Dr. Wallace:

I’m addressing my letter to every young person who has started drinking alcohol, or is tempted to start. It all looks so good, and alcohol companies do a superb job of convincing people to try their products. Then they end their ads by telling you not to drive after drinking and that consuming alcohol is not intended for those underage. That’s all a con job. Alcohol companies make money when they sell their products.

Alcohol almost ruined my life. I hope my letter can convince more than a few young adults that alcohol can be a one-way street to self-destruction. My parents drank alcohol regularly, but never to the extent of being “bombed.” It was the cocktails before dinner and the after-dinner drink. On the weekends it was a few beers while watching athletic events. Even when I was very young I had the impression that alcohol was good and the only reason they didn’t give any to me was that it was too expensive.

When I was 12, I convinced my best friend that we should try alcohol. His dad was a big beer drinker and his refrigerator was always loaded with his favorite brew. I can’t tell you the number of beers (hundreds) we stole, but his dad never noticed it.

By age 15, I “advanced” to hard liquor because beer didn’t provide me with an ultimate high. I found that my parents’ whiskey did. I started by taking a little from an already opened bottle, but was soon getting money to buy my own. Believe it or not, I was buying whiskey at age 15 from a “friendly” owner of a liquor store. By age 16, I quit school because I needed a job to provide money to buy the hard stuff. It wasn’t cheap. By the time I celebrated my 18th birthday, I was a full-blown alcoholic. I’d get so drunk that I passed out often.

One episode of drinking caused me to go into a coma. I didn’t wake up for three days. I guess you can call this my lucky break because after I was released from the hospital, I checked into the alcoholic unit of a psychiatric hospital. I was fortunate that my parents had insurance that allowed me to get the treatment I needed.

I am now a recovering alcoholic and have not had a drink in over seven months. In the past two months, I’ve gotten my life back in order. I am now attending night school and hope to have my high school diploma in a year. I’m fortunate to have a job so I can pay for my car expenses, plus I’m able to save a bit regularly. I hope I can go on to college. Alcohol wasted five years of my life. It’s going to take me a few years to catch up, but believe me, I will!

Teens, it’s just not cool to drink booze! If you are tempted to start drinking, don’t give in. If you do, you could travel my path before you stop. But believe me, it just isn’t worth it.

— Former Alcoholic, Anaheim, Calif.

Former Alcoholic: Thanks so much for sharing your story. Alcohol abuse is America’s No. 1 drug problem. According to the National Council on Alcoholism, an estimated 4.6 million people between the ages of 14 and 18 have experienced at least one unfortunate consequence of alcohol use, including arrest, traffic accident, health problem, or deteriorated school performance. The use of alcohol has absolutely no positives, only negatives.

Write to Dr. Wallace at rwallace@galesburg.net.

Write to Dr. Wallace at rwallace@galesburg.net.