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Sinfully Sober This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     “What?! You don’t drink?” she asked incredulously, beer in hand. The question was inevitable. I was a bewildered sophomore attending my first house party - one filled with stumbling, boisterous teenagers. Outnumbered, I was playing endless, depressing rounds of blackjack.

“No ... it’s not really my thing.”

It was an unexpected response. I felt my words bring the activity to a standstill, sending shock waves of perplexity across the room. I had to question myself. Were my values ridiculous, outdated, juvenile?

The appeal of alcohol had always puzzled me. Since when did waiting in line for drinks become more popular than waiting in line for the new Adam Sandler movie? Suddenly, fitting in became complicated, scary.

Enter VAASA -Varsity Athletes Against Substance Abuse - a group committed to staying drug and alcohol-free, while imparting this mindset to younger students. It was during soccer season sophomore year that I heard the announcement for VAASA’s initial meeting reverberate through the loudspeaker.

Conflicting thoughts surfaced. I envisioned myself walking through the judgment-filled hallways sporting my VAASA T-shirt, the logo popping out like a bumper sticker on an SUV. Would I be branded a pariah? Would joining put an immovable barrier between my friends who drink, and me? Uncertain, I applied for membership - the smartest risk I’ve ever taken. One essay, several teacher recommendations, and numerous peer evaluations later, I was one of two sophomores selected to join.

At 12:05 on a chilly November day, I stand in front of 20 fidgety fifth-graders. It is my first VAASA visit. The room is filled with the hushed murmurs of tiny voices.

“Whoa ... they’re in high school?” a pig-tailed redhead whispers to her neighbor. I grab their attention by recounting the story of a high school student who nearly died in a car accident after a night of drinking. Their expressions change to shock and curiosity. Now they’re ready to learn about the consequences of using alcohol and other drugs. To allay their fears, I describe the many clubs and activities available at high school that are healthy alternatives. Wide-eyed and animated, their hands shoot up. They ask about everything from peer pressure and drunk driving to the fencing team and locker combinations. “How do you say no to cigarettes?” “Is there a skiing team?” “Do the seniors really shove freshmen in lockers?”

In their eyes, I am neither a lecturing parent nor a teacher. I am the cool older kid unraveling high school mysteries. I am only 15; nevertheless, I am a role model: young enough for them to relate to, yet old enough for them to emulate.

Now, as a third-year VAASA member, I am no longer ambivalent about my choice to stay sober. I stand by it with conviction. I’ve shed my shell of insecurity, and everyone can see it - whether I’m in front of a fifth-grade classroom or at a party with friends. Instead of resorting to those dismal rounds of blackjack, I now have a blast dancing, laughing, and staying sober.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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Bethani said...
Mar. 23, 2010 at 11:40 pm:
it's not worth it to drink! others will respect your descion and if they don't, they're not your real friends. good for you!
 
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