My name is Gudrun. I have been a mental health counselor with a specialty in addiction for over
twenty years. During this time I have discovered that I really like working with young people.
Having gone through a turbulent youth myself with the strong need to do things differently, even
when it might be harmful to me or others, helps me relate to your experience. Many of you have
honored me with your confidences.
Many of you, whether you were sent by your parents, by a probation officer, or whether you came on
your own, have told me of how you "party". Partying seems to mean that you get together with your
friends to get drunk. You are not talking about a little buzz, created by one or two drinks; you
are talking about getting smashed out of your wits. Everybody does it, you say. You tell me of
throwing up, hangovers, missed classes, failed tests, having sex with people you don't even like,
and black-outs. If you are a young woman, you might tell me that you don't remember how you ended
up in an unfamiliar place and that you suspect someone slipped you the rape drug. And worst of
all, some of you know someone who has died in a car crash caused by drinking and driving. Having
revealed to me all this, you tell me you plan to party again, soon.
Most of you know somewhere deep inside, that you are putting yourselves in extreme danger! Aside
from the one of dying on the spot because you drank more alcohol than your body can handle, or you
decided to drink and drive or ride with someone who has been drinking, or you contracted a
life-threatening STD, you might be developing alcoholism or you might already be a full-blown
alcoholic. Research is currently showing that half of all alcoholics are young adults. Two factors
put you at above average risk: (1) if you have a family member (including extended family) who is
alcoholic, and/or (2) the age at which you started: if you started at age 15 or younger, you are
at very high risk; if you started at age 19 or older, the danger diminishes. (Even though, nobody
is immune! Some people drink socially all their lives and then develop alcoholism in their 70s.)
Because I can't tell and you can't tell whether your body has already undergone the chemical
changes that make stopping to drink difficult, I am going to invite you to ask yourselves a few
questions and to consider some commitments to yourselves. Foremost is the question of how long you
want to party like this. I'm not being facetious. I am asking you to come up with a time frame.
Most of you shared with me your awareness that you don't want to live like this for the rest of
your life; you are just not ready to give it up yet. So, set yourselves a time line. When that
time arrives, see whether you can follow through or whether you keep extending it, finding reasons
and excuses for doing so. If you can't stop or are not willing to stop, you might have alcoholism
and need help.
Some of you have shared with me that you are already in a place of wanting to stop partying but
are afraid you would lose your social circle if you did. See whether there might be others among
your friends who feel likewise. Can you form a subgroup and be the designated drivers for
everybody or safe-keepers for some in the group who seem particularly vulnerable? Could you
support each other in finding different people to hang out with? If you can't identify anyone else
in your group who wants to stop drinking excessively, what might help you make the leap into a new
life, new friends? Can you discuss this with someone you trust? If you don't have anyone in your
life you trust, do research. Here are some websites for those of you, who are underage:
Whether underage or legally adult, many options are out there. In Sonoma County, you can call the
Orenda Center at 707-565-7450 to get more information; and in Marin County, you can call Bay Area
Community Resources at 415-444-5580. You can also call my office at 707-575-8468 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Above all else, I want to say that it breaks my heart to watch you choose something that seems
like fun but is so treacherous. Some of you have also, however, let me be witness to making a
drastic change in your life and discover that a life without "partying" doesn't have to be boring
or lonely. That's my wish for everyone.