DR. WALLACE: I'm not a teenager, but I still read your column regularly. Since I've done a nice job of messing my life up, I might be able to help to keep a few teens from messing up theirs. Teens are at a very impressionable age, and it's easy for them to do the wrong thing because their friends are doing it. Let's hope my story will help them become independent thinkers and not group thinkers who always follow the herd.
When I was 15, I started hanging around a group of older guys who were up to no good. Because I wanted to be just like they were, I started drinking beer and smoking pot. By the time I was 16, my drug use included cocaine, PCP and even heroin. Soon after my 16th birthday, I quit high school so I could devote more time to hanging around with my friends, drinking alcohol and doing drugs.
On my 17th birthday, I was busted with some friends for robbing a liquor store. We needed money for drugs. When I was 21, I was busted for robbing a string of gas stations in the Chicago area. That's why I'm now in prison. In one of those robberies, I used my gun as a weapon when a gas station worker resisted my demand for money. I shot him in the arm.
I've had some time in prison to look at my past and think about my future. I can say for a fact that my involvement with drugs landed me behind bars, but I've had to learn the hard way, and, with the grace of God, I will never use drugs again. I still have some time to serve, but in a few more years, I could be eligible for parole. I've made great strides in my thinking and have made use of the time I have been incarcerated.
I have promised myself that I will be an honorable citizen when I'm released. I wish I could live my life over again, starting at 15, but unfortunately our actions have consequences. Now I wait every single day for a second chance to live a useful, honorable life, even though I missed out on a lot of my youth. I sure hope even one young person somewhere reads this and it helps him or her to make better decisions than I did. — My Bad Decisions Still Sting, in prison
MY BAD DECISIONS: Thank you for caring about other young people and for taking the time to write out your story. When someone is open and honest about his or her mistakes, others who listen may be spared having to learn the same lessons the hard way. Your concern for others coupled with your desire to live an honorable life upon your release indicates to me that you are well on your way to recovery. Please know that I, along with many readers here, will be rooting hard for you.
PETS ARE FAITHFUL FRIENDS
DR. WALLACE: I'd like to have a pet. I'd prefer a puppy, but even a pet rock would be fine. My mom won't let me have one because she says they are dirty, messy, expensive, noisy and full of fleas. What can I do to change her mind? I'm 15 and live alone with my mother, and a pet would be a great friend for me, especially when Mom isn't home. — Anonymous, via email
ANONYMOUS: Having a pet requires responsibility. Besides needing food and daily care, the pet should be trained and, in the cases of dogs and cats, neutered or spayed. But I believe a pet is well worth the cost and effort. Pets are faithful friends who bring immense joy and longer lives to their owners.
Almost half of all families in America have at least one family member that barks, meows, chirps, squeaks, slithers or crows. Invite Mom to take a visit to the local animal shelter. It just might help you to her change her mind about having a pet. And, of course, before you go, be sure to tell her (and mean it!) that you will take full responsibility in caring for a new pet if you are to adopt one.
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.