Engaging young people in advocacy, education & prevention
Creating social change around alcohol, drugs, and more

Early Exposure

April 14, 2016 11:54 am Published by Comments Off on Early Exposure

*This post was written by a Ventura County Young Adult.

I started drinking at a young age, 12.  At age 21 and being a college student, I look back it now and it scares me thinking about how truly young I was. I had gained an interest in knowing what drinking was like so my friend and I snuck some of my parent’s alcohol when they were asleep.

I then started drinking with my older stepsister who was 15 and running around town. Thankfully, I was never hurt but being so young and naïve, I could have easily been. I was only in middle school and had no knowledge of alcohol and what it does to people.

My heavy drinking didn’t really start until high school where I started drinking every Friday and Saturday at parties. Every time I went to a party, I would see someone pass out drunk or occasionally we would even have to call an ambulance. A couple people I knew throughout high school ended up getting in a car with someone who had been drinking and the end result was the whole car being killed.

Being older and of age to drink, I have much more knowledge of my limits and what I can do to help other people when I see that they are in danger. I wish that someone could have told me back then the harm I was doing to myself by drinking so much. I struggled with depression and social anxiety growing up, so drinking on the weekends was my way of letting go and making new friends.

I began to create friendships solely based on going out on the weekends. These unhealthy friendships caused me to dig a deeper hole I didn’t know I was digging. I began to only care about partying on the weekends and started ditching my classes or telling my mom that I was sick and couldn’t go to school because I was hung over. There were times I threw up and many times I did and said things that I regret, to this day.

I began to create a bad reputation for myself because of the things I did while drinking. Heavily drinking, especially at a young age doesn’t bring out any good in situations. Your brain has not developed yet and you are not able to see what it is doing to you and your body. When you’re young and you decide to drink, the sole purpose is to get drunk and do what you’re not legally allowed to do. It brings some kind of excitement to you but it is not as glamourous as it looks.

The things you do while you are young will affect your life as you get older as well. Someone could drink too much and stumble in the street and get hit by a car in the blink of an eye. I have seen this happen one too many times. The only reason nothing happened to me was luck, but drinking did affect me mentally. The times I was drinking the most, I would become so depressed when not drinking that I had thoughts of suicide.

Being drunk would normally make me happy, but just one thing could make me sad and could have caused me to think even harder about it while I am not in my right state of mind. The only thing that really stopped me was finding God.

In other cases, you do not need to be religious but know that you have a purpose in life and drinking and drugs are not helping you become the person you want to be. I realized that drinking was just holding me back and pushing back my growing and maturing stage of becoming an adult. Once I realized the harmful outcomes of drinking and drugs, I backed off a lot.

I am not saying it is not okay to drink once you are legally allowed to. I still drink but I am of age and am able to pace myself and enjoy drinking casually with friends. It is an amazing feeling to be in control of yourself and be able to know when you are past your limits and need to order an Uber home or help a friend. My point is that as you get older, even though you may not have been harmed by alcohol or drugs yet, you will realize its impact on your mental health as well as how it is affecting those around you. I did much research to support myself on this and found that anxiety and depression are more common in heavy drinkers and heavy drinking is more common in those with anxiety and depression.

If you would like to read more, go to https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/check-the-facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/mental-health/alcohol-and-mental-health.

Photo: m_shipp22/Flickr