In 2009, nearly a quarter of surveyed students in grades nine through twelve had been “offered, sold or given an illegal drug by someone on school property,” as reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. While it is true that this number is still not that high in our community, baruch Hashem, this does not negate the fact that it is growing alarmingly higher every year.
Teenagers and young adults will become involved with alcohol and drugs for many reasons:
• Curiosity: They want to know what it feels like to get high or be drunk.
• Peer pressure: Their friends are doing it.
• Acceptance: Their parents or role models are doing it.
• Defiance: They want to rebel against societal rules.
• Risk-taking behaviors: They need to send out a call for help.
• Thrill-seeking activities: They want to experience something other than numbness.
• Boredom: They feel they have done everything else exciting.
• Independence: They want to make their own decisions.
• Pleasure: They want to feel good.
While the first few instances of alcohol or drug use may seem exciting, the behavior can quickly spiral into substance abuse and addiction, and ultimately may even necessitate intervention or even rehab. Teenagers rarely ever consider the long-term damage they can do to themselves, their families and their communities.
Despite new laws, zero tolerance policies and stronger community education programs, teen exposure to drugs and alcohol is still on the rise. These substances are seen at social gatherings, in shuls and at friends’ homes. They routinely play a pivotal role at our simchas.
At almost any age, individuals desire to be liked and accepted by the people around them. They want to be part of the popular group. Teens especially crave this approval because it makes the difficult teenage years a bit more bearable. This desire to fit in forms one of the key issues for teens. The question that really needs to be considered is how can our bachurim be made to feel like they belong without the drink? How can we teach our children to enjoy life without numbing themselves? Unfortunately, it is apparent that a strong relationship exists between alcohol use amongst teens and many social, emotional, and behavioral problems.
That being said, I would like to offer some practical advice. Your son still seems to think that his drinking won’t develop into a larger problem. Although, given his history of “hanging with the wrong crowd” it appears that he is heading down a road to bigger problems. You should take the time to sit down with him and be open and honest about your fears. Perhaps he will open up as to why he is unhappy with himself and feels the need to impress “the guys.” I would also try positive re-enforcement. You might want to offer to take him on a Father-Son trip if he makes the responsible choice to be alcohol free on Simchas Torah. Allow him to choose something of value. If he chooses the reward, chances are he will be more likely to earn it.
Wishing you much hatzlacha and a Chag ‘Ach’ Somayach!
Please let me know how things turned out.