DR. WALLACE: I'm addressing my letter to every young person who has started or is tempted to consume alcohol. It all looks so good, and alcohol companies do a very superb job of convincing you to try 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 drink alcohol regularly but never to the extent of being "bombed." It was cocktails before dinner and an 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.
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 over the years, but his dad never even realized it. By the age of 15, I "advanced" to hard liquor.
When I found my parents' whiskey, I started by taking just a little from an already opened bottle and then finally got money to buy my own bottles. Believe it or not, I was buying whiskey at the age of 15 from a "friendly" owner of a local liquor store. By age 16, I quit school because I needed a job to have money to buy the hard stuff. By the time I celebrated my 18th birthday, I was a full-blown alcoholic.
One drinking binge caused me to go into a coma. I guess you can call this my lucky break because after I was released from the hospital, I checked into an alcoholic unit of a psychiatric hospital. I was fortunate my parents had insurance that allowed me to get the necessary treatment I needed.
I am now a recovering alcoholic and have not had a drink of alcohol in over seven months. In the past few months, I've gotten my life back in order. I'm enrolled in night school, and I hope to have my high school diploma in a year. I also plan to go to college. I'm fortunate to have a decent-paying job that can support my car and expenses, plus I am able to regularly save a bit for my junior college expenses. Alcohol wasted five years of my life. It's going to take me a few years to catch up, but believe me, I will. Fellow teenagers, please do not make the same mistakes I did. — Been There and Praying to Never Go Back, Tampa, Florida
BEEN THERE: Thank you for sharing your story with our teen readers. Alcohol abuse is America's No. 1 drug problem among our youth. Alcohol use by 12-, 15- and 16-year-olds, as detailed in your personal story, truly has no positives — only negatives. I'm sorry to hear your sad tale of physical and mental challenges that you subsequently had to deal with as a result of your use of alcohol so early in life.
My staff and I — and I am sure many readers — are very happy to hear that you are in the process of turning your life around at this time. Take things day by day, and stay vigilant with your sobriety. You must protect it at all times. If you do ever feel tempted to taste alcohol again, think back and remember the pain and suffering it has caused you.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.