Sorcha writes about our relationship with alcohol
This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of SpunOut.ie. It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for SpunOut.ie please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am sixteen years old. I don’t drink and I’ve never been drunk. For some reason, that seems to come as a surprise to some people. Maybe it’s because my friend, age 15, has been to multiple AA meetings and my other friend, age 14, once found a half empty wine bottle in the bushes in Stephen’s Green - and then started drinking what was left in it. Maybe it was because of my friend who didn’t even make it to Junior Night, because he passed out before he got there.
As I got into my pre-teen years, my mother always told me never to put stuff up on the Internet that I didn’t want my future employers to see. Now, when I go on Snapchat, the stories are filled with my friends drunkenly screaming the words to songs from Hamilton and there are actually some images up on Facebook of people, age 14, 15 and 16, holding beer bottles and talking about the ‘sesh’ they had last night.
I always thought that if I did that, I’d be arrested because underage drinking is illegal and I was under the impression that the Gardaí actually did things other than suspiciously watch teenagers drink alcohol out of a 7-up bottle.
So why do young people drink?
They’re under the impression that it’s fun, because they see all these people on Facebook looking like they’re having a great laugh with their Vodka. They’re under the impression that it will take away the stress of exams and school in general, it will fix their problems temporarily. I personally think the reason most teenagers drink is for the experience. They see their friends drinking it and nothing horrific happening to them like in the documentaries we were shown about alcoholism in school. So they think, ‘Well, I could do that too’.
I grew up believing that alcohol is a reward of some kind. Something went well at work? Celebrate it with a pint. Your favourite football team won the match? Off to the pub you go! You’ve been stressed all week and finally get some time to yourself? Pour yourself a glass of wine and watch your favourite TV show. Teenagers see this in their own parents and on TV and begin to use it to apply to themselves. Got good results in your Junior or Leaving Cert? Results Night, a night filled with alcohol and regret! It’s your birthday and you’ve got a free gaf? Thank God, you’ve got that one friend who magically has alcohol wherever they go! Your best friend from another county is in Dublin for the first time in months? Take them to bank.
I have no problem with my friends who drink. They, hopefully, understand the risks and consequences and they have made the decision to drink themselves. That has nothing to do with me so I’m hardly going to tell them not to do it.
I have a problem with it when they start joking about being alcoholics. Drug addiction is not funny and it never has been. It ruins lives, it tears apart families and I can assure you that most alcoholics will say that they wish they’d never picked a bottle up in the first place.
Romanticisation of mental illnesses is already such a dangerous issue and we cannot afford to begin romanticising alcoholism and drug addiction. Being addicted to any form of drug whether it be illegal or legal is not cool, fun or entertaining. It is an issue that should not be taken lightly and it’s not something teenagers should feel is badass or rebellious.
Yes, I probably sound like the annoying, sober friend, but why is that a bad thing? When did sobriety become uncool? I shouldn’t have to feel bad for not drinking, I shouldn’t have to feel like I’m missing out.
If you feel like you or someone else you know has a problem surrounding alcohol or drugs, contact 1800 459 459. It’s a drug and alcohol helpline; free and confidential.