Calling All Friends of Bill W.

This isn't politics, but it's terrifying nevertheless. The most saddening part is hearing a teenager in high school argue that throwing down some liquor is the only way to unwind after a hard week. How many harder weeks and months and years have some of us brought on ourselves by thinking like that?

I'm not as shocked by the idea of teenage drinking as I am by the professed attitude, expressed at such a young age: that alcohol is a routine comfort, and sometimes the only comfort.

I never believed in the scared straight bull. It surely never worked for me. But, damn, I'm sorry for some of these kids. There's a big world out there waiting to smack them around for no discernible reason during much of the next 70 years of their lives, and they talk as if they're exempt from the sorts of tragedies and miscalculations that we bring on ourselves.

Anyway, read for yourself:

High School Students Say Drinking Safe, Strictly Social



Friends, Professionals and Community Leaders,

The crisis of underage drinking and drug use in our communities is of epic proportions. Rather than making in-roads, our children are using more substances, more frequently and doing so at an earlier age.

I have been involved in a number of meetings of late with community leaders, professionals and parents in an effort to try to understand why we are so completely ineffective in bringing order to this chaos?

The Problem:

There are probably many factors that go into answering this question. However, the one I am particularly interested in exploring, is the one that involves parents in our communities.

Here are a few parental attitudes that have surfaced, regarding drinking and drugs which, I believe, contribute to the crisis and therefore must be challenged:

1. Its OK as long as they don't drink and drive.

2. We did it and turned out ok.

3. Kids are going to experiment, so I'd rather they did it here in the house with me, in a controlled way.

4. It's a 'rights of passage'...everybody does it.

5. Learning to be responsible about drinking, requires that they drink.

6. They're going to do it anyway when they go off to college.

7. It's unrealistic to think that kids are going to abstain from drinking until 21.

8. I trust my kids to do the right thing. (thus I can leave them home alone on a weekend)

9. Why aren't the schools and law enforcement dealing with or fixing the problem?

10. As long as my kids don't drink, let somebody else worry about it.

11. My kids would be so mad at me (and never tell me anything again) if I 'turned in' one of their friends.

The Plan:

It has been suggested that one way to come together and take a stand on this issue, is to create a series of Public Forums designed to examine the above attitudes and address this question and others like it:

"As a community, what are we willing to tackle in order to make the necessary changes (including our own attitudes & parental responsibilities)that will allow children to grow up safe and healthy?"

I Need Your Help:

I am in the process of setting up a series of 3 forums over the summer and into the fall, that will serve as a platform for this discussion. These forums will be supported by the Police Department and various other organizations. Following these meetings, the plan is to bring our "findings" to town officials with specific requests as to what our communities demand as the standard on this issue.

In the short-term, I need specific help in 2 areas.

#1. I need a 'few good men/women' to work together with me on a "temporary" committee to help figure out the logistics of holding public forums (securing a place, choosing a date and time, and figuring out the best way to spread the word to ALL members of the community...not just parents but officials and concerned citizens.) The community is defined as, but not limited to, "Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Durham, Hillsborough and all of the surrounding counties, Orange, Chatham, Durham, Person, etc. If you know communities that have been successful in dealing with this problem, drag them along.

#2. Send me emails of people that should be included on the notification list, once the forums are set up. Also, forwarding emails to people you think need to be involved in these discussions may prove be the most powerful way to get the word out.

If you are willing to work with me on a temporary basis setting up the forums, please contact me this week before the holiday weekend, so we can get the ball rolling. Thank you in advance for your time and concern.

With Appreciation,

Dale Pratt-Wilson

919-942-3300 (home/office)

919-949-0943 (voice mail)

PS--as to leaving kids "home alone"--Not mine. Not until they are 21. BOTH of them 21. I have way too many memories of my younger brother at age 17--19 inviting "a few friends" over. I used to leave my little bro' to his own devices and stayed at a friend's. (SOME of us worked morning shift in the summer!) They never trashed the house--but they DID cover the bottom of the pool with beer bottle caps one night...

Anita, good for you. I'm glad you supported the police. I always check with a parent to make certain a parent will be HOME before my HSer goes somewhere. Which doesn't mean he's never had anything alchoholic to drink--I'd be a fool to assume that--but DOES assure that he'll at LEAST have to sneak. He knows his Dad and I disapprove of underage drinking--primarily because of what it can do to a still developing brain. Can one completely shield one's children from alcohol? No. BUT one can CERTAINLY make it more difficult. All wine and beer in our house is counted and accounted FOR. We do not keep hard liqour in the house--and won't until everyone is of age. Yeah, sometimes I'd like to have a G&T--but I'll live. Wish everyone else were as careful! (But I rather enjoy my rep as the "meanest Mom in the world...")


P.S. I had a drink while typing that post.

As to being afraid of failing if they don't study hard enough--no they aren't afraid of FAILING--they ARE afraid of getting C's. They've been told, time and again, that if they don't get straight A's and take multiple AP's they won't get into a "good" college. Actually, I know a NUMBER of kids who played the game this year, and STILL didn't get into UNC (Chapell Hill)...with 1400+ on the SAT and above 4.0 grade averages. When one young woman's counselor called to find out "why" she was told it was because she "only had 3 AP classes."

My own very bright Sophomore announced last week that he doesn't intend to take ANY AP classes. He said this in a way that made it clear he expected an argument--and was clearly shocked when I said "fine." I informed him that one should only take AP's if one WANTS to. When I informed an acquaintance of this proclamation she said (and I quote) : "Good luck getting him into college." (A statement that is wrong on MANY levels.) Please. My kid gets decent grades. He'll have stellar board scores (WITHOUT coaching--my kids just test well.) He'll get into college SOMEWHERE. He thinks he might want to go to art school. If we were "playing the game" We'd be paying someone to help him put together his entrance portfolio--and insisting on him taking additional studio courses outside of school, rather than letting him work out his art on his own...but we DON'T play. It's not upt to US to "get him into college." Only HE can do that.

If he WANTS to take an AP, good for him. I'm hoping he'll decide to take AP Art History when he's a senoir. THAT I think he would get something out of...but while he'll qualify for Calc, it's not that interesting to him--he'll be happier in Discreet Math. I'm not going to insist he take four years of foreign language, unless he WANTS to. Three is enough. Ditto with science--he'll get into college SOMEWHERE--and be perfectly happy. This is NOT the message most of our kids receive. The counselors push them. Many of their parents push them. Most of their peers buy into this. When my kid announced his NO AP policy his buddy, who was havind dinner with us, said "Dude, you've GOT to take AP's." No, you don't.

And we wonder why they drink?

Sorry this turned into a rant...


Duncan, yes you should have started this thread. It's a good one and important although maybe not political. I found the article appalling because it seemed like fiction.

I think the teens interviewed who said they "needed" a drink after a grueling week of public education is second hand adult speak they probably hear at home. I remember my dad always saying he "needed a cigarette" so I thought it would be a good idea to smoke too. I came to my senses and quit 10 years later. Gosh, to think of what substance of choice they'll have to resort to after a grueling week of college, or grad school or...dare I say working to support a family, mortgage, etc. I think that was the whole point of your thread, that they "needed to unwind"...That makes me really sad that kids (my generation or theirs) have to resort to that kind of thinking.

Do I think it's ok to have some beer or enjoy a nice wine with dinner with the folks? Heck yeah! I was raised like that, not in Europe, but southwestern PA. In high school/college it was our goal to get ripped or smoke some pot every weekend "just for fun" not to deal with educational stress. At the worst we could only blame it on peer pressure.

There will always be irresponsible teens (and adults) who feel the urge to guzzle jaeger-meister until 3AM (which could lead to an embarrassing "Girls Gone Wild Video").

I wish saying "grow up" would be enough, but I'll leave it at: study hard...drink responsibly...enjoy your youth while it lasts...don't drink and drive...and as my dad always said "girl...don't mix your liquor".

Thanks Friend. You've got a lot to be proud of, and I don't want to seem like I'm not respecting that. I bet you're a good and inspirational speaker.

[Delete long discussion of AA and 12-step programs, which would probably be best held offline. E-mail me if you like.]

I'm not surprised that there's pressure on kids around here. I don't understand why I keep getting accused of being surprised by this. For the record: I'm not surprised by anything. (But even if I were surprised? The "why are you surprised" argument is not that helpful, just an acknowledgment of things as they are. OK, I _was_ surprised by all the high school kids at that meeting; I've gone to meetings all over the country, and I'd never seen that.)

I'm not willing to write off those quotes as the work of an exploitative reporter looking to sell newspapers, whose sources were either drunk or pulling her leg.I prefer to take them at face value until proven otherwise. Therefore, you're exactly right to point out how elitism, me-firstism, and unfair parental expectations exacerbate what is an inherent tendency to experiment and have fun -- taking kids, in their minds, from "wanting" to drink to "needing" to drink. It's a fine line, I know, but I know that anyone who claims to "need" to drink, and believes it, has crossed an important line.

Maybe it was just that one kid, I don't know, and maybe he's full of sh*t. I should never have started this thread.

AA meetings with a lot of kids in them are a GOOD thing, not bad. Any rationalization of drinking ("needing to") is suspect; there is never any reason beyond desire (or dependence). The pressures that teenagers feel are real. The sooner any of us develop appropriate coping skills the better off we are.

Again, I felt no special pressure to do well in school yet I got drunk anyway.

Why feel guilty about this thread? There have been may far worse.

I grew up in Chapel Hill and started drinking when I was 14. When I got caught by the police they just sent me home. Now if kids get caught they are sent to AA meetings.......The friends I drank with went different ways. Some still drink moderately, some way too much and I became a heroin addict. Throughout history it has been ever thus, approximately 10% of the population is susceptible to addiction. It is hard to know this exactly but it appears true. Some cultures struggle more maybe some less.

Kids have always drunk and probably always will. I grew up with the most sophisticated "don't ask, don't tell" parental system imaginable. As long as I got reasonable grades, worked, was respectful and pleasant to be around and didn’t throw up in the living room; I was allowed to do as I pleased (I also moved out at 18). My parents had no idea what I was up to and, I think preferred it that way. My 4 brothers and sisters were raised in the same way and between them didn’t drink or do drugs one tenth as much as I did.

Newspapers write stories so people will buy the papers. Quoting a seventeen year old (maybe even a drunk one) is a great way to get a provocative quote. People always have reasons why they drink or do drugs (or shirk work to post to OP), they mostly don’t matter. Why did I become a heroin addict? Because I liked to do heroin.

So twelve years ago I stopped. I was intervened on, went to treatment and have been a friend of Bill Ws ever since. That’s why Duncan’s quote: "The worse dire pronouncement, in 12-Step programs in the United States, is that you'll never be able to have a drink again; I cry to think of how many people who could have used some help _before_ they hit bottom were frightened away by that little piece of so-called wisdom." hit me. People who are addicted to drugs or alcohol get put off by anything that helps them rationalize their situation. What’s so important about drinking alcohol that giving it up to improve your life is too great a price to pay. I knew I shouldn’t smoke cocaine and snort heroin but what was the harm in a little Budweiser? It was only when I quit drinking that I stopped everything else as well. AA works for who it works for. The program of AA only makes suggestions there are no rules. There are assholes everywhere, in and out of AA.

I stray from teenage drinking in Chapel Hill. It’s a surprise that kids in this town are under pressure. When AIG program changes are met with such furor? When a potential merger between the city and county schools is met with an elitist outcry? If I had moved my whole family here from elsewhere for the school system I’d put pressure on my kids too. Of course this isn’t why kids drink. They drink because they want to.

Two of my own children are starting high school. I know they will be exposed to drugs and alcohol. I will probably freak just like everyone else when it happens……


I'm all in favor of teaching "decision-making skills, building self-esteem, and open communication." This is especially true when you recognize that teenagers will drink -- and no one on this thread has suggested anything to the contrary. I began this thread as one that expressed sadness at the _reasons_ given for drinking, not the drinking itself. For the most part, that idea (the rationalizations in the article were disturbing) has been expanded upon by others on this thread. No one has raised the concept of abstinence except you, and no one's arguing with you.


Duncan, I agree with your point. (I wrote the previous comment @11:33 before I had seen your most recent one @11:24. It wasn't intended to be a rebuttal.) It just seems that many of the parents in the article are not responding to the teens' feeling adult-type pressures (which I agree is sad and disturbing).


No, you were not overreacting ! I am sorry the other parents were not more supportive of the police, of order in our society, and of you. I applaud you for however you handled this situation---sounds like you are on the ball, and on the right track and things will work out well in the end for your child.

there is a good article in a recent time magazine which extensively examines research into children's brains, and finds that judgment is one of the last areas to come along.........

I don't think that this is widely understtod by parents-kids these days seem so grown up in many ways. It is easy for us to be deceived and thus to be be a little bit too permissive about dangerous situations.

My statement about Europe is based mostly on my own experience as a teenager in England (a LONG time ago) and on friends of my dad, who currently lives in London. We still did drink anti-socially, because it seemed much cooler then the alternative (and because we were younger than the age at which it was considered publicly acceptable even there).

But anyway I would take the Ashcroft opinion with a large grain of salt; most of the criteria seem to be based on the assumption that teens should never drink under any circumstances, so it can't possibly assess whether "young people from Europe ... drink more responsibly" as it claims to do.

Again, I'm not saying kids SHOULD be drinking, just that many of them will - in spite of (or even because of) grown-ups' attempts to stop them. I'd like to see the schools teach decision-making skills, build self-esteem, and model open communication so that we can trust our children to make good, safe decisions (with their parents' guidance).

The site mis-translated my post above into HTML.

Here's the correct link to the report I mentioned:

I didn't say anything about "abstinence-only," certainly not anything positive. As I said, I'm not shocked that teenagers are drinking. When I was a teenager, I drank, and drank a lot.

My point was only that hearing a teenager express the same sort of sentiment you hear from alcoholics in rehab -- "I don't know any other way to get over the stress of the week," to paraphrase -- is saddening and seems new, not the kind of thing I heard from my high school friends while we were pounding Natty Bo's. When I was a teenager, I drank for fun, not out of world-weary resignation. (That came later.)

I've spent quite a bit of time in Europe -- my parents lived in Denmark for three years, and I've been back and forth to Denmark for the better part of 25 years-- and I know all about the culture of drinking there, having been falling-down drunk all over Copenhagen and the greater Copenhagen metropolitan area. Believe me, there were plenty of supposedly well-socialized Danes and Swedes puking in the gutters while I stumbled by looking for more Carlsberg. The debatable "fact" that "European" kids drink with their families (kind of true), and therefore learn to drink socially (I'm not sure what that means), does not at all mean that they learn to drink healthily and responsibly.

This little canard -- that in Europe, the early introduction leads to future "proper" drinking, and that it's repressive American mores that cause alcoholism -- gets trotted out constantly, but it's false. Europeans are no less susceptible to "alcoholism" than Americans -- the difference is that we define it differently, and treat it differently. Someone we'd call an alcoholic with a disease -- say, someone who drinks until they pass out 5 days a week -- wouldn't necessarily be considered an alcoholic with a disease in Denmark until their liver starts to protest and they begin to look yellow and undernourished. (Up to that point, they're a "problem drinker," if that.) Whatever the varying definitions, drinking culture is not more civilized in Europe, believe me. (Or, at least, it's not in Northern Europe.)

I'm not a fan of 12-step, temperance movements either, or the moralism, zealotry and crypto-religiosity of much of the alcoholism-as-disease community. I've got my own reasons for feeling that way. The one thing some European countries have done well is to take a broader approach to "problem drinking" without freighting the term with all sorts of moralistic baggage and dire pronouncements.(The worse dire pronouncement, in 12-Step programs in the United States, is that you'll never be able to have a drink again; I cry to think of how many people who could have used some help _before_ they hit bottom were frightened away by that little piece of so-called wisdom.)

(But again, none of this has to do with the alleged benefits of early alcohol use under parental supervision. There's nothing I've been able to find in the alcohol treatment literature that backs that idea up, Ruby. It's an old tall tale.)

Having said all that, I think that what those kids said in that article are things not to be taken lightly. Every problem drinker/drug addict/dead drinker/dead drug addict I've ever known has started somewhere with some sort of rationalization. Rationalization is the coin of the realm in Drunk World.

I don't care if every uptight little E. Chapel Hill wanker gets loaded every damned day -- that's their business, and if they want to quit someday that will be their decision. I was more disturbed by the reasons given for drinking, which were the reasons of people depressed, overworked and unimaginative. Those are sad things to see in a teenager.

But I shouldn't have been surprised -- go to a meeting around here, especially a certain weekend-night meeting I won't name, and see how many high school kids are in the room. Easily 20-30. (Note to 12-step Police: I'm not breaking any rule by reporting that.) Many are interested in getting off whatever they're addicted to, but for many it seems like it's a joke, and probably something their parents make them do as punishment for something. Plus they get to bum cigarettes off all the old-timers, who are always good for a smoke, and even _I_ know that a big meeting is often the best place to score. Ironic but true.

I shouldn't have brought this subject up. (But it was cute to be accused of being a prude. How I wish!)

Ruby, I can't vouch for the accuracy of the conclusions reported at's based on a study by the Justice Department under teetotaling John Ashcroft--but it may be that your comparison to Europe is erroneous.

I'm sort of surprised that anyone is surprised about this. In Europe, high school-age kids drink WITH their family, and they learn how to do it socially. In the U.S. kids drink away from any watchful eyes (like when Anita and her husband are out of town) and they learn to do it anti-socially (binge drinking, hangingout with scuzzy/druggy types, drunk driving, etc).

I'm not saying everyone should go out and buy beer for their kids. But our current "zero tolerance" approach to alcohol is about as effective as "abstinence-only" sex education - which is to say it's not. Kids are going to drink and experiment. Adults may try to ban it, but kids know that "everyone does it." Didn't everyone do it (or at least try it) when you were students?

So it makes parents looks like they're either out of touch with reality or in denial of it. Neither of which adds to their credibility when they tell kids to not to drink (or do drugs or have sex or...). In fact, I'd argue it makes kids think lying and double standards are just part of dealing with parents. Pretty much the opposite of what the goal is, no?

I don't blame Anita for punishing her kid, he lied and had a party in her house without her permission. But I think the community outrage is a bit much. Let's try a look for productive approaches to keeping kids safer.

unfortunately my house was one of those destination points last saturday. my husband and i went out of town for a night, left our 18 year old home alone, who promptly discarded any rational thinking skills she possessed, invited "just a few" friends over, who invited "just a few" friends over----well you get the idea.

The purpose of my post is not to embarass anyone, but it was interesting what happened later. We have punished our kid and tried to use this as a teaching opportunity about WHY we don't condone this behavior. However, at least a handful of parents have contacted me to say I am overreacting, several of them were openly hostile to the police when they called to tell them their little darlings were drunk at an unsupervised party at 2:40 am on Sunday, and many of the kids at the party have had no consequences imposed by their parents. Not one of these kids was older than 18, and many were even younger.

I don't think any of these kids are bad, but they were stupid. And it's a parent's role to help our kids "smarten up" when they make bad choices. We get the opportunity to teach them before the consequences get really painful and long lasting---like death, injury, arrests, or addiction.

But it's pretty hard to teach kids something when it isn't reinforced by the people who raise them. While I respect a parent's right to disagree with me, I think that condoning behavior that can get your child arrested or physically harmed is not in your kid's best interests. yes they may do it anyway, but at least they know where YOU stand. Even one of these convictions can bar a person from certain career opportunities, scholarships, penalize them on insurance and other things. And accidentswell I don't need to paint the picture.

"After you've been sitting in school all week, and told you'll fail if you don't study more and do your homework and do more work, everybody wants to go out and drink," she said.

Who exactly is telling kids, in the above quote from the article, they will fail if they don't study more? In my experience, high school students in this district who do very little work still get C's.......and that is hardly failing. Maybe this child is laboring under the misimpression that not getting top grades in top courses is the same as failing. That is too bad, as well.......... I know a lot of people who ended up making quite a nice way for themselves in life without having a stellar high school career behind them.

Tes, Duncan, this was really shocking. The kids' attitudes are depressing; their parents' seeming approval infuriating.

And who really believes that these kids aren't driving after (or while) drinking?


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