Category Archives: Teenage drinking

How to be invisible.

Image courtesy of Heavypong at

Image courtesy of Heavypong at

A few years ago, the bar owners around the campus of the University of Illinois realized they were missing out on some major revenue because St Patrick’s day fell during Spring Break. Which meant there were no students around and no therefore no partying. Not wishing to miss out on such a lucrative opportunity they created ‘Unofficial.’ Which is ‘unofficial St Patrick’s Day’ to take place the week before. ‘Unofficial’ has since become a huge event with students traveling from other colleges to take part in the, um, ‘celebrations.’

When I lived in Champaign, my husband and I walked around the college bar area checking out what it was like. There is something incredible about being over 25 and being on a college bar scene. It renders you completely invisible.

Drinking is part of the college scene and after finals, a lot of kids need and deserve to cut loose. Partying is fun. I did it.
But then someone dies and the reality of binge drinking at college comes crashing home. Twenty-three year-old Jonathan Morales fell from a balcony to his death during this years ‘Unofficial.’ It is the third student death related to the ‘Unofficial’ event. Morales is just one of an estimated 1825 college students to die of alcohol related causes this year.

What do we do? Ban drinking? Ban ‘Unofficial’? It wouldn’t stop it, it would just drive it under ground. Kids would still die, injuries and sexual abuse would probably go un-reported.
But we have to do something, right? Kids can’t go to college and keep dying this way.
1825 young people is far too high a number for us to feel comfortable with.

My friend Joe Schrank has a rather controversial suggestion and I have to say I think it’s worth considering. Prohibition isn’t the answer, instead, we have to accept that young people want to party we just want to lower the risk of them doing so. Schrank’s suggestion is to ban the sale of hard liquor on college campuses and only sell beer. Of course you can still get very drunk on beer, it’s just really hard to drink lots of it very quickly in the way you can with hard liquor. Second, he suggests the legalization of marijuana, as marijuana is very hard, if not impossible to overdose on.
Of course marijuana comes with risks, there are many mental health problems associated with using it. I don’t want my kids to use it. I don’t want my kids to use anything. But is that realistic? I hope they are going to college and I want them to have fun and I can also remember what it’s like to be young adult with all that freedom and no responsibility. Most of all I want them to be safe. I would at least like a discussion on what we could do to make kids safer when they party at college.

I know there is no perfect solution here. If marijuana is legalized then it is essential that the taxes from it are plowed into drug prevention and treatment. No substance is without risk.
Right now, I’m not seeing a lot of outrage to these events or to the amount of kids who die each year. I believe they are preventable. But right now these deaths are invisible.

Caitlin Moran blocked me on Twitter and I’m kinda devastated.

It’s true. She blocked me.

She was one of my ‘go to’ people when anything interesting happened, because she always writes so succinctly and is piercingly honest. Initially, I thought she was taking a Twitter break as I couldn’t see her tweets on Tweetdeck. Then to my horror, I realized she had actually blocked me. She had actually taken a nano-second out of her day to press the button that said ‘block user’.

I’m devastated that she imagines me to be some kind of troll who is sending her abusive messages (which as a kick ass feminist I imagine she gets a lot off). I’m heart broken that she thinks I’m one of them. And I’d like to apologize to her, as the last thing I wanted to do was cause offense.
It’s the first time social media has managed to dent my self-esteem. I assume it’s because she either read this, or saw one of my tweets, that I tweeted at her, imploring her to read this. I’m not a great writer and Moran does this for a living, but I tried really hard to balance how much I admired and respected her, with an attempt to initiate a conversation about how much binge drinking is normalized, and laughed about in our culture. I was suggesting she maybe mentioned this a bit too much, and could perhaps have a think about the impact of what she was saying. Obviously I came off as smug, patronizing and judgmental, and trust me, my 16 year old self is looking on in horror. How did I become this kind of grown up?

Because that isn’t what I set out to do. In truth, it is not binge drinking that I actually have a problem with. Adults need to make their own decisions, and many of us choose to do stuff that we know is bad for us, regardless. My issue has always been the rhetoric around binge drinking. The normalization of abnormal drinking. The jokey, jokey, references to hangovers and laughing about drinking quantities of alcohol that would kill a normal person.

It’s the subtext that says ‘alcohol is the solution to whatever problem you have.’

Stressed? I’ve got a bottle of gin here – that’ll sought it.
Bored housewife? Then it must be wine-o-clock, ‘wink, wink.’
Had a tough day? Nothing like a drink or two or three to sort that right out.
This is the language I’d like to challenge and I was hoping Ms. Moran would hear me on that.
But clearly I failed.

And I’m still not clear on how to address this. I do not want to be the fun police, I do not want to judge other people’s drinking, it’s really none of my business. I do not want to be a party pooper, or abstinence promoter (don’t believe in it).
What I do want to do is challenge how it’s represented in my culture. Because I believe our cultural representations of alcohol use are grossly incorrect, dangerous and actually camouflage’s our massive denial about the impact alcohol has. And it’s this collective denial that’s stopping people getting help.
We still culturally represent alcohol abuse as a bit of harmless fun. And it’s not harmless. It causes massive harm, to many people.
I’m not denying that drinking can be fun and can help with some unforgettable moments with friends. I’m also fully supportive of appropriate alcohol use. And even though I do have a problem with alcohol, not all my nights drinking were terrible, some were awesome.

If you have any suggestions how we can begin to change the conversation around drinking in a non-smug, non judgmental, non-twitter-blocking-by-celebrities-we-really-admire method. I would be very grateful to hear it. And if you happen to know Caitlin Moran, please tell her I’m sorry.

College binge drinking

It seems like college binge drinking is getting more and more attention these days. According to Inside Higher Ed, at least 8 freshman deaths on college campuses in the U.S. have been linked to binge drinking. Old Dominion’s Sigma Nu made headlines this week with their unique take on welcoming female freshman. Have we got to the point that our teenagers are going to college just to party? What about the learning bit?

Image courtesy of photostock /

Image courtesy of photostock /

There is a deeply ingrained belief in our culture that drinking, and in particular drinking to excess, equals fun. And college is all about having fun, right?
I was one of those kids. To me the whole point of being grown up was about being able to party and get drunk. I couldn’t wait to be able to do that without someone looking over my shoulder. I firmly believed that drinking equaled not just fun, but the best time it was possible to have.

Any situation, which enabled that was where I wanted to be and was therefore the point of college.

Unfortunately I was deluding myself, the fun always had a price and usually a pretty heavy one, but the biggest shock was how much this belief robbed me of other experiences. You see, I was actually lying to myself. I thought I drank to unwind, relax, connect with people, and to have fun, but the truth was I hadn’t developed those skills and instead used alcohol to fake them.

It seems like I’m not the only one.

Believe me, as a reformed drinker I’m not trying to preach about the evils of alcohol and usher in a new temperance movement. What I am advocating is a little more honesty and discussion around the reasons we drink so much, so often.
I’m not buying the fun part that we are constantly being sold on.

We send our kids to college so they can learn valuable skills to earn themselves high paying jobs and therefore live successful happy lives. But it seems to me we are forgetting the more necessary skills of emotional intelligence, connection, and meaningful relationships that are really the basis for happy and fulfilled lives.
I believe the binge drinking culture on campuses is denying kids the ability to learn these essential life skills.

We need a little more balance here, folks. The conversation we need to be having is not necessarily about abstinence and it’s definitely not about prohibition, it’s about balance and honesty. There is just something wrong with our culture when every social situation seems to involve alcohol and the promotion of heavy drinking as a way to connect and have fun.

We have some serious red flags going up about our delusional relationship with alcohol and need to ask ourselves some difficult questions.

Because isn’t that what college is really all about…change and difficult questions?

America’s college binge drinking problem

I’m going to LA in a couple of weeks to see the US premier of ‘A Royal Hangover.’ I’m really excited to meet Arthur Cauty the filmmaker behind this groundbreaking documentary. ‘A Royal Hangover’ examines the culture of binge drinking in the UK and why we are so in denial of the dangers and risks it exposes us to.

A Royal Hangover

A Royal Hangover

Cauty compares British binge drinking to the drinking that occurs on college campuses and during Spring Break in the USA. Although the documentary focuses on the British aspect of the problem, it is by no means a problem unique to the UK.

Just a few weeks ago Dalton Debrick was a freshman at Texas Tech University. His body was found the day before he was due to start classes, he died of alcohol poisoning.
The day before his death an international student at Michigan State University died after a night of drinking during ‘move-in’ weekend.

So far this year there have been 8 student deaths at the start of this academic year.

We can explore all the reasons behind these deaths but the major one is the normalization of abnormal drinking and the mistaken belief that drinking as much as you can, as fast as you can is something that is fun.

This is not a problem we can ignore any longer. Hopefully ‘A Royal Hangover’ will start a conversation in America as well as the UK about how we can educate our kids around alcohol abuse.

I’m the mother of a 3-year-old so I figure I have 15 years to try to implement some awareness and change in the culture of binge drinking on college campuses.
We can’t ignore this problem anymore.

You can see the trailer of A Royal Hangover here.

The cost of drinking

I started as a binge drinker and my drinking quickly progressed to psychological dependence. My drinking was fun only between the ages of fifteen and seventeen.
While it lasted I had a great time; I loved alcohol and I had a great time drinking. I lived for the weekends. I loved the excitement and build up before a night out. I loved the feeling of adventure that anything could happen, that anything was possible. The night felt magical. I loved getting dressed up with my girlfriends. I loved meeting friends in the pub and that first tingle of excitement of the first drink. A hangover seemed to be a small price to pay for how good it all felt.
For those two years I was a binge drinker and recreational drug user. It was brilliant.
I really had fun. I know I did.

Image courtesy of worradmu /

Image courtesy of worradmu /

But, this is what it cost me:
• I left home at sixteen because being there impinged on my drinking and drug use.
• I lived off state benefits.
• I barely passed my exams.
• I stayed in an emotionally, physically and mentally abusive relationship with another binge drinker and drug user.
• I cut myself off from all of my school friends and family and therefore had zero emotional support.
• I was sick every time I was hung-over, which was often.
• I was often late for work.
• I had no money, no savings.
• I couldn’t afford driving lessons like all of my friends.
• I couldn’t afford anything – all my money went on drink.
• I lost a baby-sitting job and the friendship of the family because I got so drunk in their brother-in-law’s pub he had to throw a bucket of water over me as I lay in the gutter outside his pub covered in vomit. They said they couldn’t trust me with their children after that.
• I had intense, uncomfortable, insincere friendships that could never translate into real friendships when we were sober.
• I had fair weather friends.
• I was friends with people I didn’t like very much.
• I often felt lonely even though I was surrounded by people.
• I often felt left out even though I was in the middle of everything.
• I lost my dignity. People laughed at me, not with me.
• I vastly under-achieved in my studies and work.
• I didn’t come close to fulfilling my potential.
• Nobody told me I had any potential.
• I tried drugs without any thought of the effects or consequences.
• I had sex with men I didn’t like because I thought I would be loved.
• I moved house five times in two years.
• I secretly wanted to get pregnant so I would be ‘safe’ and could get a flat and some money and would not have to cope with doing anything with my life.
• I had an affair with my boyfriend’s best friend and broke up their friendship and the band they were in.
• The goalposts of my integrity were moved on a weekly basis as I began to behave in a way I didn’t understand.
• I learnt that living was about coping and not showing anyone how I really felt.

I became false, fake, shallow, empty and lost, with no words to tell anyone how I felt.
I was never physically dependent on alcohol. I didn’t require a medical detox when I finally stopped. I was, however, extremely psychologically dependent on alcohol and was very, very spiritually ill. Alcohol was central to my existence and my life revolved around it. It always seemed like the answer for me.

Image courtesy of kraifreedom /

Image courtesy of kraifreedom /

Initially, the feelings alcohol gave me seemed to far outweigh the price I had to pay. Until finally, the price was too high. I vaguely realised I was drinking too much and that my behaviour was out of control, but I kept finding ways to justify it to myself. Then one day I just couldn’t any more, I couldn’t hide from myself any longer. I had to get help.
I realised there were two paths in life. One was to live your truth and one was not to. I saw that I had not been living mine, and the pain of that almost killed me, because at the end, even drink couldn’t take the pain away. I was either going to die or make the choice to live authentically without alcohol, no matter how hard that seemed at the time. It was this realisation that enabled me to get help and to get sober. It wasn’t easy at first, although ironically it was so much easier than the life I had been living up to then. Before I knew it, my life changed and I never looked back. I never missed drinking or what it gave me.
Recovery starts when we come to the realisation that we can’t continue the way we have been, and we ask for help.

This is an exclusive extract from my book ‘Why you drink and How to stop: journey to freedom.’
2013 How to Stop thumbnail 130x160
Available on Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble.

Heroin addiction, a mother’s story…

I’ve always wanted this blog to show all sides of addiction, including the stories from those affected by addiction. I’m honored to share with you today Kim’s story. Kim tragically lost her beautiful daughter Kayela to heroin addiction. Here she bravely tells her story.

Addiction doesn’t just affect the person using drugs it affects the whole family. I know because I lived through my daughter Kayela’s addiction to heroin.

We raise our children and its hard work, changing diapers and heating formula and lining up daycare, the first day of school and homework we don’t understand.
We care for them until they are ready to go off in the world and we can only hope that we did the right thing, made all the right choices.
On my daughters 18th birthday I gave her a gold angel wing with a card that I made, it said: ” I give you this wing and its only one wing not two, so you can find your way in life but keep both feet on the ground ”
My daughter is Kayela Faye Ayers and she passed away at the young age of 21.

She was a heroin addict.
I am her mother and this is my story.

Kayela (right) with her mother Kim

Kayela (right) with her mother Kim

If you think raising a child is hard work, then try watching that same child come in the house high or drunk and not being able to do anything to stop it.
Please don’t ever think ” It won’t happen to me ” because addiction can affect anyone. Once they take hold of that child, the same one we took to teacher conferences, that same child who you get that midnight call from the police department saying they have been arrested on drug charges, or a frantic person saying she stopped breathing and they took her to the hospital.

No one can imagine what a parent goes through when they hear these things unless you have been there.
My daughter started using heroin when she was 18, shortly after she went through some personal issues that involved putting a man in jail and then getting a beating because she did so.
That put her in the hospital with a head concussion and blackened eyes.
I pinpoint that moment because that’s when I saw a change in her and it was a violent change.
It’s hard to see these things and feel you can’t do anything about it. She hid it at first and I thought things were going great but deep inside she wasn’t ok. I don’t know how many times I look back and think, “If I only knew then what I know now, would it have mattered?”
I just don’t have that answer.
I spent a lot of nights crying, picturing her dead somewhere.
Kayela was under a Doctors care so I wanted to discuss with the doctor what was happening.
I called the doctor and told her that my daughter was abusing her meds and was using heroin, but the doctor told me she couldn’t discuss it with me. The doctor just kept filling her scripts.
After Kayela died they kept sending me bills for the prescription they had given her.

Kayela eventually agreed to go to Detox, but we could only get her admitted for 3 days and then there was nowhere for her to go after.

There was so much I didn’t know and I was so frightened. Kayela overdosed and her heart stopped, I naively though that would scare her into not using heroin. But I was wrong, she was back using as soon as she was released from hospital.
We tried to get her into rehab but we couldn’t get her a bed or they were too much money.
She became violent and there were many arguments and fights, as she got more and more desperate. My marriage to her stepfather fell apart because of the stress.
She finally got herself in a mess and was pulled over with heroin in her car and was arrested. She spent time in jail and upon release had to go to a halfway house. I think I slept more during that time then I had in so long, things were looking great and she was doing really well.
She was homesick and during her stay I bought a place for us to live for when she got out.
I painted and put carpet in her room to make it look the best I could. We were both excited.
Around April of 2012 she was able to come home but was on probation and had to attend AA every day. I often went to meetings with her.
Then she began to push me away again and began lashing out in anger. I tried to help her but she says I was nagging her and I needed to trust her. My head would spin because I wanted to trust her but part of me just couldn’t. I was always looking around her room and checking for signs of her using.
She wanted to go back to school, which I was really happy about. She was a smart girl so I wanted to do everything I could to help her. We got new clothes and school supplies, she seemed really happy.

One day I had to drive her to a store to return some clothing that didn’t fit.
It was only $25 and she said it was too small.
She came home and it was a quiet evening. I was watching TV with her sister and Kayela was upstairs sorting out her new stuff.
For some reason Kayela’s sister said I should check on her before I went to bed
I was always told to announce myself as I go upstairs so I called out ‘I’m coming up.’ Her light was on and as my head peaked over the top railing I saw her face down on the floor.
I screamed her name but she did not move. I ran over to her and when I felt her skin she was cold I yelled to her sister to call 911 “I think your sisters dead.” Her touch was cold and the color in her hand was grey.

The operator was asking me to do CPR but I didn’t know how to and I was scared I would hurt her. A couple of minutes passed and I heard sirens coming down the street. The next thing I knew the paramedics were there and they worked on her for over an hour. They took her to the hospital where they worked on her for another hour.
But she was gone.
In my gut I knew she was gone when I first found her face down in her bedroom.
I don’t remember much after that, it was a blur.
I blamed myself; I went through everything trying to think what I could have done differently, how I could have helped her.
Kayela’s addiction affected everyone, when she died a piece of me died with her that day.
You never get over loosing a child.
The only way I could live with the pain of loosing her was to try and help prevent other addicts suffering the same fate.

Kayela (right)

Kayela (right)

I tell my story wherever I can and took classes to become a Recovery Coach.
I don’t want anyone else to have to live with what I’m going through, the only way through this pain is to help others.
I miss Kayela every day; no mother should ever have to go through this. Yet drugs take more and more children everyday and we are still not doing enough to stop it.
Goodbye my beautiful angel.

The Anonymous People

The Anonymous People is a move is by Greg Williams that examines the history of addiction and recovery in the USA. It particularly focuses on the culture of anonymity, secrecy and shame around the disease and how this impacts the health measures, or lack there of, for people suffering from addiction.

The Anonymous People

The Anonymous People

The film very smartly avoids justifying that addiction is a disease.
FACT: Addiction is a disease.
The evidence is overwhelming and if you are still not convinced I suggest you click here.
Addiction is not a moral failing or a choice, despite what some outspoken critics may try and assert.
The science is very conclusive.
Addiction, like diabetes, cancer or HIV is not an illness that ‘responds to ‘just say no.’ It is however a disease that can respond to treatment. But like many diseases left untreated, the results are pretty grim.

Instead the film makes the case for addiction coming out of the closet. Drawing parallels from the AIDS public health crisis of the 80’s, it highlights how the Gay community understood very quickly that silence = death. They had to mobilize and be public in order to educate and humanize the disease that was devastating their community. AIDS is not a ‘gay disease’ but it initially hit the gay community the hardest. Without a doubt this community advocacy led to a better understanding of the illness and led to improved health measures.

Unfortunately that is not the case with addiction.
It is still a disease with much stigma and shame attached to it. The key message of The Anonymous People is addiction suffers have nothing to be ashamed of and everything to be proud of. It further asserts that the culture of secrecy is now impeding suffers from getting help.

Before getting too far in, the film deftly deals with the elephant in the room: Alcoholics Anonymous.
Respectfully and accurately it traces back the enormous impact that AA has had on the disease of addiction and the perception of alcoholism in the public. Early pioneers in AA did an incredible job of educating the government and public about the disease. This subsequently led to improved health measures and the growth of the fellowship of AA, resulting in many people getting help to get sober.
If you have been around recovery circles at all, you may be aware that folks get a little bit uncomfortable when the subjects of Alcoholics Anonymous, anonymity and publicity come up. All 12-step programs have a tradition of anonymity, it’s the 11th tradition and it reads like this:

“Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and film.”
Tradition 11 of the Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous

This is probably one of the most misunderstood concepts of the 12-step community. What it means is this; if you are a member of AA or any 12-step fellowship please do not publically announce (in the medium of press, radio and film) that you are a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, or any 12 step fellowship.

The 11th tradition does not imply however, that you cannot publically state you are a former alcoholic, recovered alcoholic, ex- addict, person in recovery or however you choose to identify yourself.
Do you see the difference?
The 11th tradition requests that you don’t state publically how you got sober (if indeed you did get sober through the AA 12-step program), it does not imply however, that you can’t say publically that you are sober.
This movie clears up this misunderstanding really well.

Shame and fear have kept people silent, kept them in the shadows, which is why public health policies are so badly failing to serve this horrendous disease.
The movie highlights how advocacy is the answer, but in order to lobby and advocate for more and better treatment, addicts and alcoholics are going to need to be public.
There is a lot of work to be done in just undoing some of the faulty and ineffective measures that still impact how addiction is seen today.
The 1980’s well meaning, but laughable policy of ‘just say no’ had the effect of ensuring that we meet the challenge of addiction by just locking people up.
‘Just say no’, implies there is a choice, and if you are using illegal drugs then you’re choosing to break the law and should suffer the consequences.
Hence the explosion in the prison population since the 1980’s, as the USA has tried to imprison the problem rather than treating it.
(As an aside, I would really like to see the figures on who is profiting from building all these prisons to keep all these addicts in, but that is probably a completely different movie).

Recovery Walk - a scene from The Anonymous People

Recovery Walk – a scene from The Anonymous People

The second half of the movie focuses positively on the shift in perception that is happening with the emergence of a visible recovery movement.
This is the part of the movie that I really want everyone to see.
It consciously chooses to show individuals in long-term recovery, living happy, positive and productive lives. As speakers in the movie state when a public figure implodes due to addiction it’s in all the headlines. However you don’t hear about someone who is 10 years sober and doing very well. That’s just not sexy.
The Anonymous People successfully moves away from rock bottom stories and instead focuses on what recovery really looks like.
The message of this movie is that addicts look like us; you and me, and with access to the right kind of help, many people can recover. That recovery is a glorious thing to behold and we should celebrate that recovery form addiction is possible.
It makes a very pertinent point that if more people could see what recovery looks like, then they would support the public health polices that are desperately needed.
I would urge anyone in recovery or interested in the subject of addiction to see this film. Its message is as important as the message that Bill Wilson, one of the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous took to Dr. Bob Smith all those years ago.

Teen Substance Abuse and the road to Recovery

I’ve recently published some posts on the consequences of teenage drinking and how substance abuse is getting worse in this population because of the normalisation of abnormal drinking. Luckily there is hope and there are several clinics specialising in treatment for young people. The following is a guest post from Recovery Robert at Paradigm Malibu.

The teenage years can be a difficult period for teenagers and their parents. Teen substance abuse is a big concern for parents which can cause fear and frustration, and in addition it can also cause long term health issues in teens. Although substance abuse is a scary and serious issue, recovery from addiction, alcohol, drugs and prescription medicine is possible with the right help and counselling.

There are some scary statistics available on teen substance abuse. They include the following: almost 30% of 8th graders have tried alcohol, 15% have smoked cigarettes and 15% have tried marijuana. The best way to prevent substance abuse is to have constant conversations with your children. According to research, teenagers who have regular conversations with their parents about the risks of alcohol and drug use are 42% less likely to use them than teens that have parents who don’t discuss the topic. Only 25% of teenagers said their parents discuss substance abuse with them.

Image courtesy of mack2happy at

Image courtesy of mack2happy at

Teen substance abuse recovery is possible for those who teenagers who do become addicted. Teenage substance abuse treatment has evolved tremendously in the past 20 years. Recovery programs designed for adults don’t typically work for teens. Recovery plans are designed to target friends, family and school. Treatment includes individual plans that incorporate counseling for teens, family counseling and behavior therapy. Treatment can be adjusted on a weekly basis to incorporate progress and any new needs.

A plan that sets a goal of 100% abstinence for teen substance recovery can be difficult to achieve. A milestone approach may be more attainable. Milestones for success can include improved school attendance and grades, better relationships with family members, being able to hold down a job and being able to cope without needing drugs and alcohol to get through the day.

The path back to a healthy and happy life after been addicted to drugs or alcohol can be difficult for teenagers and their families. However, there is hope. With the right counseling and support from family and friends, teens can overcome their addictions.

Fight for your right to party

I’m writing this piece in response to Lizzie Deane’s blog post in The Guardian last week.

Image courtesy of maple at

Image courtesy of maple at

Lizzie, who is 16, set out her argument for teenagers earning responsibility by being granted certain freedoms. Particularly where alcohol is concerned. She argues that this could be done by allowing your teenager to throw a house party at your home where they could invite their friends, drink alcohol and get up to all the things that teenagers have been getting up to for decades.
Her main argument being that teenagers are going to do this anyway so why not let them do this in a supervised environment.

Lizzie argues that drunken teenage parties are an evitable teenage experience whether parents like it or not. So parents should be more reasonable in allowing their kids to throw them, and in the process teenagers will become more responsible from being trusted in this way.
Lizzie is right that as young people grow up they need to be trusted to behave as adults. Which in this case means getting drunk, throwing up and passing out because this is the adult behavior that has been modeled to them.

Image courtesy of hyena reality at

Image courtesy of hyena reality at

I was saddened and shocked when I read Lizzie’s piece. Shocked because I can’t believe I’ve become an adult who is disturbed by teenage drinking.
And no, I haven’t forgotten what its like.
I remember my teenager years more vividly than I would necessarily like to. I did attend many house parties (invited and uninvited) and even managed to throw a couple of my own.
Where they fun? I’m really not sure. They checked all the boxes that ‘fun’ with alcohol now seems to require. I was often sick, smoked too many ciggerettes, took some illegal substances I was offered and had sex with someone I’d just met. If that fits your description of fun, then yes I had fun.

I was saddened because by reading Lizzie’s post because I realized just how much her generation had been duped.

Duped, because they have been led to believe that not only was abusive alcohol use normal, it was also their right.
No wonder she’s fighting for it.

You see alcohol was never designed for adolescent bodies. Alcohol can cause alterations in the wiring of still developing adolescent brains. Alcohol particularly affects the part of the brain in adolescents that deals with risk and there is mounting evidence that alcohol causes much more damage to developing brains that we originally thought.
Newsflash: despite our cavalier love affair with alcohol it’s extremely dangerous and harmful, particularly to the young.
I know it’s hard to believe, surrounded as we are by a culture that adamantly asserts it’s right to drink destructively every chance it can get.
Lizzie is very naturally asserting her rights to behave in the same way she sees adults do.
I can’t blame her for that. I did exactly the same thing.
I’m also not trying to scare Lizzie and her generation into staying away from alcohol because they could become an alcoholic like I did. I know that not everyone who binge drinks as a teenager goes on to become alcoholic, even though the research is indicating that teenagers who binge drink have a high propensity to become one…

I’m really not arguing anything at all. I know there is no argument that will make sense to 16-year-old Lizzie regarding the nature of alcohol.
That ship has sailed.
She knows her rights as a British Citizen after all.

I really just want to apologies on behalf of the generation ahead of her.
You see, I was lied to also. I was never presented with an alternative to not drinking or even drinking moderately. Back in the 80’s in an age before Facebook and Smartphones binge drinking was already deeply imbedded in our culture and I too believed it was my fundamental right to do so.
I can remember feeling indignant by the vague warnings boring dull adults gave. They weren’t trying to stop me drinking; they were clearly trying to stop any fun happening. Even I knew at 16 that the vehicle to fun was alcohol.

I’m sorry that we have normalized abnormal drinking so effectively that teenagers now believe their rights are being denied and that they are being patronized if not given the chance to exercise responsible binge drinking (an oxymoron if there ever was one).
This is not about potential alcoholism it’s about the myths and lies that surround alcohol abuse that enable destructive and abusive drinking to continue whilst calling it something else entirely.
Throwing up in someone’s back yard, smashing up people’s houses, falling over, being groped by someone you’ve just met was never anything to aspire to and I’m so sorry that we have led you to believe it was.

I see in the comments section there is lots of support from adults along the ‘never did me any harm,’ or ‘we all turned out alright,’ variety and that’s the stuff I really challenge.
It really depends on what you clarify as harm or abuse. I believe we have so normalized the harm that happens to people when drunk that we no longer see it as anything to worry about. The young girl coerced into sex she’s not ready for yet, the young man who pisses himself when passed out drunk, the arrests, casual violence, abusive comments, vomit and piss that someone else cleans up
There are 50 shades of harm that we no longer even notice…
But they are classified as a ‘normal’ Saturday night out now.

Image courtesy of photostock at

Image courtesy of photostock at

Until we see what’s right in front of our eyes and call alcohol abuse what it really is then we have no right to expect teenagers to behave any differently.
And they will continue to fight for their right to party, just like most British Citizens.

Losing a child to addiction

Did you see the tribute episode Glee did for Corey Monteith? I watched it through a veil of tears. It felt almost voyeuristic at times; as it was clear that the actors weren’t acting but channeling there own grief. How incredibly brave and professional of them to honor their friend in this way, I can’t imagine how hard that must have been. Lea Michele was particular outstanding, imagine having to act your grief for a TV show just a few weeks after loosing your Fiancée? Her performance was heartbreaking, because her heart was breaking.

“I can hear his voice so clearly. Do you think I’ll ever forget it?” Rachael Berry
“He was my person.”

But it was the grief of the actors playing Finn Hudson’s parents that moved me the most. It was heart wrenching.

“How do parents go on when they loose a child, How do they wake up every day? How do you breath?” Finn’s mom.

They put into words how I felt, imagining the unimaginable.
The day you become a parent, is the day you realize that the rest of your life is about managing your fear.
Because when you see and hold your baby for the first time, the love you have is so fierce and enormous it frightens you.
The desire to build an armed fortress for your babe to live in, so you can protect them from any hazard or danger is almost overwhelming.
As a parent you have to resist this urge and just do your best to equip your child to grow up in this world you can’t control.
You have to fight your fear to wrap up your child in cotton wool and never let them go, because your fear will suffocate them.
Because no one can thrive and grow with that amount of fear pressing down on them.

Yet tragically some parents experience the horrific reality of loosing a child.
Children die in accidents, because of mistakes or of diseases.
And some die of addiction.

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at

I watched Glee and I felt so f**king angry with Corey Monteith for overdosing.
And I understand addiction!
I get it and I still wanted to slap him for dying and leaving all those people berefit.
I know he didn’t choose to OD. I understand why he used heroin; I understand why he thought he could just do one more.
I’m just so mad at him for dying. For all those addicts who die way before there time.

I’ve sat there with parents who’ve lost their kid to an overdose. I’ve seen how haunted they are. I have truly wondered how they are going to get through the day and the next one after that and the next one after that…

‘Its all so pointless, all that potential.’ Sue Sylvester.

I don’t know how they can keep breathing when they have lost their child. I don’t know if I could, I can’t even think about it, I can’t bare to have that thought in my head.
And yet it’s a reality that many parents have to live with.

How do we change this?
More treatment.
Access to more treatment.
Sober High Schools.
More honesty.
Less fear.
Less shame.
More education.
More understanding.

But mostly we need to talk about what is within us.
Our insides. Our feelings and emotions.
The things we keep most secret. Our fears, our shame, our disappointments, our need to be loved and our terror that we won’t be, our loneliness.
We need to talk about these things more than anything because these are the engines of addiction.
That’s why people use drugs and continue to use them way after they stopped being fun.
Because they quell the darkness within.
We all have darkness within us. Part of the human experience is about managing this, learning from it and choosing to live in the light.
And yet for some of us the darkness just continues to eat away at us. And the only thing we can do is to find relief from the pain.
Which is what I’m guessing Corey Monteith did that last night of his life.

If this is you. Right now.
I’d like to invite you to reach out, to take a risk, to choose someone you trust and be vulnerable with them.
Ask for help. Ask again, keep asking until you get it.
Hold on, please for f**ks sake hold on. Get some help, then some more.
The darkness within you isn’t real, it is an illusion. You deserve to live in the light.
Please try.
Because no matter how alone you feel right now, the pain of loosing you, of you not being here is not a pain we can keep bearing.

I know because I’ve seen it.

You can read my previous post on Corey Monteith’s death here.