Take A Trip Down Memory Lane
The best way to understand what prompts teens to abuse alcohol is to go back to your own days as a youngster. What teenager has any desire to become the wino stumbling drunkenly home with bags twenty tons heavy weighing down his eyes and making him look like a grim-reaper with a ratty wig? What teenager wants to get their insides spread across the interstate because they got hammered and then run over by a semi? Young men and women don’t have the experience to properly understand the consequences of their actions. They may understand what they are doing is wrong, or taboo, but the why behind it eludes them.
Get Inside Their Heads
When you were a teenager, it probably eluded you, too. As a fourteen year old, sneaking into the barn at the edge of the neighbor’s property with two kids from Algebra class and a six pack of beer, you weren’t trying to really get into “trouble”, you were trying to see what this whole “beer” thing is about. It wasn’t that you wanted to become an alcoholic, or get in a drunk driving accident. You wanted to have a new experience. Or, you wanted to be one of the “cool” kids. You didn’t want to be a drain on your family, get arrested, or develop an alcohol problem. It started out innocent enough! But then several years had gone by, and the “cool” thing to do became drinking after school at any opportunity. In large part, because it was illegal for you to drink, you had to find your alcohol from people willing to buy it. This meant it didn’t often come in large quantities, so you’d have to drink a lot really quick to get the “buzz” you were after. But at the same time, you didn’t really understand what alcohol could or would do to your body. You had been drunk several times without vomiting or a hangover–you figured that stuff was for people who couldn’t hold their drink! Oh, how wrong you were.
Curiosity Killed The Cat
Curiosity. Trying to be cool. Behavior that follows patterns. These three things are a big factor in teen alcohol abuse, but another which may be even more prominent is abuse elsewhere in a young person’s life. A child from an impoverished portion of town scarred at seven by a knife-wound to the head from a drunken father will likely develop a similar substance dependence over time. These things are cyclical, and can be informed by poor choices on the part of presiding authorities.
In any situation where teen alcohol abuse is taking place, though, what is integral to understand is that the teenager has no idea what danger they are in. Even if they have been subject to abuse from long-time alcoholics, they never attribute those same eventual characteristics to themselves. This is just human nature–we tend to avoid thinking about those aspects of our persons which are most shameful to us. We blind ourselves. Why should a teenager be any less culpable of this because they’re younger? In point of fact, they’ll do so much more effectively than those experienced enough to have grown out of such mental behavior.
The best thing to do to help curb teen drinking is change the situation. Change a teen’s surroundings. Get them involved in activities which must be alcohol free. A new perspective yields new goals and directives which can help correct a downward spiral. But above all else: be there for your son or daughter, show them love.
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