I Think My Teen is Using Drugs: 6 Essential Tips on How to Intervene (Pt.2)

Knowing how to effectively intervene when you learn that your teen is using drugs and/or alcohol is vital for getting her back on the right track. The process can be an emotional roller coaster that tests the strength of you, your teen, and your relationship, but ultimately your actions will better ensure the health and safety of your child.

You’ve already acknowledged there is a problem and are seeking measures to address it. For some parents, this is the hardest step. You should be proud of that.

But there is more that needs to be done.

In our first article, we covered the absolute necessity that you don’t ignore the situation, taking time to prepare before you intervene, and what to say and do while you have a serious conversation with your teen. The following three tips will address establishing a plan moving forward after your initial discussion with your teen, embracing outside help for both him and you, and seeking stronger treatment options when needed.

Getting your teen to quit abusing substances will not be easy, but with these strategies and knowledge in mind, your teen’s future is already looking brighter.

#4 The Talk Part 2: Where Do We Go From Here?

After asking about the reasons your child turned to drugs, vocalizing your concerns, and honestly answering questions you are asked, the next essential part of the conversation with your teen is outlining your rules and guidelines for the future and what the penalties will be if those expectations are not met.

While no teenager is ever going to start celebrating a whole set of rules to follow, teens are much more likely to buy into and respect this new system if they have a say in its creation. Work together. Give them some agency. While you define your expectations of your teen, allow him to likewise express what he expects from you.

Of course, his requests must be reasonable. “Mom and Dad will let me get completely plastered just one night a week” isn’t going to fly.

But for every “I promise not to drink or take drugs” and “I promise not to drive while under the influence” that you require from your teen, permit him to make a rule such as “I promise to always listen to what my teen has to say” or “I promise to always be available when my teen wants to talk or needs help.”

When crafting these rules, consider incorporating opportunities where you will reward honesty even when another expectation has been broken. For example, say your teen smokes some weed at a friend’s house but comes clean about it to you afterward. Or maybe he is drunk at a party but calls for your help instead of trying to drive himself home.

In these and similar situations it is a good idea to respect this act of honesty and the courage it required from your teen. Allow for lessened consequences or perhaps a sit-down conversation instead of a punishment at all.

In this way, you keep in mind that nobody is perfect. Your teen is sure to make mistakes along the way to getting clean, but telling the truth shows he is genuinely trying to change. Furthermore, your child’s safety should be your number one priority—it’s why you want her to quit abusing drugs in the first place, after all—and these allowances help create an environment in which your teen is not afraid to reach out when she is a dangerous situation.

But speaking of consequences, how should you handle those? Punishments and the way you enact them can greatly impact your teen’s progression in quitting drugs and alcohol.

Consequences should be firm but reasonable, resonating and powerful yet age-appropriate and generally short-term. For instance, while a moderate offense might justifiably warrant a week’s grounding, grounding your teen for six months is far overboard.

Penalties must be able to teach your teen a lesson and show that you are doing this for his well-being; punishments too intense or long (given the transgression) will only ignite resentment, and what you are trying to teach her will be lost.

Also, you need to make sure that you will and can impose consequences that you previously stated will occur if your teen disobeyed a given rule. Failing to follow through on punishments will tell your teen that you aren’t truly serious about the rules—so he’ll continue to break them. Likewise, attempting a consequence that you have no ability to enforce will tell your teen that you can’t really do anything about his violation of the rules—so he’ll continue to break them. Both will reduce your authority and make future efforts at discipline much more difficult.

One often effective penalty is temporarily revoking a teen’s car or driving privileges, especially if you caught her driving under the influence or as a passenger of an impaired driver (punishments directly connected to the action tend to be more powerful). Suspending your teen’s driving ability will better prevent her from driving while drunk or high or traveling to meet a dealer.

Now that you have co-created a set of rules, expectations, and consequences with your teen, consider compiling them into an actual, physical document, a written contract complete with agreeing signatures from both parties.

For most teenagers, this makes the rules truly official or “real” and thus more likely to be respected, while also proving that you are equally committed upholding your end of the bargain. In addition, a tangible contract permits you to point to your teen literally agreeing to a certain behavior should he later violate it (and vice versa).

[Click the link for an example of a teen-parent contract and suggestions for expectations to establish: http://www.drugfree.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Write-a-Contract-with-Your-Kids-2014.pdf]

However, even with contract in hand and all you have covered in your conversation today, remember that one talk will rarely be it. Very likely, this will be the first of many discussions you’ll share with your child as he quits using alcohol and drugs.

Some will occur when your teen comes to you on his own for guidance, and some will be after you catch him breaking the rules. Don’t be discouraged or feel like you aren’t making a difference; each and every one of these talks are a helpful and necessary part of the recovery process.

#5 Call in the Cavalry

One aspect that can be difficult for parents but will immeasurably help in confronting your teen’s drug or alcohol use is reaching out to others for help. There are two main categories of outside assistance: Help for yourself and help for your teen.

The first of these might seem out of place. Help for me? Isn’t my teen the one that needs help?

This line of thinking, however, ignores the turmoil many parents undergo when their teen uses drugs, feelings that only increase with the severity and consequences of the teen’s substance abuse. The emotional distress can be monumental, leaving a person mentally and physically exhausted.

Some parents keep their feelings bottled up, thinking it’s not appropriate to tell others what their teen is going through or are too ashamed to let anyone know. Their pain and frustration eventually eat away at them.

It is perfectly okay and normal to feel this way. However, you also need to realize that you cannot ignore your own struggles as you deal with your teen, if for no other reason than you can’t adequately help her if you yourself are emotionally unwell.

Don’t let the fear of shame force you to keep this a secret. Always communicate your feelings to your spouse as you help your teen together. Confide in a close friend or relative what you are going through. While you shouldn’t tell absolutely everybody what is happening, sharing with a few people you trust for support and to vent your emotions is encouraged.

Also, remember that you are not alone in this problem. Countless others are dealing with teenagers who abuse substances as well, and some people might find it easier to discuss their feelings to others whom they know are in the same boat.

Just as there are peer support groups for people facing addiction and recovery, so too are there meetings for parents, siblings, and others who are close to someone with drug use issues. Groups such as Al-Anon and Families Anonymous help lessen the stigma of the situation with your child, proving you are not alone while giving you a chance to share your story and listen to the experience of others.

Another resource that can both help you and aid in your teen’s recovery is toll-free helplines. These numbers, most of which are open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, put you in contact with professionals trained to assist individuals and families prevent, cope with, and overcome drug and alcohol abuse. Some of the many helplines include:

Similarly, reach out to other professionals that you or your teen can meet with in person. The easiest way to begin is to contact people already connected to your or your teen’s world, such as school counselors or the family doctor/pediatrician.

These professionals can assess the extent of your teen’s drug abuse, root out and discuss underlying or compounding issues such as family struggles or mental health disorders, and develop a treatment strategy. Also, they will be able to connect you with more advanced specialists if needed. Doctors can administer drug tests as well.

Finally, it can be beneficial to share your teen’s issues with another adult who she admires and respects such as a coach, another relative, teacher, or religious figure. This adult can both monitor your child’s condition and behavior when you are not around and strengthen the argument that your teen should quit using drugs. Hearing that substance abuse is dangerous and should cease will hold greater power if multiple people who care about your teen, not just you, tell her. In addition, your teen might feel more comfortable opening up to this person than you, giving her an alternative person to seek guidance from and talk to in the face of making poor decisions.

#6 Advanced Recovery Treatment

In communicating with drug and healthcare professionals, they may determine that your teen requires a more advanced treatment strategy.
While teenagers with less extensive substance issues can recover with a combination of family support, discussions with parents and trusted adults, and a system of rules and consequences, those with more extreme abuse problems and addictions will require more intense treatment methods.

There are several different options that may help, and it is up to you and the professionals involved to decide which option—or, more likely, which combination of options—will be best for your teen. Some of the treatment strategies include:

  • Support Groups: Group meetings can build a community network that helps teenagers realize they are not alone in their struggles. They have other people rooting for their recovery and can see the value of recovery in others. Different types of groups will be more or less beneficial to each teen. Some will do well in a group composed only of similarly-aged peers, whereas for others this would lead to a negative atmosphere of reminiscing over “fun” memories of doing drugs. Some teens might have a better experience in a varied age group or a group made of teenagers and their family members.
  • Medication: Most often, medication is reserved for adults but may be prescribed to teens in some circumstances. Various medications are used for treating addiction or co-occurring conditions, withdrawal symptoms, and relapse prevention.
  • Talk Therapy: Also known as behavioral counseling or behavioral treatment, talk therapy has your teen meet regularly with a health counselor. This counselor aids your teen in modifying her behavior and attitudes toward substance use; focusing on positive life skills; and recognizing, avoiding, and coping with “triggers” and situations which commonly lead her to use drugs. The intensity and frequency of these meetings typically coincide with your teen’s progress.
  • Inpatient Rehab: One important aspect of your teen’s treatment that you must decide is whether to pursue outpatient or inpatient rehabilitation. Deciding which system is best for your child depends significantly on the severity of her substance abuse.The primary difference between these two programs is in where your teen will live as they undergo recovery. Whereas in an outpatient plan your teen still resides at home and may attend a rehab facility for specific sessions or meetings, he lives at the facility during inpatient treatment. Both involve support groups, counseling, medication, or any other treatments your child needs.

Outpatient rehab, which is typically recommended for people at a lower risk or are already recovering well, allows patients to continue to go to school, work, and any other activities or responsibilities; maintain a semblance of their normal lives; and have frequent contact with friends and family for support. On the other hand, by remaining in the “outside world,” your teen might still be exposed to people and scenarios that trigger substance use, as well as have access to alcohol and drugs.

Meanwhile, inpatient treatment is a full-time commitment that requires your teen to live on-site, where he will receive support 24 hours a day, seven days a week from a multidisciplinary team of professionals fully devoted to patients’ health and recovery. Inpatient programs are advised for users who would be exposed to substances at home, cannot commute to outpatient centers, were not previously successful in outpatient treatment, or also have a mental health condition, such as depression or bi-polar disorder, alongside their drug abuse.

Most initial inpatient programs last 28 to 90 days. The first part of treatment will be a detox to clear your teen’s body of drugs and start returning her bodily systems to normal. Although every inpatient treatment center is different, most days will typically begin by checking vitals, screening for illicit substances, taking any prescribed medication, and completing simple chores like making the bed, followed by several
therapy sessions (both individual and group meetings), and ending with quiet free time. Teens can receive tutoring to keep up with their schoolwork.

To discover treatment centers near you visit https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/locator.

Not every person should be treated for alcohol or drug use in the same way. These methods of combating substance abuse should be discussed with a counselor and/or health professional, in order to decide what is the best option for your teen’s specific circumstances.

Even once the best course of action has been determined for your teen, it is only the beginning. Now the recovery process must start. A long and difficult road may lie ahead for your family, but you must stay committed despite this adversity.

Just as one talk about drugs and alcohol may not be your last, so too can the path to recovery include missteps, re-dos, and times where it seems like your teen is backtracking on his progress. This is not uncommon; don’t feel like the whole process is a failure.

Keep working at it.

Stay vigilant.

Continue loving and supporting your teen.

Researching the topic and reading this article already proves you are a dedicated, concerned, and caring parent doing the right thing. Keep it up, and you and your teen will get through this.

*          *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here the first three tips on how to intervene when your teen is using drugs or alcohol.

Click here for warning signs that your teen may be using drugs or alcohol.

Pictures From

Consulting with a Counselor: From at U.S. Department of Agriculture at https://www.flickr.com/photos/usdagov/19664890044

Sunrise: From https://pixabay.com/en/sunrise-sky-blue-sunlight-clouds-165094/

Adult & Teen Sitting at a Table: From Susan Krawczyk (https://www.dvidshub.net/image/1338461) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Honesty: From thinkpublic at https://www.flickr.com/photos/thinkpublic/3042786561

Angry with Fire Background: From https://pixabay.com/p-18658/?no_redirect

Keys: From https://pixabay.com/en/keys-hands-own-buy-sell-home-1317391/

Sign Document: From https://pixabay.com/en/document-agreement-documents-sign-428331/

U.S. Civil War Cavalry: From The U.S. Army (‘cavalry charge’) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Two Men Having a Conversation: From Andrew at https://www.flickr.com/photos/polandeze/1206596658

Support Group 1: From U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District at https://www.flickr.com/photos/europedistrict/6683158541

On the Phone: From cellanr (originally posted to Flickr as IMG_5598) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Doctor: From Ilmicrofono Oggiono at https://www.flickr.com/photos/115089924@N02/16068674648 via www.audio-luci-store.it

Coach: From Lance Cpl. Christopher Johns (https://www.dvidshub.net/image/776788) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Consultation: From CMRF Crumlin at https://www.flickr.com/photos/cmrf_crumlin/4838022938

Support Group 2: From Lwp Kommunikáció at https://www.flickr.com/photos/lwpkommunikacio/16904900381

Rx: From © Nevit Dilmen [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Talk Therapy: From Jty33 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Heroin Injection: From Psychonaught (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Doctor Examines Patient: By Unknown photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Drug Rehab Center: From Addictionresources (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Rehabilitation Center: From tokorokoko (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Just Breathe: From chintermeyer at https://www.flickr.com/photos/twentysevenphotos/5349693235

5 Helpful Tips for Parents When Your Teen Goes to a Party (Pt. 1)

The Adicts at SO36. Kreuzberg-Berlin

Parties.

From Halloween celebrations to Girls Night sleepovers, poolside bashes to fancy dress-up jamborees, parties come in all shapes and sizes, ranging in activities, occasion, location, and attendees. In one form or another, parties are likely to be a part of your child’s teenage experience.

They can be an important setting for your teen’s growth, an opportunity to make new friends, learn to be more comfortable in large groups, and develop vital social skills needed for life as an adult. Not to mention they can be a lot of fun.

flip-cupHowever, some parties are also a place of alcohol, drugs, and risky sexual behavior. It’s not difficult to think of a wild, toga-clad John Belushi in Animal House or the characters of American Pie and Superbad desperate to drunkenly get laid at the End of the Year Party or a dozen other pop culture examples that glamorize high school and college parties as consequence-free nights of intoxicated outrageousness. Just about every teen movie depicts all parties as having lots of booze and zero supervision—even if that doesn’t reflect reality.

With all this in mind, it can be nerve-racking as a parent to allow your kid to go to a party, whether it’s their first one or their hundredth. This article will discuss steps you should take when your teen goes to a party that will help keep him or her safe.

#1 Start with the Basics
calendar-819617_1280

This might seem simple, but it’s all too important.

Who, what, when, where? Heck, add the why in there too (Is there a specific reason the party is this weekend? Parents out of town or something like that?).

Always know information such as the party’s address/location, start and end times, and who is throwing the party. Who all is going for that matter? Just some close friends or practically the whole student body? And the kicker: Will the parent’s be home?

hanging-not-drinking

Set a curfew and make sure your teen knows it. Also establish rules on whether or not he’s allowed to go other places during the night—a different party, a friend’s house, maybe a fast food joint.

Depending on your child and the level of trustworthiness and integrity he generally upholds, allowing a little bit of freedom in these matters might prove beneficial.

Bouncing around to different places? Hcall-parent-for-helpave him send a text updating you each time his plans change. Realizes he’ll be out later than he initially thought? That’s fine, so long as he calls to let you know.

Again, not every teen can handle this level of autonomy, and you will need to ensure that this policy is not taken advantage of, but for teens that are up to the challenge, showing that you have faith in them will encourage them to prove that your trust is not unfounded.

#2 Use the International Parent-to-Parent Communication Network

Okay, so maybe there isn’t a global parental communication system, but talking to other parents the old-fashioned way about the upcoming party is still a good idea.

First of all, other parents can be an invaluable source for getting the information in Tip #1 if you don’t learn it from your teen.

conversation-799448_1280

Reach out to parents of other teens that are attending as well as the parents of the party’s host.  If you don’t currently have their contact information it can be a little more difficult than the days of looking up a family’s home number in the phone book, but there are other methods.

Of course, simply askiknock-on-doorng your teen is the first and easiest step. Or ask your teen’s friends next time you see them for that matter. In addition, you can always do a little Facebook stalking, ahem, research, to find and message parents online. Finally, you can use the direct approach and knock on their door for the ol’ face to face (again, their address will have to be something you ask your teen or teen’s friend if you’ve never dropped her off or otherwise know where their home is).

When you do get a hold of other parents, share what you know about the party with each other and take note of any discrepancies you discover from what you have heard from your respective kids. Indication that your teens are lying or hiding things is a sign that the party may not be a good idea.

For that matter, check that the host’s parents are aware there even is a party. They might be surprised to learn that their teen has such plans while they’re on their weekend get away.

One key element to discuss with other parents is whether or not there will be booze-presentalcohol. Even if only one teen shares this with her parents, inter-parent communication will ensure no one is left in the dark about this important fact.

Furthermore, don’t assume there won’t be alcohol simply because parents will be home. Sure, they might physically be in the house, but do they plan on actually supervising or at least checking in on the party periodically? How will they handle the situation if some of the guests sneak in booze or other drugs?

cartoon-boozeMoreover, some parents (incorrectly) believe that it is safe for teenagers to have alcohol if they are around and won’t care if it is at the party. Despite alcohol’s effects on the developing brain and studies that show that minors who are supplied alcohol by their parents are actually at increased risk for continued drinking in their teenage years and problem drinking later in life,1 some parents will even provide booze themselves.

#3 The Birds and the Bees and the Booze and the Weed

Whether you know there will be alcoholic drinks or not, a party right around the corner is a perfect occasion to have a serious conversation with your teen about alcohol, drugs, sex, and/or whatever other precarious subject he may be in need of.

serious-talkYep, that’s right. It’s awkward talk time.

Well, hopefully it won’t be too bad. And even if it is uncomfortable for you, him, or the both of you, it’s necessary to push through the awkwardness. These conversations are important, and, luckily, the longer you talk—not to mention the more often you have these talks in general—the easier and more natural things will become.

As you prepare for a conversation—and it will certainly go better if you prepare at least a general idea of what you want to say—keep these points in mind.

disapproveDon’t assume your teen already knows your exact stance on the subject matter. Make sure he knows by explicitly telling him what you do and don’t approve. Set ground rules. Teens that know their parents would disapprove of them drinking are 80% less likely to drink.2

Go above and beyond simply stating that you don’t want him to drink. Ask your teen what he’ll do if there is alcohol, pot, or other drug use going on. Together, brainstorm and discuss strategies to turn down a drink. Simply saying from the outset that he will abstain from drugs and alcohol is great, but it might be hard to follow through once surrounded by the peer pressure of a party environment. Knowing and practicing specific ways to say no will make it immensely easier to do so.

*         *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for Part 2 on our remaining tips on when your teen goes to a party!

You might be apprehensive to allow your teen to go to a party if you don’t have a strong, trusting relationship or you don’t know if she is aware of the risks posed by drugs and alcohol. If either of these statements is true, it can be difficult to figure out where to even start to reverse them.

Luckily, Omni Youth Programs is here to help. Our Active Parenting of Teens, Teens in Action, Families in Action, and Families Matter programs focus on giving families the tools and strategies to communicate effectively, end power struggles, and build trust together, all while illuminating the dangers of alcohol, drugs, and other risky behaviors. For more information check out our Programs Details page or visit omniyouth.net to schedule a training.

Pictures From

Dance Party: From Montecruz Foto at www.flickr.com/photos/28328732@N00/5807760586

Drinking Games: From stangls at https://www.flickr.com/photos/8068440@N08/509538615

Calendar: From https://pixabay.com/p-819617/?no_redirect

Backyard Party: From brad_bechtel at https://www.flickr.com/photos/wellvis/1262802262

Young Girl Texting: From Carissa Rogers at www.flickr.com/photos/goodncrazy

Silhouettes Talking: From https://pixabay.com/p-799448/?no_redirect

Knock on Door: From Eden, Janine and Jim at https://www.flickr.com/photos/edenpictures/6247800223

Girls Drinking: From Incase at https://www.flickr.com/photos/goincase/5143421728

Old Cartoon: From Warner Bros. (https://archive.org/details/TheBoozeHangsHigh) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Serious Conversation: From University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment’s photostream at https://www.flickr.com/photos/snre/6721655935

Disapproval: From hobvias sudoneighm at https://www.flickr.com/photos/striatic/2191404675

Works Cited

  1. Feliz, By Josie. “Myths Debunked: Underage Drinking of Alcohol at Home Leads to Real Consequences for Both Parents and Teens.” Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. http://www.drugfree.org/newsroom/myths-debunked-underage-drinking-of-alcohol-at-home-leads-to-real-consequences-for-both-parents-and-teens/. N.p., n.d.
  1. Staff, By Join Together. “Parents Influence Teens’ Drinking Decisions: Survey.” Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. http://www.drugfree.org/news-service/parents-influence-teens-drinking-decisions-survey/. N.p., n.d.

10 Best Tips If You Don’t Want to Drink (Pt. 2)

Offered a cold one at a party? At a wedding reception where everyone pressures you to take advantage of the open bar? With friends who smuggle a six pack into the summer music festival?

Thirsty for more tips on how to handle these situations and more?

Modeselektor_at_Melt!_music_festival_in_Germany

Deciding to abstain from alcohol is a positive and healthy choice, particularly if you are still a teen, but it can sometimes be a difficult one to make. Other people may put enormous pressure on you to drink, and it can be hard to turn them down. And while avoiding or leaving events and situations where there is alcohol is certainly an option, sometimes it’s not always possible or desirable (you did pay good money for that music festival ticket, after all).

Here are five more tips for people who don’t want to drink.

#6 Explain Your Reasons Effectively

As explained in Tip #5 in our first article, simplicity is always useful when turning down a drink, with basic responses like “no thanks, I’m good,” proving quite successful. If somebody asks you why and you choose to give an answer—remember you can always avoid the question and use the Broken Record Technique—quick, straightforward answers are likewise the best tactic. Some examples include:

  • I’m the designated driver (more on this in Tip #10)
  • I have to get up early tomorrow
  • I just don’t feel like it
  • I partied pretty hard last night/weekend so I’m taking it easy
  • My parents will kill me and they somehow find out everything I do
  • (In the case of beer) I’m allergic to gluten

Of course, some reasons may be more effective than others explainingdepending on the crowd around you, but generally any will suffice. A good idea is to know your reasons ahead of time and even practice saying them, especially if you’re shy or nervous about telling people no. It will allow for a confident delivery (see Tip #4).

When giving any sort of reason for your sobriety there are two key points to remember:

1.) While it’s definitely simpler when your reason is true—you really do need to get up early—it doesn’t have to be. If you’re comfortable with it, a little white lie sometimes makes things easier if you’re around people you don’t know well (I don’t recommend lying to friends, and they probably know enough about you to discern the truth anyway).

In my own life, I’ve used this technique when I was feeling self-conscious or wanted to avoid the hassle of telling people I outright don’t drink. That included letting on that I drank earlier that night or in my past, even though it wasn’t true. Sobriety is nothing to be ashamed of, but telling a small lie can be less intimidating for some people.

2.) When explaining why you aren’t drinking, the best defense is not a good offense. Whether your reasons are personal or you don’t think anyone should consume alcohol, a house party is neither the time nor place to start lecturing people about impaired driving and brain trauma.

No one wants to feel attacked. So just as you want people to be chill with your decision, so too do you need to be chill with theirs.

So instead of answering with “I don’t drink alcohol and neither should you,” stick with “It’s just not my thing” or “I don’t like the way it makes me feel.”

That said, if you truly do think your friends should stop drinking, or alcohol is becoming a serious problem, do reach out. Just know that mid-kegger is probably not the most practical opportunity.

#7 What’s in Your Red Cup?

One of the easiest ways to deter pressure to drink alcohol is to already have some other drink in your hand. Whether it’s soda, water, juice, a virgin cocktail, or something else entirely, just by virtue of holding a cup or bottle, a lot of people won’t even bother you. They’ll either recognize that you’re good with what you have or assume your drink is already of the booze variety. It’s completely up to you whether you inform them it’s non-alcoholic.

You can pretty much count on any event having some sort of water source, and a lot of parties will have soda or juice available for chasers and mixed drinks. In the case of the latter, however, make sure you don’t personally drink all of it. Turns out—as I’ve come to learn—this tends to upset other people.

A good tip is to bring your own drink to the party to ensure there’s something for you. You could even bring over a big liter of soda, jug of juice, etc. to share with everyone. Not only is this a good way to thank your host and contribute to the event, but also people can’t really complain you drank most of it if you are the one who brought it.

#8 Loosen Up without Boozin’ Up

Alcohol is often called a social lubricant, a way to help people lower their guard and feel more at ease in a social setting. People generally want everyone else to have fun, especially if they are the host of the event, and might offer you a drink so you can loosen up and join the fun.

239092944_b575509fb1_zIf this happens, it’s important to show them what you already know: You don’t need alcohol to have a good time.

Open up, laugh, joke, dance, sing karaoke, be silly! Whatever is going on or whatever the general mood is, make sure you are a part of it.

Depending on your personality, this might be difficult. You may feel awkward shakin’ it on the dance floor, for instance, but trust me, no one will notice—you’re just another person enjoying the party. Being a wet blanket skulking in the corner, on the other hand, will attract negative attention and isn’t fun for anybody.

Are people playing drinking games at the party? See if you can play with something non-alcoholic. In plenty of games, from Beer Pong to Down the River to Flip Cup, swapping in a beverage of your choice for yourself is easy and has no effect on other players. Sure, this won’t work with games like Rage Cage or King’s Cup which involve communal drink(s), and not all people are going to accept non-drinking participants in such an alcohol-centric activity, but should circumstances permit it, go ahead and try. Many drinking games are fun just as regular games.

Warning: Completely fail at a game that requires coordination when you are sober, and you absolutely will be the butt of some jokes. I speak from experience.

#9 Roll with the Punches

It’s not uncommon to get a little teasing for deciding not to drink, even from friends and others who accept your choice. You might be called a prude, goody two shoes, or maybe Mom or Dad. People may joke that you’re secretly a narc or an outer space alien.

The best way to hanLaugh at yourselfdle this is to take it in stride and learn how to laugh at
yourself. I bore the nickname “Sober Sally” for years, but instead of letting it get to me, I wore it with pride. In some sense it even made things easier, a way to get a laugh out of people who asked me to drink.

“Hey, Tyler, want a beer?”

“That’s alright, man, I’m actually a bit of a Sober Sally.”

“Haha, no worries, dude.”

Remember though, a little bit of joking is okay. Bullying is not. If something truly bothers you, speak up.

Also know that at the end of the day, there might always be that one jerk guy or girl who just can’t get over your sobriety no matter what you say or do. Just remain calm, jovial, and confident, and pretty soon they’re the one who is going to start looking like an obsessive creep.

Not drinking is your decision, and if someone dislikes it, that’s their problem not yours.

#10 Use that Clear Head of Yours

If you plan on attending places where there is drinking, you need to get used to being around drunk people. Intoxicated people often don’t think clearly and are much more susceptible to their emotions. Sometimes troubles arise, and it would help to have someone around who can think logically.

That’s where you come in.

BiffFightsStrawbBlonde1941TrailerMake sure everyone has a safe way home and nobody gets taken advantage of. Try to cool down arguments that might turn into fights. Learn how to take care of a person who’s had too much and to tell the difference between somebody who needs immediate medical attention and who is fine to go to sleep.

Don’t act like you’re Superman or the next Mother Theresa about it, though. As helpful as you might be, people won’t respond well to you portraying yourself as some sort of savior just because you aren’t drinking. At the same time, don’t feel like must sacrifice your whole night looking out for others. Have your fun but keep a subtle eye out for anything troubling.

passed out

On a similar note, since you will be sober, offer to be the designated driver.

While it can be annoying when others automatically assume you’ll DD, overall it works out for the best for you and everyone else. It ensures that your friends will have a safe ride, and it gives you an easy out for staying sober.

And because people tend to be so desperate not to be the DD, you definitely hold some leverage.

After my friend Kenny puked in my van—he got most of it in a bucket, but I still had to scrub the seat the next day—I insisted on only driving other people’s cars. You can call dibs on the music or ask for gas money; like everything else about the night, the choice is up to you.

*        *        *

By Tyler Wroblewski

We hope this list proves useful if ever you find yourself surrounded by alcohol while staying sober. Deciding not to drink doesn’t mean giving up friends or a social life, and with these tips, you can keep both and still have fun and stay safe.

Pictures From

Concert: From Alec Luhn (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Talking on Steps: From Akuppa John Wigham at www.flickr.com/photos/90664717@N00

Juice: From https://pixabay.com/en/beverage-juices-drink-food-healthy-882652/

Karaoke: From Kyle Taylor at https://www.flickr.com/photos/kyletaylor/239092944

Laugh at Yourself: From Celestine Chua at www.flickr.com/photos/celestinechua

Fist Fight: From Public Domain image via Wikimedia Commons from film “Strawberry Blonde.”

Passed Out Man: From https://pixabay.com/en/alcohol-hangover-event-death-drunk-428392/

10 Best Tips If You Don’t Want to Drink (Pt.1)

As a teen, there’s a decent chance you will be offered alcohol or other drugs at some point. Maybe by a stranger at a party, an acquaintance, even a friend. And for a multitude of reasons I won’t get into right now (teen drinkers are more likely than their non-drinking peers to become alcoholics—sorry, just had to slip one in there!), we at Omni Youth Programs encourage you to turn down their offer.

Easier said than done, right?

Like, how exactly do you say no? Or how should you respond when people ask why? What if you decide to be sober but still want to hang out with friends who drink or go to a party where alcohol may be present?

Of course, Omni Youth Programs advises teens to avoid situations that involve underage drinking completely. The best way to turn down a drink is to not be in a scenario where someone would offer you one. Furthermore, even if you are staying sober, an alcohol-infused environment could still prove dangerous. Intoxicated people are more prone to bad decisions, crazy antics, and violence, all of which could put you in danger—not to mention the trouble you could get into with the law, even if you did not personally consume any alcohol.

That said, we also recognize that avoiding alcohol entirely is not always possible when leading a typical teenage life. You might show up to a pool party, not realizing there would be booze present, or go to a concert with a drunken crowd. Maybe you don’t have a safe way to leave the situation or perhaps you simply don’t want to miss out on an otherwise fun time because of the poor choices of others.

These top ten tips can apply to everyone, whether you never drink, just aren’t drinking for the night, or simply want to drink in moderation when everyone else is getting hammered. Furthermore, while I will mostly be addressing teens, these tips can be just as helpful for non-drinking adults at the bar.

#1 Trust Your Friends

As I’ve explained before, telling my friends I didn’t want to drink was one of the most nerve-racking moments in my life. I was scared my decision would weaken our friendships, and we’d drift apart. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

hiking picture editWhile it’s possible your friends may be initially disappointed, they’ll quickly adjust. Friends don’t need to like all the same things
or have the exact same opinions on everything to be able to appreciate one another. Your real friends will accept you for who you are.

Also, once you tell your pals the first time, it’s either not a problem anymore or it gets infinitely easier to deal with. My buddies came to accept that I was a non-drinker, and if they or anyone else asked me to drink it was increasingly easy to say no. Furthermore, whenever we were at a situation with a lot of new people, I felt like they always had my back about my choices and would support me in the face of anyone who gave me trouble.

#2 Go Where You’re Comfortable

As I tagged along with my friends to various events where alcohol was present, I gradually discovered what types of gatherings I could have fun at and those that I knew I wouldn’t enjoy. A significant part of that was the “level” of alcohol or how much the event centered on drinking.

Some non-drinkers are comfortable with even the wildest of frat parties, some only enjoy low-key BBQs with a few beers present, while others don’t like being around booze at all. For me, I was cool with kickbacks and small-sized parties, but anything much crazier than that and I’d decline the invite.dancing legs

Figure out where you are comfortable. If you’re feeling weird, don’t feel awkward about leaving the situation. Always know that your decision not to drink does not define you. Don’t think it dictates who you can or can’t be friends with or where you can or can’t go to have fun. That’s up to you.

#3 You Aren’t Alone

Sometimes it can feel like you’re the only one in the world not drinking, and pop culture often portrays being drunk as a requirement for a good time. But did you know roughly 70% of teens don’t drink?

Lots of people choose not to drink or do so only in moderation. When you are at a party or other social situation with alcohol, it’s likely there will be other people not drinking. Whether they’re the designated driver, totally abstain from alcohol, or need to get up early, you can usually find others who are sober.

friends hands edited

Also, countless entertaining activities don’t involve alcohol, everything from playing sports to hiking to shopping at the mall and more. Sure, a lot of my buddies like to drink, but that’s far from the only time we get together. Your friends will also be into doing other fun things. Capitalize on those opportunities.

#4 It’s All in How You Say It

The number one part of telling people you don’t want to drink is in the way you say it. No matter the exact words you use to say no or explain your reasoning, you need to be confident but polite. Go ahead and repeat that to yourself.

Confident but polite.

Confident: If you sound wishy-washy people might think you don’t really believe you don’t want to drink and just need a little convincing. Be assured in your decision and show it. I was at a kickback with a lot of people I didn’t know once, and it took at least three times as long for everyone to finally understand I wasn’t a drinker, all because I was too meek in my initial response.

Polite: On the flip side, you shouldn’t sound so over-confident as to be arrogant or aggressive. Doing so may seem like you are attacking everyone else. Make sure to thank them for offering—sometimes people ask you to be a good host—but then politely decline.

#5 Short but Sweet

Simplicity is your friend.

It is the greatest tool in your belt, the strongest weapon in your arsenal. When it comes to turning down a drink, simplicity is often the best tactic.

“Hey, do you want a shot?”

“Nah, man, I’m good.”

Boom. Drop the mic.

 Mic

Sometimes, less is more. You don’t need to go into long-winded explanations as to why you aren’t going to shotgun that beer if no one asks. Save yourself the time and effort and keep things short and simple. “No thanks,” “that’s alright, I’m fine,” and the like are all perfectly great responses that tend to garner equally great results. You didn’t make a big deal out of turning down a drink, so why should anyone else?

And if the first “I’m good” isn’t enough, you can always use the Broken Record Technique (aka the B.R.T.). Someone asks you again and again and again to drink? Just repeat the same short phrase again and again and again. They’ll take the hint.

*       *       *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for the remaining five awesome tips for non-drinkers!


Pictures From

Beer: From Len Rizzi (photographer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Group Picture & Picture of Hands: From the author.

Dancing: From www.audio-luci-store.it at www.flickr.com/photos/audiolucistore

Microphone: From Robert Bejil at www.flickr.com/photos/robnas/