Young People Ask . . .
Can Drinking Really Help Me Cope?
AS A teenager Dennis was extremely shy. He found it very difficult to hold even a simple conversation with others. But then Dennis discovered that alcoholic beverages could change things. “After a few drinks I would loosen up.” So he thought that alcohol could help him to overcome his shyness.
Dennis’ experience is not uncommon. Many young people drink alcoholic beverages for similar reasons. What about you? Will you drink? If so, for what reason will you drink? Before you answer those questions, there are a number of factors you’ll want to consider.
You’ll want to think about your parents, for they’re affected by what you do. You’ll also want to consider the law of the land—whether you’re legally old enough to drink. One more thing: It’s been said that every decision has a consequence. So in deciding if, how and when you will drink, you’ll also want to weigh the consequences of your decision, for misusing alcohol can have long-term effects that perhaps you haven’t thought about.
The Need for Balance
There is no denying that there are some benefits in the moderate use of alcoholic beverages. Even the Bible acknowledges that wine can make the heart merry or enhance the taste of a meal. (Ecclesiastes 9:7) There is also some evidence that light natural wines have certain health advantages. (1 Timothy 5:23) This appears to be particularly true for the elderly.
In all honesty, though, would you say that most young people who drink do so moderately, to enhance the taste of a meal or for health advantages? “You just can’t picture a group of 15-year-olds sitting around a table, sipping martinis and having pleasant conversation,” says Fred, a young man who had drunk heavily as a teenager. He added: “So often young people drink to get high.”
Of course, not all young people misuse alcohol in this way. However, when interviewed by Awake!, more than a few youths who had got involved in drinking did concede that their primary purpose in doing so was to get high or even drunk! Some admitted also that they drank to cope with problems, to give them courage or, like Dennis, to help them be more sociable. Could there be some long-term dangers from misusing alcohol in this way?
Your Mind Needs Exercise Too
Experience is the best teacher. Or so you’ve heard. While experience may not necessarily be the best teacher, it certainly is a teacher. In other words, as you grow up, one important way you learn is by experience. As you experience life and its problems you learn to cope with difficult situations. This is very important to your proper emotional development.
We might illustrate it this way: Your body needs exercise. When it’s exercised, it grows stronger and healthier, right? Well, it’s the same with your mind. It, too, needs exercise. How do you exercise your mind? By experiencing and dealing with problems. But just as your body will grow flabby when deprived of exercise, so, too, your mind will grow flabby if you don’t exercise it. It will be ill-equipped to deal with the daily problems of life. That’s why there’s such a danger in using alcohol as a way of escaping from problems and uncomfortable situations.
Dennis, the young man mentioned at the beginning, found this to be true. He explains: “I think a lot of young people drink to relieve the pressure they’re under, to blot out their problems. So they never really learn how to deal with problems. I can see that that’s what happened to me.” In what way?
Recall that Dennis thought that alcoholic beverages could help him overcome his shyness. As he said: “After a few drinks I would loosen up.” But did drinking really help him to overcome his shyness? “When the alcohol wore off, I went back into my shell,” answers Dennis. What about now, years later? Dennis continues: “I never really learned how to communicate with people on my own true level. I think I was stunted in this way.”
The same is true of dealing with stress in general. If you use alcohol now to cope with stress, you may find it difficult to handle stress as an adult.
Consider as an example Joan, who as a teenager used alcoholic beverages as a kind of escape. Did this have any long-term effects on her? Joan, now in her late 20’s, explains: “Recently, in a stressful situation I thought: ‘It would be nice to have a drink right now.’ You think that you can handle a situation better with a drink.”
Dennis and Joan’s comments agree with those of L. Hennecke, Ph.D., and S. E. Gitlow, M.D., published in the New York State Journal of Medicine: “When drugs [including alcohol] become the means of easing difficult situations—academic, social, or interpersonal—the necessity for learning healthy coping skills is removed. Effects may not be felt until adulthood, when establishing close personal relationships then often proves difficult, leaving the individual emotionally isolated.”
It’s far better to meet and deal with problems and difficult situations directly!
“He Would Not Take It”
In this connection, there is no finer example for you to imitate than Jesus Christ himself. On the final night of his earthly life, Jesus endured a terrible ordeal. Betrayed, then arrested, Jesus was put on trial before the Jewish religious leaders. He was brought before Pilate, then Herod, and then back to Pilate. Finally, after having been up all night, Jesus was handed over to be impaled.—Mark 14:43–15:15; Luke 22:47–23:25.
What if, right at that point, Jesus was offered something that would dull his senses, a mood-altering substance that would make it easier for him to cope with this most difficult situation? That’s exactly what happened! The Bible explains: “So they brought him to the place Golgotha, which means, when translated, Skull Place. Here they tried to give him wine drugged with myrrh, but he would not take it.” (Mark 15:22, 23) Jesus wanted to be in possession of all his faculties. He wanted to face this difficult situation squarely. He was no escapist!
Of course, the wine that Jesus was offered was drugged, and that’s why he refused it. Later, when offered evidently a moderate amount of undrugged wine, Jesus accepted. Why? Simply to quench his thirst and to fulfill a Bible prophecy.—John 19:28-30; Psalm 69:21.
By comparison, your problems, pressures or stresses pale into insignificance. But still you can learn a valuable lesson from Jesus. Instead of using a mood-altering substance (such as alcohol) to cope with problems, pressures and uncomfortable situations, you’re much better off dealing with them. As you face more and more of life’s problems you will get better and better at handling them. You will grow to have a healthy emotional makeup.
Making an informed decision about if, how and when you will drink alcoholic beverages is a serious responsibility. If you choose not to drink, feel good about it. You don’t have to apologize to others for not drinking. You’re entitled to be respected for your decision. On the other hand, if you’re of legal age and you choose to drink, then by all means drink responsibly—in moderation.
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As you face more and more of life’s problems you will get better and better at handling them
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A few drinks may help you to loosen up but only temporarily
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One who relies on alcohol may never really learn to cope with shyness