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Combating Bullying And Underage Drinking

As a child, I was very shy and small for my age. While this was not a problem for me at an early age, by the time I was a teenager, my shyness and size were my greatest faults. I was severely bullied as a teenager, and it was not until I was a junior in high school that the bullying stopped. However, at this time in my life I had turned to drinking with friends to fit it and feel accepted.  It’s now more than ten years later and I still haven’t had one drop of alcohol and surprisingly, with age, sobriety and maturity, my shyness has all but disappeared.

Arrogance, bitterness, and rowdiness were trademarks of my drunkenness. I would pick fights with anyone who got in my way or said anything to me I did not want to hear. 

I have never felt more strongly than I do now about reaching out to kids who have been bullied in school and to help prevent underage drinking. I feel that God put this dream in my heart to write this book for others, and also for myself.

I believe that being bullied in school led me to start drinking. It was a way to fit in and no longer be the wimp that I felt I had become after three years of bullying.  This bullying as a young man allowed alcohol to increase its hold on me.

Now, the Internet and social networking websites have also become a breeding ground for bullies. Some kids bully others by spreading rumors. Bullying needs to be taken seriously.  It is not a “rite of passage” that kids need to “tough out”. 

My reason for writing this blog is simple. It is to inspire others in any way I can.  Life is full of unexpected twists and turns, but it is how you handle those twists and turns that determine the kind of person you become.

Within this blog are suggestions on combating these two critical issues facing young people today.

Bullies

For me, the bullying began when I started high school in the eighth grade. I was too embarrassed to tell my family that I was being bullied, especially my three older brothers as I did not want them to think I was a wimp, now I know that I should have told them or other adults.  My brothers were off at college when I started high school, they were not there to defend me against the bullies.

When I was first bullied, it was very hard for me to understand why people would be so cruel. The year before, I had lots of friends and was popular, but entering high school changed everything. It was like the rules had changed overnight, and I had no warning. I began to dread going to school. Sunday nights were the worst. I often felt physically ill because it brought me closer to facing my tormentors.

I was in agony.

Under The Influence

At the age of sixteen, I began drinking to overcome my insecurities and to bury my shyness and meet girls. I also wanted to fit in with the other kids and show everyone I was cool and not the kid who was picked on by bullies.  I took my first drink at my friend’s house two days before starting my junior year of high school.  After my first taste of beer, I was certain it would be much easier to approach girls.

At first drinking made it easier for me to fit in and go to parties after football games, however it backfired quickly!  The alcohol turned me into another person.  A person that had a huge chip on his shoulder who was trying to prove he was somebody by angering strangers and starting fights.  This was a far cry from the shy guy who sat in the back of the classroom hoping the teacher would not call on him.

Drinking made me very sick.  I was missing out on the true joys of life by polluting my body with alcohol.

The Last Time

I vividly remember the last time I drank.  I was with my friends in Athens, Georgia, where we were attending a UGA football game. I drank all day in preparation for the festivities. I did not care if we won or lost, I was going to get hammered!

My mood soured with each beer that I slugged down as my beloved Bulldogs were whipped by a weak Southern Mississippi team. Even so, we continued to drink.  Losing gave me more reason to drink and drown my sorrows.  As a kid I would cry all night after a Bulldog loss.

We always had a designated driver to get us back home from the game.  I do not remember why we started to fight, but pretty soon my old college roommate John and I were going at it over something stupid. I was furious, and while we were stopped at a light, I jumped out of the car and off I went to somewhere, anywhere but there. My friends tried to stop me, but I lashed out when they tried to ease the tense situation.

I managed to somehow walk to my apartment that night and a few minutes after I got through my door, I passed out.  I woke up the next morning knowing only one thing.  I had taken my last drink.   I knew at that point that if I did not stop drinking my life would not take the course I had always dreamed. It was now or never, and I was ready to change my life.

Why Kids Bully

Bullying is not always easy to nail down and define. You can obviously notice the difference between good natured ribbing, something my brothers and friends did with me, and bullying that is hurtful and often harmful. There are some teachers who try to prevent obvious bullying, but fail to notice less obvious bullying, such as cyber bullying. For children who are bullied, going to school can be a traumatic experience and cyber bullying only heightens these feelings.

Cyber bullying is harassment using the Internet and social networking sites and text messaging. If all of these types of activities were involving adults, the perpetrator could be charged with a crime, so why aren’t similar “crimes” against children taken more seriously? Cyber bullying has exploded with the advent of the Internet.

There are many reasons why kids may become bullies. They frequently target people who are different. Their victims are usually either overweight, small, wear glasses or have other physical differences.  Children who are insecure can also be a target for bullies. I fell into this category and was also very small for my age.

Stop Bullying In It’s Tracks

The following are some other ways that may help combat this serious and growing problem:

  • Students need to stop bullying when they see it happening against their classmates and report bullies to their teachers.
  • Parents need to get involved in their children’s school to ensure there is an anti-bullying policy in place.

The More You Drink, The Less You Think

When I drank I lost control.  I wound up in dangerous situations and was very lucky nothing really bad happened to me. I encourage kids to never drink underage.

Great things have happened in my life since I stopped drinking.

I have some ideas about ending underage drinking that involve schools, parents and the community.   They are as follows:

  • Schools should have workshops/courses for kids who get in trouble with alcohol at school sponsored events to prevent them from drinking underage again.
  • Use community centers to promote alcohol free parties for kids.
  • Parents, community groups, police and non profit organizations should work together to combat underage drinking.
  • Eating dinner as a family and having open discussions about drugs and alcohol.
  • Extracurricular activities such as sports or church and other social organizations can help a teen stay away from alcohol; and
  • Parents, if you always associate having a good time with drinking, your kids will too.

Great Sites To Combat Bullying, Underage Drinking & Drugs

Prevent Bullying Sites

http://www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/kids/

http://www.nobully.com

http://www.ncpc.org/cyberbullying

Prevent Underage Drinking Sites

http://www.livedrugfree.org/

http://www.nationwide.com/newsroom/stop-underage-drinking.jsp

http://www.stopalcoholabuse.gov/

Prevent Marijuana, Meth and Prescription Drug Abuse

http://www.getsmartaboutdrugs.com/

http://www.georgiamethproject.org/

http://www.drugfree.org/

Final Thoughts

I hope this blog inspires parents and kids to prevent bullying, underage drinking and drugs. For those who have experienced bullying, let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future.  And remember that drinking alcohol before you are mature enough to realize the responsibility and caution that must be taken, can steal your hopes, your dreams and your future.

Walk On.