A young Air Force Reserve officer stood during a weekend, drug- abuse education program and addressed his concerns to those attending the session. "I want you to know about a decision we have made in our home. I had heard much about the serious drinking problems among our nation's young people but never considered the problem's impact on my family. Then one night as I sat at the dinner table with my family, I recalled a newspaper article on the issue and wondered whether one of my own was a potential alcoholic.

"I had been a social drinker for years. For me it was a normal routine. I began to examine myself, though. 'Suppose one of my sons was vulnerable to the alcohol problem, and just suppose he assumed it was safe to drink because of my example. If he developed a problem that eventually destroyed his life, would I be able to bear the guilt that surely would rest on my shoulders?'

"That night, after the children were asleep, my wife and I discussed this matter. We decided that, for the sake of our children, we would abandon social drinking forever. I just wanted to share our decision with you."

An effective approach to prevention demands that we begin at ground zero by becoming examples to those whose lives we touch. Within our individual spheres of influence we must never underestimate the power of a positive example because people tend to emulate those with whom they associate on a regular basis.

Misplaced Trust

We have often proclaimed to our listeners, "Someone trusts in you for direction in life. Everyone makes a difference, whether it be negative or positive."

Drug abuse survey statistics affirm this proclamation, indicating that most young experimenters get their first drinks of alcohol from family members, while those who abuse illegal substances are usually turned on to the experience by a close friend. Sadly, these youngsters trusted in the wrong persons. Such powerful influences often fuel future addictions and other disasters. It does not matter whether or not these example-setters meant harm. The results of careless behavior by those in leadership positions can be harmful beyond anything they ever intended.

A young lady recently shared this heart-wringing story with us. "My parents were not alcoholics," she confided. "They never got drunk. They never drove automobiles when they were under the influence of alcohol. They never had problems with alcohol. Mother and Dad only had one glass of wine with the evening meal."

Obviously shaken by vivid memories, the young lady struggled through her tears to continue the story. "My sister and I sat at the dinner table each evening, observing our parent's examples. The seemingly harmless ritual had little impact on me. But my sister reacted differ- ently. She eventually assumed that if our parents could drink safely, so could she. She took the first drink, and it soon became a dark habit that she could not break. Alcohol destroyed her life. Three weeks ago she committed suicide!"

Then the surviving sister confided, "I have made a public pledge to abstain from alcohol completely because I don't want my child to ever assume that it's safe to drink because her mother drinks."

Failing to exercise self-control in our own lives both increases the potential for our children to develop problems with substance abuse and undermines our credibility in discussions about the unnecessary use of chemicals. For example, a parent who regularly drinks alcohol while watching a televised football game, or one who frequently enlists the use of such prescribed anti-anxiety medications as Xanax or Valium, will be on thin ice when attempting to explain to children the dangers of using drugs. Our actions definitely speak louder than our words ever could.

Parents who abstain from the use of alcohol and other drugs stand a much greater chance of convincing their children that the sober lifestyle is the most fulfilling and worthy of their pursuits. They will also be better able to strengthen their offspring to resist temptations offered them outside of the home.

Peer pressure has often been the whipping boy in discussions about drug abuse. It should be added, though, that most peer pressure is not necessarily exerted by the supposed perpetrators — drug dealers and hardened criminals. Rather, it comes from friends and family members. We all want to belong. And, if the people with whom we associate are involved in some activity that holds them together as a group, we will adopt the practice in order to find kinship with our peers.

Negative peer pressure is just as real for adults as it is for young people. The businessman who feels the need to use a drug socially in order to impress his employer or potential customer, and the socialite who imbibes because her club friends lean on the drug habit recklessly, both personify the need for acceptance by grownups.

Illustrating The Christian Walk

Certainly this desire to belong has led many people down dark and lonely paths fraught with countless obstacles. But, conversely, as we have focused on demonstrating the Christian life through our own walk, we have discovered that the desire to belong can lead a great many people to better, more fulfilling lives.

Many young people in America are searching for a group with whom they can relate. The social drinking or drug abusing crowds will welcome any newcomer who will adopt the appropriate lifestyle. By the same token, there are many church-oriented youth groups who practice total abstention from behavior-altering substances and are equally anxious for the company of others. Those who are shopping for a group to which they can belong and are presently acclimated toward sobriety will probably choose the church group if appropriate invitations are extended.

Those who belong to a group that has fun, is involved in useful activities, and has a strong faith base, will have no time to devote to the unhappy drug scene. They are too busy for activities that lead to personal destruction. Therefore, it is a challenge for every church body to provide the maximum activity base for energetic youngsters. This pro-active approach extends a positive influence to Christian young people, and furthers the clean lifestyle for the entire Christian church.

We need a new set of heroes in this nation, and there is no better potential hero than a family member, friend, or neighbor. These are the ones in whom we place our trust and confidence, and whom we look to for the right kinds of examples. If we embrace the tragic path of drug abuse, other trusting individuals follow. However, when we adhere to a lifestyle that fosters happiness, success, and inner peace, we will not be alone. Our good examples will become contagious! And we will travel the road of freedom from the drug tragedy.



One Man's Salvation — Another Man's Victory

As the congregation began to sing the words of an old gospel hymn, Hanson West knew already that this would be the best day of his life.

Tears flooded the repentant soul of this respected fifty-four-year-old businessman and former deputy sheriff as the visiting preacher spoke his penetrating words of hope for the lost. Most members of the suburban church that he and his wife attended thought that Hanson, a justice of the peace, was already a Christian. In fact, he often filled one of the choir seats during morning worship services.

Hanson knew that his life was lacking something extremely important, and that ingredient was salvation. He reached for the pastor's hand, and emotionally expressed his decision to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord of his life. There was much rejoicing that night among the saints.

But no one was prepared for what happened early the next morning. He left his home quietly before the other family members awoke and drove quickly to his business. He entered the storage room and began to drag into the parking lot case after case of the beer products that had been the mainstay of his business for several years. He called his surprised customers and informed them that he was going out of the alcohol business.

"My stock is yours without charge," he said. "I will never sell or drink another beer." And he kept his promise.

His wide array of customers included friends from all over town. Those who knew him considered Hanson a man with a heart of gold. And the regular social drinkers who frequented his establishment to drink beer and hear his comments on political and civic matters continued to come. But the conversation changed. The new Christian, often with tears in his eyes, would tell his friends about the miraculous change that had been wrought in his heart by Jesus.

Hanson West had only taken an occasional drink of alcohol on special occasions. But there was no longer any room in his life for such folly. He went about the Master's business, as if intent on making up for lost time. His friends could tell that this religious experience was genuine.

One year later, the changed man died suddenly. On Saturday afternoon the new church sanctuary filled with mourners who came to pay respect to the man who had touched so many lives. Kind words were spoken from a pulpit crowded with the nearly 100 floral pieces from admirers.

The greatest tribute to this man of God came years later when his grandson attended a pastors' conference. The minister who addressed the group spotted West's grandson seated near the back of the audience. He interrupted his sermon and exclaimed to the visitor, "Thank God for your grandfather. My daddy was unsaved when "Daddy West" received Jesus. He had been a regular customer and friend of your grandfather for years. When Mr. West became a Christian and expressed his new lifestyle by clearing his business of beer, my daddy was surprised like everyone else. Mr. West had always been a good man, and my father greatly respected him. But the complete change that came over him began to have a very obvious effect on my father, who was still lost. I had witnessed to my daddy for years, but he had paid no attention to me, or to mother, or to my sister who was a foreign missionary. But in the face of the miracle that had occurred in your grandfather's life, and his positive example, my daddy listened to my words about the plan of salvation and received Jesus as his Savior.

"Thank God for Daddy West. If it had not been for the positive example of this man's life in Christ, my daddy might have died and gone to Hell!"

One man trusted the other. When the miracle happened in Hanson West's life, the victory became contagious.

    About the Author

  • Ted G. Stone and Philip D. Barber