I am not able to watch Dr. Drew’s show on HLN every night. However, when Teenage Drinkers was announced as one of the topics of last night's show, it particularly caught my eye. He reported about a new study that concluded there were dangers involved in allowing your under age children to drink alcohol in your home.
Dr. Drew had a variety of guests with different opinions on his show. One was a mother who had lost her son to an alcohol related car accident after another mother had served alcohol to her son and to other teenagers in her home.
Another mother was on his show, along with her young son who was around 13 years of age. She was in favor of letting your children drink with you at home. She said that her son was very mature. She let him drink at home because that's what her parents had done with her and her brother and it had worked out well. This mom trusted that her son was learning how to drink safely and that this would in turn serve him well over the next few years.
This last mother, in particular, struck a chord with me… so much so that I even had an overwhelming urge to phone in to Dr. Drew's show, which is something I never do. Instead, I ended up tweeting to Dr. Drew because I felt so strongly about what I believe is faulty thinking of this mother. Here’s why.
When I was growing up, I watched an older relative allow her young son to grow up drinking in their home. I watched him develop into a mature, level-headed, ambitious and kind person who went on to become a well-educated, professionally successful, happily married man who is living what appears to be the American dream with no problems with alcohol or drugs.
I thought as I watched this unfold over the years that I wanted to raise my own children that way someday since it seemed to have worked out so well. I thought that by not making alcohol taboo in the home, which often makes a teenager even more desperate to go out and try it, it would be wiser to instead introduce safe drinking at home. I saw this method work for my relatives and made the assumption that it would work for my family as well.
Fast forward almost 10 years, and as you know, I have a daughter who almost died of substance abuse. I am so proud of my daughter for the work that she has done to help herself and others over the last couple of years. Yet, it will always haunt me that I allowed my children to sip wine with us at the dinner table. My faulty thinking and inaccurate assumptions will always make me wonder if her problems were caused or worsened by her drinking at an early age.
The truth of the matter is that I will never know if our drinking at home ultimately had anything to do with my daughter developing an addiction. She says, and much of the literature says, that genetics play a huge role in whether a person becomes an addict or not. Certainly, I watched my relative raise her son in the same way, and he did not turn out to be an addict. Obviously, then, there's a difference in people that determine why some become addicts and others don't even when they are brought up under the same circumstances.
I have also blamed her problems on the fact that her father and I divorced. However, my relatives also went through a divorce and yet their son didn't become an addict or alcoholic. Obviously, there's more than one factor at play in what happens to a child that leads them to addiction.
Unfortunately, you cannot look at any one child and determine if he or she is the one that, by exposing them to alcohol in the home at an early age, is going to develop problems from being one of the teenage drinkers. If there's one thing I've learned most over the last years, it's that alcoholism and drug addiction have no particular face.
Does this look like
a drug addict or alcoholic?
Certainly, this tough, athletic, healthy-looking young woman couldn't be an alcoholic or drug addict. Right?
I didn't think so either and yet she is both, although she is in recovery. Thank God, she’s alive and happier than she's ever been in her life and is now helping others, including teenage drinkers, to achieve sobriety. But she could have not been with us today.
If someone has a genetic predisposition to addiction or alcoholism, allowing them to be teenage drinkers can make that predisposition even worse. The study that Dr. Drew was talking about, and many other studies done over recent years agree, shows that teenagers brains are wired differently. (That shouldn’t surprise any parent of a teenager, haha!)
Seriously, though, the dangers associated with being teenage drinkers are much greater than they are for those who take their first drink in their 20’s. I urge all of you who read this to talk to your children about alcohol, explain to them the consequences, the risks. Educate yourself if you don't know enough about what happens to teen drinkers or don’t know how to talk to your children about this subject.
Above all, don't allow your teenagers to drink at home. We all need to have a 100% no tolerance rule for drinking and drugs for children. If you think it makes you a cool mom to drink with them, or to serve alcohol in your home to them and their friends, think again. Not only can you end up exacerbating a predilection to become an addict or alcoholic, but those teens could leave your house and get involved in accidents, they could die, they could kill someone else, they could get arrested … their lives can be ruined in many different ways. And that’s NOT cool!
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