Straight Talk TNT

Boy wants to be straight, has trouble fitting in

Feb 29, 2012

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: Everybody knows what high school is like: people do drugs, drink, and have sex. I’m one of the few who is different. I've gotten looks of disgust when I say that smoking marijuana or drinking is bad — like I'm an evil person! I've lost three or four close friends because I won't participate. They are failing school, disillusioned about the future, and take advantage of the opposite sex. I don’t know what goes through their minds. Is anyone out there like me? – One Concerned Guy in Mission Viejo, Calif.

Chuck 17, Toledo, Ohio Ask me a question

I can relate. I have never once smoked or drank even though the high school scene is the same at my all-guys Catholic school. However, I'm not vocal to my friends who drink, use drugs, and take advantage of girls. Encouraging alternative activities works better than telling them they’re doing something wrong. They’re not bad people and I don’t look down on them. This lets me keep my friends while remaining clean.

Elise 20, Rexburg, Idaho Ask me a question

I've never cared for drugs and alcohol. However, the majority of my friends do. They may poke fun, but they respect me. I just say, “I don’t drink or smoke.” Most people understand.

Christina 19, Marysville, Calif. Ask me a question

I was lucky to have close friends who didn’t smoke or drink. We didn’t care what our classmates thought. Avoid people who bring you down; get involved with like-minded people. This might mean looking for friends outside of school at places like church or volunteer programs.

Brie 20, Santa Barbara, Calif. Ask me a question

I wanted to cool it on partying, so I fit in by being a designated driver. Nobody judged me.

Katelyn 17, Huntington Beach, Calif. Ask me a question

My favorite thing to do is list all the terrible side effects and watch people walk away. Friends who encourage you to do something harmful aren't true friends. It's better to be shunned than stay friends with the in-crowd under those circumstances. Find a support system. My youth group has all-nighters with laser tag, broom ball, dodge ball, costuming, and pizza. Not participating in drinking/drugs/sex might make you an outsider at school, but not everywhere!

Catherine 24, Hudson, N.Y. Ask me a question

In high school, I felt isolated for not attending parties and would have made a lot more friends if I’d been willing to drink. In college it was worse. Students forget it’s even possible to have fun without alcohol. My straight-edge and religious friends were a lifeline.

Sarah 20, Santa Clara, Calif. Ask me a question

Most of my high school friends used drugs, drank, and had sex. Despite these vices, they are wonderful people and some of my closest friends. By not passing judgment on my friends, they in turn were not critical of me. It was common knowledge that I was straight-edge and no one ever pressured me. Even now, in college, half my friends are straight-edge and half are not.

DEAR CONCERNED GUY: I applaud you for being straight. And you are not losing friends because of it. You are losing friends because you judge them. An evolved straight-edge approach is used by Charles, Elise, Brie and Sarah. They set a personal ideal to not use substance, communicated it to their peers with zero judgment, and received respect and acceptance. This result almost always occurs when people don't feel judged. This approach defuses peer pressure and people will actually look up to you for being straight. It gives being straight a good name and makes others want to try it. Everyone is happier including me! As you make new friends, why not give it a try?

Readers: Straight Talk is now a non-profit. Just $5 from every reader will keep us in business. Please make your tax-deductible donation today! —Love and thanks, Lauren

Editor's Note: "One Concerned Guy" also asks what goes through the minds of young people who drink and use drugs. I don't know how much actually goes through the mind, but there are three primary reasons young people use substance: 1) A desire to feel confident and uninhibited around the attractive sex; 2) a hard-wired desire, unique to the adolescent brain, to fit in and build social connections at all costs, including great risk; 3) an impulse to numb traumatic emotions.

The good news is that a growing positive force called the "straight-edge" movement is bringing popularity and respect to being straight. The principle of straight-edge is self-empowerment and being true to oneself — and being oneself, without a crutch, really is living one's edge. Many teens and adults haven't heard of straight-edge, but the movement is taking hold generically and most have no idea that it stemmed from punk and hardcore music. Saying, "I'm straight-edge," is a quick and non-judgmental way to say, "I don't use drugs or alcohol." The way of adolescence is to follow the popular crowd so as people in the in-crowd embrace straight-edge, others will follow. —Lauren

  1. By Norman from Meadow Vista, CA on 02/29/2012

    If you don’t mind and “old guy” chiming in here, I can honestly say from experience that choosing to stay away from drugs and alcohol during my high school years has paid healthy dividends throughout my life.

    Although I was subjected to some periods of intense peer pressure, I politely stood my ground.  Those that left my life because of my stand were: 1)not true friends to begin with, and 2) turned out to be people I would never associate with today.  I did have some close friends that pressured me—and do you know what? We’re still close friends to this day.

    The adage, “it is better to be happy than right” can serve one well and avoid loss of friendships while still being safe.  I am encouraged by the studies I occasionally see that have found that drug and alcohol use among high school students has declined since I was in high school.

    So, One Concerned Guy, I truly understand the challenges you’re facing, and you are wise to seek advice from resources like Straight Talk.

    Best of luck.

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  2. By Leia from Rohnert Park, CA, USA on 03/20/2012

    Dear Straight guy,

    I too abstained from all that when I was in high school. I never wanted to do drugs or alcohol and decided to abstain from sex until marriage. Be proud of your commitment to living a better lifestyle. Those friends you had would have just brought you down and you don’t want to limit yourself. Try joining clubs or volunteer at places, if you keep looking you will find other “Straight edges” out there. Don’t care what other people think, in the end your decisions will have better rewards then them. Stay strong in your beliefs.

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