Live Through This

Mission Control

The second installment in a short series about girls’ relationships to drugs and alcohol.

Illustration by Kelly.

It was ninth grade. The moment had come. It was the kind of thing huddled girlfriends talked about in middle school at sleepovers, but no one had actually done, at least in my school. We were in the backyard, in a tent. It was my best friend’s birthday party, but I wasn’t exactly friends with the other people there: the infamous “popular girls.” Partially filled water bottles went around the circle, suffusing the tent with sickly sweet smells. I was handed a pink Nalgene half-full with clear liquid. Everyone turned to me, waiting. That was the first time I decided to drink.

The second time was in tenth grade, on our way to a homecoming afterparty, inside a limo. I was with a large group of my friends, and a few boys I didn’t know. A couple of my friends wanted to indulge in some drinks on the ride, and being infatuated with one of them at the time, I did not hesitate when offered, even though I could feel the glare of my other friends, the ones who disapproved of all of this illicit behavior. I can’t remember how much I drank, and I didn’t exactly know what being drunk was supposed to feel like, so when I was accused of being such, I denied it. I still don’t even know if I was. I was confused; the fun of being bad was fading quickly, and the searing guilt sparked by the looks and comments of my abstaining friends contributed to the acidic churning in my stomach. In other words, I felt like an asshole. I felt like I had done something very, very wrong.

That moment was the end of my alcohol usage, and I’m proud to say I’ve never actually accepted any drug offers at this point. Why I don’t use drugs and alcohol is a very personal decision. I can’t say it’s because of the videos from health class, my mother’s lectures, or a religious deal. It doesn’t even come chiefly from those two previous experiences. I suppose my philosophy toward using is that I don’t understand why some people believe they need such things to have fun. Yes, I know, “o reason not the need” (in the words of King Lear) (yes from Shakespeare) (deal with it), and I’m not trying to make a Puritan argument, but why would you need to change yourself, change how you think and how you act, change the way your senses work, change even the way your brain works—why would you need to make alterations to your personality, your own self, to have a nice night?

But: I know that teenagerdom is a time when the idea of changing your personality can be really appealing. I know that a lot of us (myself included) are searching around for an identity, something that will give us confidence and make us feel like “ourselves” (because most of us don’t know what our “selves” are, and we are changing day to day and minute to minute), and that “stoner” or “party girl” or whatever can seem like a really easy identity to grab hold of and just be, for a while. I get that. But my own sense of identity and self-respect comes, in large part, from sticking to my morals, which include being sober.

I also understand that the sensation of using the common stuff—booze, weed—is something completely different from the regular world, and that that’s the primary source of its appeal, but when someone I really care about gets numb to those sensations and wants to move on to something bigger, something worse, I try to talk them out of it. My arguments are pretty generic; I simply remind them of the health issues or the potential punishments they could receive if something were to go wrong, but sometimes—usually, in fact—that person doesn’t let me in. And I don’t blame them—we’ve all been hearing those arguments since we were in seventh grade, so their effect is gone.

Let me make this clear: I don’t shun people who smoke or drink—several of my good friends smoke together, but that doesn’t stop me from worrying about them. I know the immediate effects of weed aren’t very taxing on a person, and you can’t exactly become addicted to it—but I really do fear that it can be a gateway drug, and excessive use of hard drugs and alcohol can change a person. Not that change is always bad, or that it isn’t inevitable—but I get a little uncomfortable seeing someone I used to hang out with telling stories of their Friday-night run-ins with cops, carrying handles through the park, or smoking in their bedroom. I don’t want anyone getting in trouble.

I’m aware that I sound a little hypocritical right now—on one hand I don’t want to judge people who use substances; on the other I’m all worried about their “long-term damage” and “negative consequences.” But I do genuinely feel both of those somewhat contradictory things at the same time. I don’t support my friends’ using, but I still love them all and enjoy hanging out with them…when they’re sober. Being around drunk/high people when you’re not that way is a little awkward. It’s like hearing someone tell a hilarious inside joke that you’re not part of. All of my friends understand my stance on all this, and if someone doesn’t accept my not wanting them high around me, they’re not worth my time.

I live in a well-off suburban community outside Chicago, where drugs are readily available. Navigating through this kind of town as a straightedge isn’t as hard as you might think. I’d say a majority of the 800 students in my grade have used alcohol or drugs at least once, me being one of them. The percentage of consistent users hovers around 30, which includes a portion of my close friends. During my underclassman years I did feel a lot of pressure, which led to the tent incident, but as time passed, my need to participate subsided. Freshman year, everything was sloppy, full of raiding parents’ cabinets, and power was handed to those willing to do so. From junior year on, it was barely discussed. It wasn’t something you needed to prove anymore, just something you could do if you wanted.

Staying sober does make me feel somewhat accomplished—it’s not a big shiny medal of willpower, just a small pleasant feeling I can tap into when necessary. I don’t view myself as better than people who aren’t sober, but breaking through my generic teenage self-conscious shell and going against the general trend of high school social behavior was a tiny personal victory. Abstaining keeps me out of trouble—not just with the police or my authoritarian parents, but also with my friends, and even myself. Sure, I’m left out of the occasional fun-weekend story, and I’m not on the Facebook smoke-ring album, and no that concert wasn’t actually that good, but when I weigh all that out in my head, I feel all right about it.

I’m not planning on abstaining from alcohol for the rest of my life. Hopefully I’ll skip out on the usual college spree, and take things in at a pace, and at a level, that’s comfortable for me. What that level will be, I’m not quite sure yet. My parents don’t handle alcohol well, and I predict I’ll be the same way. But in my fantasy, I would be one of those chill young adults who nonchalantly carry around a bottle of beer at a party or baseball game—this may be totally unrealistic, but I’ll find out in good time. As far as drugs go, I’ve considered trying weed before, but I never found my reasons good enough other than just for the sake of trying it; at the rate I’m going, the chances that I ever will are slim.

I worry my current resolve will crack upon entering college, and that if it does I will lose part of myself in the process—that some big part of me will dissipate, and I’ll come out as some new person. But I also know that everyone changes when they leave high school, and I will too, and if it happens without drugs and alcohol, I’ll have something more to be proud of. I like feeling in control of myself. Right now I do that by staying sober. If I can retain that feeling while using alcohol or drugs someday, that’ll be OK, too. That’s how I’ll know what I’m doing is right for me. ♦

Emily D. is a senior in high school fervently awaiting replies from the colleges she applied to. When not drooling at the mail slot, she spends time either trying to communicate with her dog in a language they created, belting songs from the musical Cats, or daydreaming that Jack White is her brother.

57 Comments

  • koolkat January 18th, 2012 3:13 PM

    This really made me think. Brilliant article :)

  • taste test January 18th, 2012 3:22 PM

    I promise I’ll make an intelligent comment on this later. Right now, I just want to tell you guys that your “you said it” graphic in the sidebar and as a heading is all screwy. Weirdly, it’s only when I use Chrome. In Firefox, it looks fine.

    • Anaheed January 18th, 2012 6:03 PM

      Is it still like that? It looks OK to me on Chrome.

      • taste test January 18th, 2012 10:54 PM

        Yeah, it still is like that for me… It makes it even weirder you don’t see it. It could just be my computer acting strange?

  • hardcastle mccormick January 18th, 2012 3:43 PM

    Emily this article is really great!

  • mangachic January 18th, 2012 3:48 PM

    I loved this. It’s nice to see someone who manages/wants to stay sober and who isn’t your fifty-year-old health class teacher who doesn’t know what the internet is. And the arguments made a lot more sense when coming from you/Rookiemag instead of mentioned health teacher. (There, don’t I sound cliched?)

  • A January 18th, 2012 3:52 PM

    Eh, the first part of this looked promising, but I was really disappointed with this. Didn’t learn anything new. Maybe you should have someone who has a healthy relationship with drugs (an active user) write as well? This article irked me.

  • missblack January 18th, 2012 3:53 PM

    This is a great article.

    I’m seventeen and I rarely drink alcohol, mostly because I don’t like the way it tastes (the only stuff I can drink is whiskey) and I do it only socially, since I don’t believe in getting wasted (which is actually a religious thing). So while I’m not a teetotaler, I definitely understand where the writer’s coming from.

    Little&Trivial

  • Chloe Elizabeth January 18th, 2012 4:13 PM

    This is precisely how I feel on the subject! I’m in 10th grade and have stayed sober thus far, and I want to keep it that way. I like being in control of what I do. And who I am. Even if my parents think its cause they told me not to, thats not why I’m sober. Its because I chose to be. Me. Chloe. My life, and its what I chose. And that feels great. I’m proud of myself for it. Even when I’m 21, I doubt if I’ll drink: too many hard core alcoholics (and stoners, really) in the family. I’d love to be, like Emily D. said, a casual drinker. Or even a classy one, who goes to wine tastings and what not. Haha, oh I don’t know.

  • maddie January 18th, 2012 4:22 PM

    she’s only a senior? I wish I could write this well.

    American readers: https://www.google.com/landing/takeaction/

    sign the petition to End Piracy, Not Liberty!

  • dandylioness January 18th, 2012 4:51 PM

    This article is really interesting (Loved the King Lear quote- brilliant play!)

    I’m 16 years old and I drink regularly, around twice a month. But it’s is legal here (Germany, although I’m originally from England) and I feel that this makes a big diffence. When I decided to try drinking it was because I wanted to try it, out of curiousity, legally and within my rights.

    I can relate to this article however, in so much as last year when EVERYBODY was smokeing i never even tried. Mainly because I thought the health risks were way too high and also I was worried about getting addicted. And yes, it lost me some friends. I don’t regret that one bit though, today I have much better friends!

    Now, a year later i still haven’t tried and I never will. It’s important to have boundaries for yourself, to decide personally what is going TOO FAR. I drink and have tried weed but I’ve never puked or had a hangover and I want to avoid it! I don’t think you’re really having fun if you’re hurting yourself like that.

    No oen should be pressured into smoking/ drinking/ doing weed but, sadly and understandably lots of people do. This is the main problem I feel, is so many make these pretty big steps even though they don’t really want to!

    I truely admire the author of this article for making her own descions based on how SHE felt and what she wanted. i think this is something we should all aspire to and this article really helps you rethink your behaviour.

    Remember: This is your life and your choices to make, don’t let anyone choose for you!!

  • Claire January 18th, 2012 4:57 PM

    I have to say, I agree with so much of this piece. I am by no means puritanical or preachy, but awhile ago, I decided never to drink for a few reasons. Alcoholism and addiction run in my family, and I have enough on my plate as it is. I consider myself a pretty healthy person (maybe even a “health nut”), and I think people fail to remember that when they drink, they’re consuming some pretty intense stuff, not even including the alcohol itself. Same with weed – many of my friends and acquaintances smoke, and I don’t think it’s morally wrong; I just don’t want to burden my system like that, if you know what I mean. Good piece, though!

  • TessAnnesley January 18th, 2012 5:44 PM

    This is a really good article! Worthwhile series too.

    Also: “daydreaming that Jack White is her brother.” I THOUGHT I WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO DID THAT. ansjskdhsjkafhjdksh

  • MissKnowItAll January 18th, 2012 5:50 PM

    Wow thanks for writing this.
    In middle school a lot of people were into drinking and smoking pot. When one of my friends did it I distanced myself from her so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the problems later to come. I listened as people called her a whore and a slut because I was mad at her for ruining her own life. It took me a while to realize that by distancing myself, I was being a bad friend. After i read this, I called her up to ask how she was doing. Thank you so much.

    • Emily D January 18th, 2012 8:32 PM

      That makes me so happy to read…thank you

      • MissKnowItAll January 18th, 2012 9:15 PM

        I hope you get into your dream college!!

  • Amelie January 18th, 2012 6:36 PM

    I live in a city with a severe drinking and smoking culture, so sadly I was pulled in by it in my youth. I am at university now, but when i look back at my high school years, there is alot i regret, as I made so many mistakes. The one mistake that made the most impact on my life was the first time i ever got completely drunk (and i mean not remembering the morning after drunk.) I was 16 years old. & I found it so bloody traumatic that i have never been that drunk again, which i am proud to say. Now when i say drunk, i mean dangerously. I ended up being drawn in by this bloke that wasn’t even my type. Nothing major happened, but we did kiss. Now for some other girls this might not be a big deal, but it really was for me, it really was a big deal. Because it was my first kiss, I have gotten over it now, but around the time and for the next year, it haunted me the fact that my first kiss was with a guy that was crude, and a nasty person, and when i was completely and utterly drunk.
    & don’t even get me started on the morning after.

    But yeah oh well people make mistakes :)
    you just got to not dwell and look forward.

    But don’t go too crazy or else you might just end up regretting it like i did.

  • TheGirlWonder January 18th, 2012 7:02 PM

    This article expresses what has been my philosophy for the past several years. I see no compelling NEED to drink. The only time I did, I drank one cup of warm “Wassail” (half wine, half cider) and sang madrigals in the kitchen with my friends while we made it. SO FUN. In other situations though, what’s the point? I’m a college freshman and I love the choices I have made. This is such a great series!

  • insteadofanelephant January 18th, 2012 7:34 PM

    i like this article a lot. it’s a mind set i’ve been having a bit recently…just not taking part in. i really like how you described your first time trying alcohol, identical to my first experiences.

    instead of an elephant

  • Kaetlebugg January 18th, 2012 8:01 PM

    I really really like how non-judgmental this piece is. I love all of my friends, and some of them are really not judgmental at all, which is nice, but others are very judgmental when I even express a desire to drink. And some aren’t even judgmental, just uncomfortable, which I try to respect. Though sometimes I admit I’m not a very good friend because I insist on talking about it when they want to change the subject. I resolve to stop doing that.

  • themoribond January 18th, 2012 8:04 PM

    I have to say, I really don’t relate to your perspective on drugs and alcohol. I have had some of the same experiences as you, like making choices to try alcohol/weed despite the anxious or judgmental gazes of friends, and these situations have resolved themselves with me choosing to surround myself with people who were comfortable with me and my decisions.

    You say that you make this decision because of your moral beliefs, and that staying sober makes you feel accomplished. I don’t know if I consider that indicative of a healthy relationship with drugs. Of course no one should do anything that they’re uncomfortable with, or that doesn’t align with them personally, but drugs and alcohol do not have any moral value on their own. Using them doesn’t mean anything, except what it means to you. and I think my experiences with consciousness-altering substances have basically shown me who I am. And it’s not because these substances change my personality or change who I am, at all. They don’t. Inhibitions aren’t necessarily more rational, and drugs can show you sides of yourself that you didn’t know were there.

    What you say really strikes a nerve– because of my personal struggles with depression and not hating myself and shit, and as a person who was raised by an anti-drug ex-heroin addict father and who has dealt with issues resulting from that for a long time, your perspective seems like it comes too much from a place of applying arbitrary judgments to others. You say you don’t judge, and yet I still feel a little judged.

    • macipisi123 January 19th, 2012 5:26 PM

      gosh i read a thoughtful and mature response and all i can say is aaah i wish i could glomp you right now ;-;

  • I.ila January 18th, 2012 8:12 PM

    This article sort of touched on this, but I wanted to ask that you guys do an article on shaming, for going to parties/hooking up/doing illegal stuff etc. E.g.: this weekend some friends went to a party, and they both hooked up with guys. My other friend, who is a little slow to the idea of boyfriends, and growing up, was teasing them, and one was getting a bit upset. It was also just sort of awkward. I would really appreciate something on this! Thanks.

    • amelia January 19th, 2012 2:10 AM

      i second this! because really, being made fun of for not drinking and being judged because you do (this could apply to a bunch of ‘teenage- y’ things) are basically the same; people being judgemental. in an ideal world, teenagers (specifically girls, because lets face it we’re more capable, and this blog is about girls) would band together more instead of letting choices like these create tension. we’re all going through the same things after all!

  • sedgwick January 18th, 2012 10:14 PM

    I’ve never taken drugs or whatever either. Not really for any other reason than that I’m just not part of ‘that group’. None of my friends are into drugs so I’ve never really been exposed to peer pressure towards drinking or smoking (except from the media). Because of this, I don’t really see the appeal of taking drugs and so it’s much easier to disapprove of people who take drugs. So yeah, I would say that lack of experience makes me quite judgemental of people who take drugs. My Apologies to drug-users that I have dissed, I have never known how hard it actually is to cope with all that pressure :(

    http://www.teenageconstruct.blogspot.com

  • glalalamour January 18th, 2012 11:03 PM

    I have lots of friends who get wasted. We meet up sometimes and they all smoke and chat about being wasted like it’s the only way to have fun – leaving me with nothing else to say. I don’t know shit about getting wasted. Also, do smokers have to chain smoke for the entire time you spend with them?

    It’s up to someone if they want to take drugs and drink and smoke, but I wish they wouldn’t be so reckless about it.

  • emilyelizabeth January 18th, 2012 11:26 PM

    in high school, i never drank or smoked. i had friends who did, but it was never something i did. i just wasn’t interested at the time. now i’m in college and i drink pretty often (and smoke sometimes) but i have fun times sober too! i think it’s all about balance. great article!

  • Julia845 January 18th, 2012 11:37 PM

    I’m trying really hard not to get defensive about this, because I love being open to new opinions, but there were a few things here that bothered me.
    1. Personally, I didn’t try drugs or alcohol till the summer after my junior year of high school, and at that point I was sure enough of my own identity that I didn’t feel at all like they took something away from me or changed who I was. I tried them out of sheer curiosity and found out the effects could be fun, and now use them every now and then. I’ve learned a lot about myself, my limits, and how to remain in control of a situation…I think substances have taught me a lot about myself, and have never felt a “need” for them. They’re simply fun.
    2. The reasoning of feeling good about not doing something simply because everybody else is doing it and you’re not (since emily doesn’t seem to have much against substances use itself) seems silly to me. Given, I have this reasoning too a lot of the time, but I always try and call myself on it, because it’s not really based on anything.
    3. I think the morbidond had it right. As much as the author tried to make this not judgmental, I did feel judged. I certainly don’t think anyone should drink if they don’t want to, but I both kids who drink and those who don’t should be viewed equally.
    Regardless, thanks Emily for sharing your story with us! It was very interesting.

    I would also like to hear from someone who casually uses substances (the previous one is about substance abuse and this one abstinence, so we haven’t had that perspective yet).

    • Anaheed January 18th, 2012 11:46 PM

      That one’s coming! (Friday)

      • amelia January 19th, 2012 2:13 AM

        really excited to see the third one as it’s the one that applies to me…. and i’d love reading the comments, because sometimes i wonder how people view me (and i guess my friends) for some of our choices considering we’re underage; albeit not actually harming anyone but ourselves.

  • annie d January 18th, 2012 11:56 PM

    I was so happy to see an article on Rookie about someone who ISN’T into drugs. I really liked the humility in the writing, and a lot of what Emily said resonated with me. My only complaint is that I think it’s a little too apologetic. You have to allow both ends of the spectrum; if it’s ok to do drugs then it’s ok to be against drugs, and I don’t think it should be considered “judging” if you choose not to be friends with people who do drugs. And I don’t think anyone should be ashamed of their stance on drug use, or have to tone it down to be accepted.

    I would say that I do “judge” people who drink and do drugs, but it’s not like I’m letting that define my view of who they are. I understand that people can still be cool even if they do that stuff, but I also think it’s ok to take drug use into account just like you’d take into account what sports and activities they do. After all, drugs are for “fun” and “recreation”, right? If someone does something you are opposed to for fun, I think you have the right to avoid them.

    Great article, though. I think it makes Rookie a little more “anti-drug”-friendly :)

  • lelelikeukulele January 18th, 2012 11:59 PM

    This is EXACTLY my view on things, it’s scary. It’s like Emily and I have the same brain. I’m a freshman in college now, and while there are ample opportunities for me to drink, smoke, etc – I just haven’t been interested. When the situation feels right to me, when I’m somewhere safe and with people I really like, not sucky people at a sucky party, then maybe I’ll get a little tipsy. But right now I feel like it’s not something that I need or something that would make me feel good about myself.
    (Also, caring for my perpetually drunk/high roommate hasn’t exactly turned me on to drugs/alcohol)

  • lelelikeukulele January 19th, 2012 12:07 AM

    I noticed some people are getting defensive about this, and feel judged. I’m trying really hard to respond to this without being inflammatory, but it goes both ways. A lot of times it’s all to easy for me to start feeling judged/defensive when people start questioning me about my partying habits. It’s because I know there are people out there who will judge me for not partying, just like there are those who would judge me if I did, and somehow I feel the need to please all of them and for that to somehow be ok.

    But it’s not. I think a lot of times people get defensive when they themselves aren’t secure in their personal choices. Because if they were secure, they would be able to say, “You know what, I know what my stance is. You have yours. That’s ok.” But instead they feel like they have to prove something to someone. Even though that someone is really themselves.
    And this is how I often feel – defensive about my choices because I’m still unsure about them. But I have to remember that it’s okay to not know for sure what I want to do with myself. Your choice is your own and doesn’t need validation from anyone else.

  • poppunkgurrrlx January 19th, 2012 12:19 AM

    I totally respect her decision. In fact, I wish I would have had that sort of self-control when I was in high school. When she’s older, she will be so glad she stayed sober. When you’re in college, you realize how many people really DIDN’T drink in high school.

  • M. Kitka January 19th, 2012 4:28 AM

    This article describes fairly well how *I* have lived my life in relationship to alcohol/drugs since I was a teenager. I remember everyone’s constant preaching that I would “grow out of it” and start drinking etc. when I got older. I’m now well past 30 and nothing has changed & I’m proud, successful, happy & healthy while a lot of people my own age are losing a battle against carcinogenic addiction & are struggling with giving up alcohol as a crutch.

    Just wanted to let you know that this attitude can be more than a “phase” and I think the older you get the more your friends will respect and admire your willpower and thoughtful self-care.

  • Alex January 19th, 2012 5:59 AM

    I think this is fantastically written, and I can relate to it so easily.
    I find the most difficult part however, is having to restrain my judgements and feelings about all this from others..
    I used to be horrifically bullied because I was the ‘sensible one’ and the popular kids were engrossed with these kinds of things, so I often got left out when it came to parties and hanging out. But at least by keeping my (strong) opinions to myself, I found life got easier as I grew up – as at a young age, I think people found it difficult to understand the reasons I had for not drinking or taking drugs. Often, I found reminding myself that their’s is a life I don’t want to have helped me through the harder parts – but for all those out there who find it difficult to stay strong, just remember there’s light at the end of the tunnel – and plenty of people who agree with you!

  • EauDeMolly January 19th, 2012 11:25 AM

    I find this article really interesting, particularly the bit saying ‘The percentage of consistent users hovers around 30′. I live across the pond in England, in quite a well-to-do area, but nevertheless the percentage of ‘consistent users’ in my year group is at least double this and more…maybe it’s because my year group only has like 100 people…hmm…but still, outside of school I know barely anybody who doesn’t drink/take drugs.

    INTERESTINGGG.

  • hahabonniee January 19th, 2012 11:52 AM

    in my opinion, alcohol is a social thing in high school and college. the percent of people that actually like the taste/would drink by themselves? I dont think that number is exactly astonishing compared to the amount of people old and young who drink just to feel accepted in to society. i wish there were more people who saw the foolishness in it. its really not that great. in my opinion, its an excuse for letting loose. if the world was perfect, drugs and alcohol wouldn’t exist because people wouldn’t need an excuse to socialize and act completely silly :)

  • Cosmo Beatrix January 19th, 2012 4:23 PM

    “o reason not the need”

    PLEASE SOMEONE explain how you you translate such a sentence, not understanding shakespeare makes me angry ! o lyf

  • talia January 19th, 2012 7:02 PM

    I really agree with you. My philosophy has always been this, you should find reasons to do something, not reasons not to do something, if that makes sense.

    Like, i would need a reason to smoke/drink/whatever other than “why not?”

  • ghostlightshow January 19th, 2012 7:19 PM

    I love that Rookie presents things from so many different perspectives and accepts them all as valid. Personally, I’ve always been intrigued by drugs and alcohol, though I never really went out of my way to drink or smoke. I didn’t do either of these things very often in high school, which I think was good–there’s plenty of time to party in college, and you never have to sneak around your parents, which I hated. But even though it may seem that everyone drinks in high school, at the beginning of freshman year it is obvious from the number of people stumbling around campus and passing out on the bathroom floor that a good number of people haven’t had experience with alcohol before and were testing their limits in a rather unhealthy way. There are still plenty of people who choose not to drink; there are those who get drunk every night, those who get drunk on weekends, those who only have a drink or two at parties, and those who abstain completely. Most of my friends fall into the last three categories, and we all get along; no one gets too judgmental unless you’re blacking out regularly. Though keep in mind, if you don’t drink when you party, you then have no excuse for why you made out with that creepy guy!

  • loonylizzy January 19th, 2012 7:35 PM

    i can relate to this article so well!! it was written amazingly and pretty much describes my relationship with drugs and alcohol. once a rumor circulated that a friend and i were drunk at a party, which we weren’t, and it really bothered me that people thought that we had to be on something to have fun or be silly. i told them, i’m crazy on my own, i don’t need substance assistance! i have absolutely no problem with people who do choose to use. i mean, it’s your life and your choice! i just personally hate being out of control, so i stay away. if other people judge me on that, they’re probably not my real friends.

  • llamagesicht January 19th, 2012 9:54 PM

    This is an interesting topic. When I was in high school I didn’t touch drugs or alcohol purely due to a lack of interest. It was never a big deal for me, and my friends felt the same way. Now, in college, I drink occasionally, but just when I want to and/or when it’s convenient. For example, this past summer I studied abroad in Russia where I could legally drink anywhere — indoors, outdoors, on boats, you name it — and so I did, on a regular-but-moderate basis (some nights more moderate than others) which was fun.

    I find it interesting to read other peoples’ feelings and experiences with alcohol/drugs. I don’t really consider anyone wrong (except those doing serious damage, of course) and I consider these decisions very personal — no one should make them for you.

  • emma725 January 19th, 2012 11:14 PM

    While I respect your confidence in your ability to be happy with your sober self and your convictions in your beliefs, I think it is naive to assume drugs and alcohol serve as mere escapes. I think your rhetorical questions regarding why someone would want to change his or herself are slightly assuming. Many people grow up in environments that encourage or force drug and alcohol usage upon them, or are simply uneducated about their implications. A lot of people are trapped in miserable lives from which drugs may be the only temporary pleasantry. Though unhealthy, I think it is understandable that, in such contexts, people might choose the route of drugs.
    Furthermore, for people with healthier relationships with substances, I think they serve as a way of broadening their personalities instead of changing them. Certainly excessive usage of or dependance upon substances have much more severe repercussions, but I think, within reason, drugs and alcohol are natural components of teenage-hood. Rookie rightfully condones an adolescence that delves into the world freshly, in efforts to discover one’s true self through her relationship to various aspects of culture and the world. I think drugs represent a significant means of relation to the world. In a very real way they expose kids to the world and allow them to learn both about themselves and who they want to be.

  • EveyMarrie January 20th, 2012 4:21 PM

    I’m straightedge, so i understand a majority of this article. I just don’t see the point of drinking or drugs. I have no problem with my friends who drink and do pot and smoke, I just ask them not to do it around me.

    The only drink I’ve ever had was stealing a sip of coquito (coconut eggnog) when my parents weren’t home. It tasted awful and burnt my throat for awhile.

    I remember the one party I went to, someone snuck in blueberry vodka and a bunch of people went out to “walk the dog” aka get stoned. Came back all chill and everyone was taking shots. Me and my boyfriend were the only sober ones.

    Honestly, I don’t mind, I just want them to be careful.

  • Lindsey January 20th, 2012 8:20 PM

    So glad to see another high school senior who isn’t all about getting high or drunk every weekend! I’m pretty sure I’m one of about three kids in my grade who has never gotten drunk. It’s not that I have anything against it, I’m just happy about myself the way I am and don’t feel I need alcohol to improve myself.

    Unfortunately I’ve gotten judged for not drinking, and the reason is that I supposedly judge people for drinking? At my school people who drink aren’t the ones who are looked down on, it’s the people who don’t drink. I don’t know. It’s sad really. I’ve felt discluded for not wanting to vomit on a regular basis. When I go to parties people always act surprise and yet feign pride in my decision not to drink, but I usually ignore them and enjoy my own life.

    It’s hard sometimes to keep true to yourself in high school when it comes to drugs and drinking, but this article really spoke to me. I’m not alone!

  • ellthemighty January 20th, 2012 8:31 PM

    As someone that doesn’t drink for a few reasons (I don’t like being out of control, don’t like the taste, don’t like what some people do drunk etc), I get this article.

    In Australia, if you don’t drink you’re weird. I’ve been called a lot of stuff, like boring, judge-y, teetotaller [I'm not], stick-in-the-mud etc etc. I’ve had my glass of water spiked with vodka because someone wanted to know what I was like drunk. I spend half my time at parties refusing drinks, getting weird looks when I ask for water, and defending my choices. So yeah, sometimes I feel judged, just like people say they feel judged by me when I’m sober and they’re patently not. It goes both ways.

    As a side note, I work at a government agency specialising in legal representation for disadvantaged people, and most of the ones we defend have drug and/or alcohol problems. This doesn’t exactly make it a more enticing prospect.

  • smallsimplicity January 21st, 2012 11:57 AM

    Thank you.

  • JessO. January 21st, 2012 2:06 PM

    Dear Emily,

    I had a similar moment in the ninth grade. My friends had all told their parents that we would be sleeping over at one girl’s house, but the real plan was to sneak out to drink and smoke. When the day of the sleepover came, I told my mom that she should ground me so I couldn’t go. She never questioned me on this, but I’m sure she had an idea or two what was REALLY happening (mom’s know things). I just wasn’t ready to try something simply because my friends wanted to do it. After that weekend, there was a definite divide between my friends and I, but we didn’t let it affect our friendship. I’m twenty-three now and I still haven’t drank, smoked, or done any drugs. I’ve had my fair share of experience with peer pressure and jerks who “just don’t get it” but ultimately, it’s your decision on how you want to have fun! I can’t say that I’ll NEVER try these things, but for now I’m happy with my decisions and thankful for having amazing friends who respect them.

  • alyssawhatever January 22nd, 2012 5:43 AM

    I really liked this article! I’ve been sober all 18 years and I just started college this year. I was super nervous I was going to fall to peer pressure, too! Yet, I was able to stay away just because I’m not at all curious I guess. Thanks for a POV I can really relate to!

  • Bean January 22nd, 2012 8:28 PM

    I’m glad an article ws written from this stand point. The other one upset me slightly for not seeing this view as a fantastic thing. This is almost exactly my experience though i’ve drank a few more than two times. That’s the only real difference. Totally agree and totally love it.

  • Johann7 January 24th, 2012 1:40 PM

    I think it’s great that you’re making choices that work for you, and approaching others who are making different choices with a non-judgmental attitude! Keep it up! I wanted to preface this, because I’m going to address a couple points you raise, and I don’t want to come off as trying to change your mind.

    “…why would you need to make alterations to your personality, your own self, to have a nice night?”

    The short answer is because not everyone’s brain works the same way (like yours), and not everyone enjoys the same things. Consider different attitudes on various sexual behaviors: some people really like things that other people find boring or even disturbing. It fine (great, even) that you don’t see the appeal of recreational drugs; the reason that other do is really not all that different than why they might like different movies or different pizza toppings.

    Ultimately, it’s because everyone’s ‘sober’ isn’t the same as yours; people who use drugs might think your version of sober is awesome if they could experience it, and never want to use another drug. It might be easier to understand this in the context of the extreme end of the scale, with things like depression or bipolar disorder or ADD – people with these conditions need drugs (prescribed by a doctor, but mind-altering nonetheless) to feel anything close to what you (presumably, though maybe not) feel in your sober state.

  • Johann7 January 24th, 2012 1:47 PM

    “I like feeling in control of myself. Right now I do that by staying sober. If I can retain that feeling while using alcohol or drugs someday, that’ll be OK, too. That’s how I’ll know what I’m doing is right for me.”

    I think this is a great attitude. I was very much the same way in high school (and still am), though I didn’t abstain from using recreational drugs completely. In fact, as one person with regular access to a car, I was frequently the designated driver at parties, and didn’t drink/smoke/etc. at all at many of them.

    What I discovered was that it’s possible to use recreational drugs in moderation without also losing control. Cannabis, alcohol, etc. are not so powerful that one small quantity will instantly make the user intoxicated beyond thought. Again, if you have no interest in any recreational drugs, by all means don’t use them, but be aware that the frequent conflation of any drug use with drug abuse by the proscriptive anti-drug crowd is a lie. In the event that you ever are interested in trying any drugs, use a small amount – this will allow you to feel some effect while maintaining self-control.

  • mslolita January 27th, 2012 8:37 PM

    This article was not judgmental in the slightest, and the author carefully made sure of it. anyone that is offended to this article is clearly insecure about the habits or choices they’ve chosen, otherwise you wouldn’t be defiantly complaining. If anything, most of the people I know that are frequent pot smokers or drinkers are rather flamboyant about it and talk about it all of the time, and I (personally) don’t know one person who is straightedge who flaunts it; in fact I don’t know about anyone else but sometimes I’m embarrassed that i’m not “like everyone else”. idk.
    Being someone that’s not a frequent drinker because truthfully i’m working my way through college and i work all weekend and when i’m not working im doing coursework. I find it almost insulting when people judge me for my own personal choices when I don’t judge anyone for theirs. I’m not necessarily straightedge, because I occasionally drink but either way it’s not even for moral reasons really or that i “think im better”, it’s just my lifestyle and my personal choice, and just because i don’t do drugs/etc i doesn’t define me as a person, &I think it’s unfair to judge or look down upon myself or anyone else with similar choices.

    And like the author said, nothing is worse than overhearing your friends talking about that “awesome party” they went to, and then when you talk about some cool exhibit you went to they don’t even pay attention and almost mock you. It almost eats away at a person and that’s what usually brings about the succumbing to peer pressure, because they want to feel a part of the fun.

  • Nikilodeon February 9th, 2012 6:32 AM

    I really like your article and I can’t tell you how much I can relate to this. Seriously, while reading, all that was running through my mind was, “oh my god this sounds like me!” Some of my friends are into alcohol and weed and I’m not. Sometimes I get judged for being kind of a straight edge, but I’m proud of it like you are. I never judge people either, but I do have this one friend who is getting addicted, and I worry about him but I don’t know what to say. Sometimes I’m embarrassed to admit my convictions to my friends who do drugs and alcohol. But after reading what you said – “if someone doesn’t accept my not wanting them high around me, they’re not worth my time” – I guess I realized I should be more confident about my beliefs. I abstain from drugs and alcohol for the exact same reasons as you do, because I personally don’t see the point in doing those things just so you can have a good time when you can genuinely have a good time while sober.

    Thanks for writing this. :)