I stem from a family of alcoholics and though my mother managed to escape that legacy, I was still raised in a house where a hard day’s work was rewarded with a glass of wine. Dinner parties included various alcoholic drinks of my mother’s own creation and I’ve never been to a restaurant with her when she didn’t order her favorite drink, a Long-Island ice-tea.
As a teen raised to obey the law, I promised myself that I would not drink before I was 21 and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to drink after that age either. It seemed as if, with a family history of alcoholism, I should just steer clear. However, I often found myself, in moments of high stress, thinking “I need a drink.” I never drank and had no idea if the experience was even pleasurable, but I linked work and stress to drinking.
As a college senior, I have not completely disassociated these things and it’s clear that my fellow students haven’t done so either. When my roommate finished her thesis, she bought a bottle of wine. For a lot of my friends, a week of midterms or finals always ends in a trip to a bar or two. The idea that hard work should be rewarded with alcohol is common and never questioned on my campus.
After three years of being the sober girl, I decided that I should indulge in a few alcoholic beverages. I was of age and not like the people in my family who could not control their drinking. So, after the last day of classes, a friend of mine and I celebrated with vodka and “red-headed sluts,” a drink usually taken as a shot that consists of Jagermeister, cranberry juice, and peach schnapps.
And what did I think? I actually had a lot of fun that night. I was surprised to find the whole experience to be quite enjoyable. And the best part was that I knew when I was at my limit and I was able to stop myself.
Personally, as a full-time student with four jobs, the opportunity to “reward myself” happens quite often. My friends with internships and/or jobs end the work week with happy hour. If one locks him or herself in a library all day Saturday, the night can be dedicated to drinking.
Drinking, and I’m certain drugs as well, have become a way to completely let go of whatever is stressing students . For many, these substances have become either a motivator or a reward. Or both.
This leads to the question: What can parents do about this?
Remember when your child received their first ‘A’ or gold sticker and you took them for ice-cream or gave them a cookie? For me, I remember that my grades were rewarded with food, a trip to the movies or a book I wanted.
Now that I’m an adult I reward myself. Sometimes it does involve alcohol, such as going out for drinks with friends, but I also make sure that I reward myself in other, healthier ways. However, I understand that other students - especially those who do not have a history of family alcoholism to caution them - may not realize the need for healthier alternatives.
I would suggest encouraging your teens to reward themselves in more constructive, healthy ways, such as going out to a favorite restaurant or seeing a movie. Also, no matter how often or how well your child excels in school, make it clear that you notice his or her achievements. Even if it’s just a phone call, a quick card or a hug these little acknowledgements serve as a reminder that you’re supportive of your child’s hard work.