One of Ted’s first drinking experiences was at a friend’s house. The mom was home, providing the alcohol. She decided that it was better for drinking to take place under her roof where she could supervise. Bush and I were not consulted on this decision. I knew and liked this mom, I called her to make sure she was home when Ted was there. We talked quite a bit but somehow the fact that she was serving liquor to my barely-high-school-age child never came up.
Do I blame this mom for Ted’s addictions? Certainly not. We had kid parties at our house up until sneaky drinking started. You can bet that some of it dropped through the cracks of our policing, but students have told me of parents engaging in drinking games with their kids’ friends in their homes. Wisconsin is also the only state where parents can take their kids into bars and order up for them. If you’ve lived in another state like we have, you see that our Wisco culture here is messed up.
You don’t immunize a child to alcoholism by exposing him to alcohol early. In fact, you are providing the first dose of what could be a poison that ruins or takes his or her life. Heavy stuff, I know, but come along to open AA meetings and hear how enslavement with alcohol started with a child’s first drink, given or snuck. “I felt it go down my throat and I knew that this was the solution to my problem.” Then it became the problem.
You cannot know or control if the young person to whom you are giving alcohol will become addicted. Here’s a haunting answer to a question posed to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence: Can a person be too young to become addicted to alcohol and drugs? No. And, research and experience show that the younger someone starts using alcohol and drugs, the greater the chance that they will become addicted.
Kids who start drinking alcohol before age 15 are 5 times more likely to develop alcohol abuse or dependence than people who first used alcohol at age 21 or older. A study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine showed that 47% of those who began drinking before age 15 experienced alcohol dependence at some point in their life, compared to 9% percent of those who began drinking at age 21 or older.
Blog for another day: the frontal cortex of the teen-age brain (decision-making and risk-taking) isn’t fully developed until about age 24. Our law exists for a reason.
I drank and never became an alcoholic, but my father did and my son did and I regularly pray for a long list of church and non-church kids who are addicts now. I realize that many if not most church people (or any people) think their child will never be an addict — that’s what I thought. There’s no vaccine but there’s a degree of prevention. Even if we think it won’t happen to us, we buckle our seat belt. No point in taking chances.