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FIRST-PERSON: Peer pressure, positive activities can aid in drug abuse prevention

DURHAM, N.C. (BP)–Peer pressure is often the whipping boy in discussions about drug abuse. We usually assume that others force our loved ones to join the ranks of drug abusers. However, peer pressure is a much more subtle occurrence, and the choice to join the activities of one group or another often is born within oneself rather than outside.

We all seek to find kinship with our peers. We want to belong. A specific activity often serves as a center of gravity to bind a group together. Because of an intense desire to fit in, a significant number of individuals choose to adopt the social practices of a specific group.

Most young people linger somewhere in the middle prior to facing the important decision of drug use. They await an invitation from one side or the other.

On one side are the hardcore or social substance users. They frantically desire company and do not like to have their lifestyle habits questioned by others. This group issues a continuing invitation to those who are willing to adopt their way of life.

On the other side stands a group determined to remain free from drug abuse, finding their measure of satisfaction in wholesome activities. They, too, are anxious for new members. If their invitation rings stronger, those in the middle who teeter between one direction and the other will find their sense of belonging in the acceptance by these who embrace the sober, self-controlled lifestyle.

There exists a wealth of opportunity for young people who are committed to sobriety to make a difference in the lives of those around them. And they should be encouraged to do so!

An important reminder to the overprotective parent: In your well-meaning efforts to protect your children from the company of those with questionable lifestyles, remember that your son or daughter may be the only hope that the wayward individual has to claim a good lifestyle.

Certainly we do not wish for our children to become involved in wayward habits, and we would never recommend that the youngster who has wisely adopted a sober way of living become involved in the questionable social activities of those who pursue the dark paths of drug abuse. But a kind word or an invitation extended to take part in activities that are wholesome by your youngster might make the difference that will change an unhappy life forever. And such a victory, no matter how small, will strengthen your child’s appreciation for his chosen drug-abuse-free road. And he will have learned by personal experience the merits of positive peer-pressure.

Exciting activities with the potential to reward and enrich our young people can crowd out their desires for relief from boredom, which can sadly lead to substance abuse. When one’s energies find satisfaction in worthy challenges, there is no time left for wasteful excursions into the deceptive, artificial “feel good” lifestyle.

Our children have within themselves dreams and desires that are often overlooked or overcome by the practical necessities required by societal demands. Certainly, we must teach them reverence for academia and hard work. This does not mean, however, that these virtuous activities must necessarily be tedious and uninviting. Nor should they obscure the need for healthy extracurricular outlets.

There lies hidden potential within every activity for rewarding instructional application. We have all heard the old saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Togetherness can turn the dullest menial pursuit into a happy, rewarding occasion. Our children need our attention and encouragement far more than they need money and gifts. A large group of teenagers heard their speaker ask, “How many of you think your parents make you come in too early on weekend nights?” Nearly every hand went up. Then a young man stood and addressed his friends, “Aren’t you lucky? My parents don’t care what time I come in. If I come in at 4 in the morning, they couldn’t care less. They wish I’d hurry and grow up and leave home!”

Allowing young people to be constructive and creative can impact their lives in a very positive and significant way. But a large number of young people are left to their own devices when involved in entertainment or other extracurricular activities. Some spend hours playing the latest video games, while others attach themselves to the Internet or a television set. Outside of the home or even within the home, without adequate structure, free time can be an opportunity for experimentation with alcohol or some other drug and may lead to trouble.

Sports such as football, tennis, soccer, baseball and basketball are beneficial to the maturation of young people in many ways. So are artistic outlets such as music, painting and writing. Invite children to share with you their occupying interests. Then, encourage them to pursue them with fervor.

We believe that a great many tragedies could be avoided by simply sponsoring the dreams of young people. This requires many resources: time, money, interest and tolerance of our young peoples’ worthwhile desires when they differ from our own.

Little Billy may desire to play the guitar, but his daddy may envision him as the star quarterback for the high school football team. Our children do not always conveniently fit into the molds that we design for them. We should be mature enough to restrain ourselves from demeaning or diminishing their eager pursuit of their own dreams.

Another major avenue through which our young people can become actively involved in worthwhile activities is the local church. A major function of this institution is to provide direction, inspiration and fellowship for our young people. Many of our young people are learning to become their brothers’ keepers through meaningful ministries of the local church. These worthwhile, enjoyable activities leave little time for the enticing wares of the drug world.
This is the second in a series of three articles dealing with drug abuse prevention. In July, the first two key ingredients of a successful prevention strategy were discussed: realistic education about drug-abuse and its consequences and a good appreciation for self. Stone and Barber, of Durham, N.C., are coauthors of two books on alcohol and drug abuse, “The Drug Tragedy — Hope for the One Who Hurts” and “The Drug Tragedy — Hope for the One Who Cares,” both available from LifeWay Christian Stores.

    About the Author

  • Ted G. Stone & Philip D. Barber