IF YOU'RE under 20, chances are 7 out of 10 that you already have some experience with alcohol. From the global picture, it's clear that teenagers almost everywhere consume more alcohol than their predecessors. Three out of ten under 20 don't seem to handle it too well. These young people are already "problem drinkers" — who for one reason or another cannot control their consumption of alcoholic beverages. Statistically, these young people get drunk at least six times a year, have run-ins with police, suffer problems in school and/or with friends, family or driving. If you personally aren't one of these problem drinkers (whether teenage or not), the odds are that you know someone who is. But how can parents and teenagers cope with this problem, and learn the use of alcohol in the proper setting?
Cause and Effect
It must immediately be pointed out that teenage alcoholism and alcohol abuse are only symptoms of a far more complex problem: the worldwide disintegration of family responsibilities. Men and women today generally receive and/or seek very little in-depth education in preparation for marriage and the bearing of children. The result? Unhappy relationships, later broken marriages and children with mental complexes. It has often been said that in a divorce, the children suffer most. If you're a helpless victim of this tragedy of needless separation, you understand! But what most don't realize is that suffering and problems resulting from unstable families are virtually permanent in this physical life. The problems encountered in one family often reappear in later families. If not consciously arrested and resolved, family problems can (often, tend to) be self-perpetuating. And this includes the problem of alcohol abuse. Concerning alcohol, this means that worldwide teenage alcohol problems simply mirror the problems affecting the parents. Example by parents and society plays an important role in adolescent alcohol experiences. "Not realizing the effect of your own social drinking on youngsters is the major blunder of parents," wisely warns Dr. Ruth Fox, a psychiatrist and alcoholism specialist. Children are powerful imitators of their parents. During time spent at home, children watch their parents for clues on how they live. When the father (or mother) comes in after work and says, "I need a drink," the lesson is not lost on the child. The subtle meaning given is that living life requires a place for alcohol — mostly as a social anesthetic. Further, with the spiraling increases in worldwide divorce, children are crushed between the two-pronged vise of facing the powerful pressures of growing up coupled with spasmodic distorted affection from separated parents. Children are virtually in a no-win situation. Instead of being braced by a stable home environment, children are cast into incomprehensible emotional turmoil. The now-separated parents are barely able to cope with their own problems, leaving precious little emotional room to properly rear one or more children. Thus, the seeds sown, society later reaps a crop of emotionally crippled teenagers. And these teenagers respond by grasping whatever anesthetics they can find — be it marijuana, barbiturates, alcohol and more! The years 12 to 20 are special growth years — years that impact heavily on adulthood. During these years, even without the complexity added by living within a broken home, teenagers undergo a myriad of pressures — pressures that eventually produce results for good or ill. And it's not easy. If one learns to respond positively to stress — using it as an opportunity for growth — and is blessed with a concerned, able set of parents, the teen emerges from childhood as a tempered adult, strong in mind and body (Prov. 22:6). But in today's world, this is rapidly becoming the exception rather than the rule. Here is one illustration. In early 1981, Jean Mayer, an internationally known nutritionist and president of Tufts University, had to write parents of undergraduates there to warn, "It seems a significant number of our students need help in determining the proper place of alcohol in their lives." A significant part of the campus was consuming vast quantities of alcohol to the point where about 35 percent of those responding to a campus survey said their alcohol consumption was "out of control."
Is THIS What You Want?
Chemical anesthesia has only two outcomes. At best, it eventually becomes excruciatingly boring. At the other end, continued alcohol abuse leads to tragic consequences: loss of respect, loss of happy relationships, loss of employment; and finally, death, or worse for some, a completely meaningless existence. This need never be. Alcohol itself is only an inert substance incapable of doing either good or evil of itself. Man is the one who either properly or improperly uses it — the latter with tragic consequences. In other words, the problem of alcohol abuse lies not with alcohol, but with the people who consume it. What this means is that we are the problem. People cannot solve their problems by simply reasoning in their own minds, and deciding for themselves what they want. There must be an authoritative source to serve as a guidepost. You wouldn't, for example, entrust your life in the hands of an airline pilot whose only previous flying experience was in watching other planes take off and land! You would demand and expect a fully experienced and qualified individual who had received his training from an authoritative source. Unfortunately, it is this lack of knowledge of an authoritative source to guide mankind through life that invites disaster. Yes, few realize or understand that all of man's interpersonal problems are spiritual in nature. By seeking only material answers to spiritual problems, man guarantees unhappiness, despair and frustration. As the Creator of man, the great eternal God gave a detailed instruction manual for living life. He revealed the broad principles necessary for a successful and happy life in his Word, which we call the Holy Bible. Yet, tragically, few recognize the inherent authority and remarkable truth contained in the Bible. With respect to alcohol, few realize that the Creator spelled out the proper and right uses of this often-abused substance. Further, he gives concrete principles and guidelines in this divine handbook for man that will guarantee a happy and fulfilling marriage and provide the right kind of home for children.
Teenage alcoholism and alcohol abuse are symptoms of a far more complex problem: worldwide disintegration of family responsibilities.
Contained in this guideline book is the primary charge that parents should take seriously their marriages and rearing of children. Notice what God commands: "These words you must learn by heart, this charge of mine; you must impress them on your children, you must talk about them when you are sitting at home and when you are on the road, when you lie down and when you rise up" (Deut. 6:6-7, Moffatt translation). What are these principles? What do we need to know — and practice? Notice first that alcohol abuse by youths generally arises out of two basic backgrounds: a family in which alcohol abuse has occurred (setting a poor, negative attitude and example); or one in which no alcohol was permitted (prohibition). In this latter example, no understanding of the use and role of alcohol is conveyed to the child. Now, mark this: prevention of alcohol abuse comes from right understanding. At the earliest possible age, you need to know when not to use alcohol, where not to use it, and how to use it in temperance. As man views it, all of the above limits are subjective — he (or she) sets those limits.
The Voice of Authority
And that's precisely why we have so many problems with alcohol! God Almighty, the Creator of both man and alcohol, sets those limits. By rejecting God's authority (which at this time, God allows mankind to do), and taking to himself the authority to make his own decisions, man guarantees eventual tragedy! Thus, we have today's rampant alcohol abuse. God's Word reveals that "a feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry" (Eccl. 10:19). Here we see that the proper use and setting for alcoholic beverages can play a positive role, but always in moderation (Phil. 4:5; Eph. 5:18). The Bible also reveals an example of the type of company in which to consume alcoholic beverages (John 2:1-10) and what company to avoid — "Be not among winebibbers... " (Prov., 23:20). The Bible also points out other positive applications (including dietary purposes) of alcohol (I Tim. 5:23). In short, to decide not to consume alcohol is not contrary to God's teachings (Rom. 14:21). But, conversely, to bear children and withhold understanding about alcohol through poor example and/or biased information is a serious charge in God's sight. There's only one way presently available to man to understand spiritual revelation. To come to the knowledge God offers, you must study his revealed written Word. As a free help in this immensely rewarding study on a vast number of subjects, we have available the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course. In free monthly lessons, you will see — through the pages of your own Bible — how up-to-date and relevant God really is to your life. Break down the barrier of spiritual ignorance and learn to grasp the ways of real success!