Margaret and Tanya had been best friends since third grade. They did everything together: studied, ate lunch, and ran on the cross-country team. But as high school sophomores, they had a problem. Tanya abused alcohol. No one knew about this except Margaret, who gave Tanya breath mints to hide the smell. Tanya's drinking got worse. She'd drink so much at parties that she'd walk into walls. Every time Margaret asked her to stop, Tanya would yell at her. The next day, Tanya could never remember anything from the night before. Finally, Tanya drank so much at the school's Spring Fling dance that she had to be rushed to the hospital for alcohol poisoning. Tanya's parents blamed Margaret for not reporting the drinking earlier. Margaret was confused and hurt. Alcohol Facts Do you have a good friend with a drinking problem? If so, you know firsthand that alcoholism hurts a lot of people —not just the person who drinks. Here are some alcohol facts you need to know: Compulsive drinking is a disease called alcoholism. Alcoholics are powerless over their drinking; once they start, they can't stop. You're not the cause of anyone's drinking behavior. You can't change or control anyone but yourself. You can detach yourself emotionally from the drinker's problems while continuing to love the person. (Reprinted with permission from Al Anon/Alateen Family Groups) This last one is really important. Margaret can still care about her friend, but she wouldn't be doing the right thing for herself if she made Tanya's problems her problems. Although it isn't Margaret's responsibility to "fix" Tanya, it would have been okay if she told a counselor at school or her own parents about Tanya's problem. It's amazing how people can "hide" their drinking from others, including parents. If Tanya's drinking was dangerous to herself or other people, an adult should have been involved immediately. Also, if your friend is under the legal drinking age, what she's doing is illegal and her parents should know about it. If she drinks in your company, she puts you in danger. Take care of yourself Margaret learned that being the friend of an alcoholic is draining. It's hard watching someone you love hurt herself. If you feel depressed or overwhelmed, talk to a school counselor or join a support group like Alateen. Alateen is a program for teenagers whose lives are affected by someone else's drinking, friends or family. Alateen has meetings in every city that are free and confidential. You can call Alateen for free at (800) 356-9996, or check out the Web site www.alateen.org.
Margaret finally got that Tanya's drinking wouldn't stop until Tanya herself was ready to get help. The important thing to understand if you're friends with an alcoholic is that you're not alone in this. There are people out there who can help you deal with it all. So get help and stay positive!
Alcohol Facts: Learn the Risks of Underage Drinking at BeingGirl.com