Growing up can be a very exciting time in your life.  It seems like everything is changing.  Your body is growing and changing day to day.  You may be going to a new school, making new friends and dealing with new situations you’ve never experienced before.  Your interests and goals are changing, as well as your plans for the future.  In the middle of all this change it’s sometimes hard to remember who you are.  You’re developing independence and feel ready for more responsibility but it seems like everyone is still telling you what to do.  On top of all that, every day you’re confronted with choices from the moment you wake up until you go to bed at night.  Some choices are easy, but others can be tough and each choice leads to even more choices.  Some choices may seem unimportant at the time, but even small choices can end up affecting your whole life.

One of the biggest choices you’ll face in your life is whether or not to try drugs and alcohol.  You may have already had to deal with this choice, or you may have to deal with it in the future.  You may even know people who have tried or currently use drugs and alcohol.  The media such as television, movies and magazines might make drugs and alcohol look glamorous and exciting, but the reality is that they are dangerous.  When you’re feeling confused and stressed they may seem like a way out, but in the end they’ll just make things worse.  Drugs change the way your body works and how you think.  They can cause you to lose interest in things that you enjoy, and they can ruin your relationships with the people you care about.  Your judgement is impaired and things are not “real” when you are high.

The best way to avoid drugs and alcohol is to have a reason to say ‘no’.  Saying no can be hard, especially when you want to fit in, but having a good reason that you believe in makes it easier.  Nothing gives you a better reason for saying no than by having goals that don’t involve drugs.  Maybe you want to become a famous athlete and compete for your country in the Olympics. Or maybe you want to be a wildlife photographer who travels the world photographing endangered animals. Maybe your dream is to be a computer game designer working on the next blockbuster game.  You can be anything you want to be.  You may not have all the details worked out yet, but you know you want exciting and great things for your life. Now you just have to figure out how to get those things.  Right now your future is full of possibilities so don’t close the door on any of them by saying ‘yes’ to drugs or alcohol.

Drugs can sabotage your goals and prevent you from reaching them.  If you love sports, drugs can affect the way your mind and body work so that you’re not playing your best.  If you’re saving up to buy something like a new video game system, getting involved in drugs is a good way to make sure that you never have any money.  Getting involved in drugs affects all areas of your life.  Getting caught with drugs can give you a criminal record which is then yours forever.  A criminal record can prevent you from travelling, getting a job, or it can cause you to lose a job you already have.  Getting involved in drugs can ruin your relationships with your parents and friends.  The most important thing to remember is that YOU are the person who is ultimately responsible for the decisions you make in your life.  The moment-to-moment choices you make every single day can be life-altering in a split second.  Thinking about these choices ahead of time, realizing how important they can be and making informed decisions is part of being a mature, responsible individual.

Peer pressure is a big part of growing up, but your friends can also be some of your strongest deterrents against doing drugs.  Wanting to fit in and be like your friends is a pretty powerful force.  Choosing friends who have the same values as you makes peer pressure work for you in a positive way instead of a negative way.   You and your friends have a huge influence on each other and you won’t want to do things that would make the other disappointed in you.  When it comes to drugs and alcohol, it can be very hard to say no if the offer comes from someone you consider to be a friend.  It is at those times that peer pressure is a negative influence and you will need to be strong in your own convictions.  Walking away can be hard, but remember:  you can think for yourself and make your own good decisions.  You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to or that isn’t in your best interests.  A true friend won’t pressure you into doing things that you are uncomfortable with either.  A true friend will back you up and support your good choices.  So take advantage of the support that you and your friends can give each other.

One of the most important parts of growing up is making the right decisions for your future.  It can be tough.  Sometimes it may seem impossible.  Even adults don’t always make the best choices for themselves, maybe even some of the adults in your life.  Remember, even though it doesn’t always seem like it, you ultimately choose the direction of your life and you are responsible for the decisions you make. You have a responsibility to yourself for finding the right people, or information that can help you make good decisions.  You have the ability to choose good role models for yourself.  They can be a teacher, a coach, a relative or a youth leader.  A mentor can be anyone, but it should be someone that you respect, who helps you define your goals and inspires you to find positive ways to achieve them.  You can even find support in books which blueprint ideals and values that you identify with.

You’re not alone.  You do have allies and people who want to help you.  Though you might not appreciate it right now, your parents really do want the best for you.  They had similar hopes and dreams when they were your age, and now they want to make sure that you can achieve yours.  Let them know what’s going on in your life and the challenges you are facing.  Who knows, they may have some advice or wisdom to share with you.  Maybe hearing about their experiences will help you deal with your own.  After all, they’ve probably gone through some of the exact same things you’re going through now.  If you let them in and tell them what’s going on in your life you’ll be amazed at how supportive and understanding they can be.

As you grow older and become more independent and responsible, you are faced with more and more choices. Each choice you make has consequences, which can either be beneficial or detrimental to you. The consequences of using drugs and alcohol will affect aspects of your whole life and your relationships, so don’t make this choice lightly. You are responsible for your own actions but remember, your actions will also affect the people you love. Positive role models, true friends and supportive parents will make it easier, but no one else can live your life for you.. it’s up to YOU to make most of your life.

The subject of drugs is not an easy one to discuss at the best of times.  Drugs may or may not be part of your experiences, but drugs are a fact of life.  Communication is one of the best ways to help you to make a choice for yourself.  You could talk about caffeine in cola, or why some people drink on holidays.  You may have some questions that you want the answers for or an experience that you would like to talk about.  Nothing can substitute for the knowledge you may gain by talking with the people closest to you in life; your parents, teachers, counsellors, spiritual leaders, etc.  These people are here to help you.  They have experienced life longer than you and are better able to answer your questions or to just sit down and have a talk.  After all, who knows you better, who cares about you more and who wants the best for you?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I know?
  • What do I value?
  • What are my feelings?
  • What has happened before?
  • What might happen?

The best choice for me would be:

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