‘Just a drink’? Maybe — but maybe not

Lodi News-Sentinel - - Nation -

DR. WAL­LACE: I was struck by the at­ti­tude of a 16year-old girl who drank at a party to cel­e­brate a good friend’s grad­u­a­tion. She didn’t see any­thing wrong with hav­ing a few glasses of wine.

I am now a ju­ve­nile court judge (af­ter be­ing a crim­i­nal court judge for nearly eight years) and would like to share my story.

Grow­ing up in the Mis­sis­sippi Delta, I was an early mem­ber of the Bach­e­lor’s Club. My duty was to es­cort the debu­tantes. My fa­ther gave me my first drink when I was 14 be­cause we were ex­pected to know how to han­dle our liquor. From then on, I was a spo­radic — but heavy — drinker. I en­joyed get­ting high and thought I was cool. All this con­tin­ued through high school, col­lege and law school.

Af­ter mar­riage and grad­u­a­tion, I re­turned to my home­town, where my drink­ing pat­tern con­tin­ued. Once or twice a month I would get “bombed.” This pat­tern con­tin­ued through three mar­riages. Af­ter my par­ents died, I de­cided there was no one left to tell me what to do and I be­gan drink­ing daily for sev­eral years, un­til I was faced with the loss of nearly ev­ery­thing dear to me.

I asked a friend to help and went into the hos­pi­tal to dry out. I haven’t had a drink since, and I hope I never do. How­ever, I still take things one day at a time and at­tend Al­co­holics Anony­mous.

Re­cently, a study was pub­lished that showed that the ear­lier one be­gins to drink, the greater his or her chance is of be­com­ing an al­co­holic, es­pe­cially if one starts un­der the age of 21; at age 15, there’s an ap­prox­i­mately onein-four chance.

In my work I re­peat­edly see the dam­age al­co­hol does to par­ents, kids and fam­i­lies, and have tried to warn my chil­dren and oth­ers of the dan­ger. Dr. Wal­lace, please keep ham­mer­ing that mes­sage home — kids do read and lis­ten to you.

Strangely enough, as a se­nior in high school, I won a $500 schol­ar­ship for an es­say on “The Ef­fects of Al­co­hol on Man.” — Judge, in Florida.

JUDGE: It’s very im­por­tant for teens to learn from the ex­pe­ri­ences of oth­ers, es­pe­cially from a ju­ve­nile court judge. Thanks for shar­ing your story with our young read­ers. It will in­flu­ence many teens.

En­joy your free­dom

DR. WAL­LACE: My boyfriend and I broke up af­ter go­ing steady for over seven months be­cause we were con­stantly fight­ing and ar­gu­ing. In fact, the past four months were one long fight. Last week­end we ended our re­la­tion­ship. He went fish­ing with his friends and I spent time with my friends. When he got back, he called and said he was a changed guy and wanted to get to­gether again. I still like him, but I also like be­ing unat­tached and free to do what­ever I want. What should I do? — Name­less, Lake Charles, La.

NAME­LESS: I doubt if a short fish­ing trip could have turned this fel­low into a “changed guy.” En­joy your free­dom and don’t let him pres­sure you into recom­mit­ting. Tell him you want more time to think about things. If you start see­ing him again, go slowly.

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