, you also know that not everyone who uses will become "dependent." So the question is, if you "try it," how do you know whether you will or won't become like Chloe-who is now "chemically dependent," an "alcoholic"-an "addict"? And if you use, how will you know if and when you may have crossed that line?
The difference between "using" and "chemical dependency" is this: "free will." But it's not as simple-or as easy-as it sounds, because the mind and body of someone who has become chemically dependent demands "yet another dose" regardless of the consequences. Even in spite of wanting to stop, the demand of the craving is there. The chemically dependent person will do whatever it takes to get some more of the alcohol or drug he or she is addicted to (craving).
Here is another way to understand the difference between someone who is an addict and someone who uses but is not an addict: One may embarrass himself at a social gathering, get a low grade in school, or get in trouble with his parents or teachers-and see these as consequences for having "used." These experiences are enough for this person to know that alcohol and drugs impair him and that's "not good," and it's all it takes for him to stop using altogether.
Not so for the person who is (or is well on his way to being) chemically dependent, who doesn't "process" these or similar experiences in the same manner. The chemically dependent person will use in spite of the problems it causes-including harming relationships with people she loves and cares about deeply. She will skip school, steal, lie, cheat, drop out of school-do whatever it takes to use. Why? Because her brain and body are being controlled by chemicals and screaming for more. This person-now an addict-has to use regardless of how much chaos and destruction she brings upon herself. She will even use against her own desire not to use.
Who is an "addict"? Many times the word addict conjures up visions of tattooed criminals, vampire-like "junkies" or a disheveled street person. But as you can see from Delia Anne's story about her friend Chloe, there is no stereotype: Chloe has all of the signs of being an addict. An "addict" is any person who has become (physically or emotionally) chemically dependent.
While the telltale signs of Chloe's drinking problem grew more and more apparent to those around her, perhaps her classmates didn't associate Chloe's problem with full-blown alcoholism. After all, Chloe went to the same school, and liked the same movies and music as most of her peers. She looked and dressed and even acted much like many other high-school teens. Yet Chloe was chemically dependent-an alcoholic. (Alcohol is a drug.)
What does it mean to be an "addict"? The word "addiction" can bring to mind some false impressions. Often, it brings up spooky images of dark street corners in seedy neighborhoods, barren-looking jail cells, horrific crimes, the mention of dirty needles and senseless violence. But addiction doesn't always include these things. Although it can lead to all of them, addiction can also exist in "nice" homes and neighborhoods and in the "nice" people who live there, just like it existed for Chloe. An addict is any person who has become dependent-hooked-on chemicals. So what, exactly, is addiction?
Addiction means someone is dependent on drugs or alcohol. It is linked with the words obsession, compulsion and tolerance because once the chemical begins to wear off, the mind and body demand more-or else a painful process of "withdrawal" sets in. The mind and body want "gratification"-the chemical-and they want it right now! The price may be serious and painful consequences, but the chemically dependent person is willing to pay it in order to get that instant satisfaction.
The pain and shame the user feels at being so out of control can make him or her feel like a "terrible person." So this person will use again in order to escape the problems and emotions as a means of coping. Of course, this only makes for more problems. Eventually the chemically dependent person ends up using to escape the pain created by using or drinking! If this sounds insane, it is-as anyone who has escaped from his or her "abduction" by drugs will tell you.
¬2003. All rights reserved. Reprinted from A Teen's Guide to Living Drug-Free by Bettie B. Youngs, Ph.D., Ed.D., Jennifer Leigh Youngs, Tina Moreno. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.
Meet the Author
Bettie B. Youngs, Ph.D., Ed.D., and her daughter Jennifer Leigh Youngs, coauthored six previous books in the runaway best-selling series, Taste Berries for Teens. Bettie has appeared frequently on CNN, NBC Nightly News and Oprah. Her acclaimed books include Safeguarding Your Teenager from the Dragons of Life; Taste-Berry Tales; Gifts of the Heart; and the award-winning Values from the Heartland.
Jennifer is a speaker and a workshop presenter for teens and parents nationwide. She is also the author of Feeling Great, Looking Hot & Loving Yourself! and Goal-Setting Skills for Young Adults.
Tina Moreno is a substance-abuse counselor whose experience includes counseling high-risk youth and women in all stages of early recovery. Ms. Moreno is founder and coordinator of Seeds of Grace Recovery Services
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