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Peer Pressure is What Made Me Use Drugs and Alcohol

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

As a young girl, two of the more traumatic things I went through were growing up with an alcoholic parent and my parents’ divorce. I tried to stuff the void I experienced with drugs and alcohol.  I never even considered the idea that I might become an alcoholic or drug addict, and I swore to myself that I would never end up like my father.  However, as I would later find out, the cards were stacked against me.  My family’s long history of drug and alcohol addictions played a huge role in where I ultimately ended up. The lifestyle itself was so familiar to me that it didn’t even register that I wouldn’t be able to stand up to the pressure to succumb to it.

I was starved for attention as a kid, and I didn’t have the coping skills I needed to go through the kinds of things the adults around me were putting me through. I became a great actress, with the ability to mold myself into what others wanted me to be, a trait that came in handy once I started using full time. The fact that I gave into peer pressure—big time—is no big surprise. Other people’s solutions to what I was going through—no matter how much bad judgment was there—was an easy way to let myself off the hook for my own behavior.

I wanted to fit in and feel better about myself. Because I didn’t feel like I could turn to my parents for advice and guidance, I turned to my peers. As a teenager who was already full of apprehension and anxiety, getting caught up and swept away by peer pressure was just another high. Stealing alcohol from the local grocery store seems like a good idea until the cops show up and you’re busted. As a teen I had a hard time grasping that my own judgment was impaired. I kept making bad decisions because I desperately wanted to belong and be accepted.

At first drugs and alcohol gave me confidence, self-esteem, and filled that void I’d carried around with me for so many years.  I found I could carry on a conversation without first dissecting every word that came out of my mouth.  It made me feel like I was a part of something instead of an outsider looking in. But eventually all the drugs, alcohol, and bad judgment turned on me and I found myself alone again—this time in the prison of my own addiction. The very thing that seemed to hold the key to solving all my problems ended up making them worse. No amount of alcohol and drugs was ever going to be able to numb my pain.

Here are the top reasons teens use drugs and alcohol:

  • To relieve boredom
  • To feel good
  • To forget their troubles and relax
  • To have fun
  • To satisfy their curiosity
  • To take risks
  • To ease their pain
  • To feel grown-up
  • To show their independence
  • To belong to a specific group, be accepted
  • To look cool

Peer pressure is something all teens live with. Teenagers spend most of their waking hours with their peers— not their family members.  When I was using, I tried to stay out as late as I could because I was involved in things I couldn’t do at home. I surrounded myself with people who would enable my addiction. Once I was in it, it was a very difficult situation to get out of.

It was only when I finally got checked into a treatment center that worked with adolescent substance abuse that I found myself a whole new set of peers  who were working towards the same goals as I was. It was easier to stay sober when I surrounded myself with other sober teens.  The chances of staying sober were slim to none had I gone back to my old friends and hangouts.  The pressure and feelings of “missing out” would have been too much for me to handle.  I discovered new ways to have fun and bond without alcohol and drugs. I finally found ways to experience real, raw emotion and friendship once I could connect with friends who were really there for me and liked me not because we could party together, but because we had things in common and shared dreams.

While doing the research for Addicted Like Me, I saw tons of literature that recommended parents set clear expectations for behavior and establish rules about communicating where and with whom their teenagers are spending their time.  Getting to know your child’s friends will undoubtedly give you insight into your teen’s life.  If you suspect your teen’s friends are involved in risky behaviors, invite them to your home where they can be supervised. And it is always a good idea to encourage hobbies, sports, and after-school clubs, where your teen will have opportunities to interact with other kids who share similar interests and values.

Posted by  |  Filed under Alcohol, Family History, Recovery



7 Comments on “Peer Pressure is What Made Me Use Drugs and Alcohol”

Barbara says:
January 1st, 2010 at 1:18 am

Thanks so much for sharing this, it will help a lot of parents!



James says:
January 4th, 2010 at 7:50 pm

I have to question the title of the article. I believe it’s inaccurate. Had the author had responsible parents that provided the guidance, example, affection, monitoring, etc. (protective factors and assets) required to raise kids that are stronger than the influence of negative peers, it’s likely her story might be very different today. Blaming peers is too easy. Her parents failed.



Diana says:
January 19th, 2010 at 11:56 pm

I do not agree with James whatsoever. It makes me question whether he is a parent and, if so, what types of personalities his kids have. It’s possible to have two children with the same guidance, example, affection, and monitoring and have one turn out to be an addict with no direction in life and the other to be self-directed and do well.



Bee says:
January 21st, 2010 at 8:00 pm

I agree with Diana. I have raised both my sons exactly the same way. My 17 year old is doing everything we raised him not to do. My 14 year old is thriving on our same advise. Every “child” is unique in their own way, each responding differently to life’s stressors. I have found it is the peers who influenced my 17 year old to make the horrible destructive choices he has made in his young life. I do agree with your comment regarding monitoring negative peers, however, in that I should have stayed in on top of those “friends” that he has hung out with since 5 years old. I thought I knew those kids and didn’t even consider the possibility that they could change. In retrospect, I did not fail as a parent. You clearly are a parent whose family is not the norm. There are many families with real troubles who just aren’t comfortable sharing out of fear, embarassment, etc. I suspect you too may be facing your demons if you continue to live in your fantasy world, and if you don’t, you are NOT the norm and kudos to you – you’re a fabulous parent – in your eyes. I’m curious, just how old are your teen children – you do have teens, right?? Because if you don’t, you need to find another blog!



Priya says:
May 24th, 2013 at 9:00 am

I feel a little different from all of you.
It is true that sometimes parents lack in support onwards their children. A friend of mine has two daughters. I have usually seen that she showers her younger with affection and adoration whereas her older one strives for it. Seeing this I can actually tell that the older one will turn to drugs etc to feel accepted. So it doesn’t really have everything to do with peers. Parent-child relationships are very important as well



Priya says:
May 24th, 2013 at 9:01 am

I am so sorry I meant towards not onwards



Gypo says:
July 20th, 2013 at 4:33 am

I k ow some one who smokes takes drugs just to act cool its so sad to see that this person is like this because she is so pretty and kind but has no courage to say no to these things.????????????




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