2013-11-08 / Viewpoint

Having the conversation about underage drinking

By John Stephens
Special to the Signal

Underage drinking has made the headlines recently. Today, underage drinking is running rampant across the nation. From high school parties to college campuses, youth under the age of 21 are drinking alcohol. Whether it is easier access, the feeling it is a rite of passage, or peer pressure, the problem is taking its toll on our youth.

On Mother’s Day 2009, our son was killed in an underage drunk driving crash; Adam was only eighteen. I had the conversation with Adam and his friends, about not drinking and driving and, I assumed that not getting into a car with a drunk driver was understood; I should have been more direct. To this day, I replay how that conversation would go. And, what pains me so deeply is that this is not what fatherhood was meant to be like. Instead of waking to the anticipation of another Mother’s Day gift of candy on mom’s pillow, and a big hug and kiss, we can only clutch at our memories of Adam.

Moving from this devastation, to action to prevent another loss, I volunteer for Mothers Against Drunk Driving as a community activist and staunch supporter. I speak at MADD events to help raise awareness about the risks of drug and alcohol use among youth. I believe, through MADD’s activities and programs, parents and teens have the tools to begin the conversation about underage drinking.

In Georgia, MADD’s Power of Parents program has reached thousands of families. MADD works with schools to promote Power of You(th), a teenfocused program. Through these initiatives, MADD is helping families understand that these conversations are instrumental in building healthy relationships and creating a partnership between parent and child, and between friends.

Recently MADD, along with other organizations, celebrated Red Ribbon Week to help raise awareness about the dangers of using drugs and alcohol under age 21. In connection with this observance, MADD announced three Georgia teens, based on applications showing their dedication to underage drinking prevention in their communities. This makes me so proud.

I urge families to use everyday opportunities, like stories in this very newspaper, to start talking about the dangers of underage drinking. The life saved could be your child’s.

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