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Feeling the heat to join the drinking brigade? Maybe this teen’s story will give you wings…

The heat is on, but you can do it…   |   Photo: Tonya Hester

‘I started to feel the pressure to drink around Grade 8, when I was 13. People had started to drink at parties and there was pressure to fit in with the whole crowd. It’s hard to stand out as someone who isn’t cool. The first time I gave in was in Grade 9. I went away with five of my friends to Hermanus, outside Cape Town, for a weekend. One of them had bought alcohol and at first I didn’t drink but then they nagged me to and I eventually gave in. They said things like, ‘Come on, it makes you feel good. Look at the great effect it’s having on us, what’s wrong with you?’

So first I had a beer and then I went on to vodka. I did feel a little guilty but then I got caught up in the excitement of it all. I didn’t get totally drunk but I was heading towards being smashed and enjoyed the feeling.

The next time was the very next night with quite a few of my friends. We played pool and drinking games. But that night my friend and I realised we were doing the wrong thing. It just felt more serious the second night in a row. We had been lying to friends and the family we were staying with, and it felt wrong. I also didn’t like the fact that I wasn’t totally in control of my body.


When I got back to Cape Town, some of my non-drinking friends found out about the incident, which made me feel embarrassed. I felt I had made a bad reputation for myself and was determined to put it right. I did drink alcohol once more, but it was New Year’s Eve and I had just one drink.

The pressure continued but when I was 16 I had a powerful experience of the Holy Spirit and became serious about God. It says in the Bible you should obey the law of the land, so drinking became a ‘No’ for me. It was a very hard decision, especially when I was 17 and all my friends were going out drinking. I remember going to the Grahamstown Youth Jazz festival and really feeling like the odd one out. But every time I felt tempted, I remembered the feeling of how real God is and how God is more powerful than the urge for alcohol, and I would replay that in my mind.

‘I refused to believe what society drums into you: sex is cool, going out every weekend is cool, going underage into a club is cool, and let’s see how much we can all drink without getting drunk…’

I also stuck to my non-drinking friends and my church youth group. I found when I built up a strong friendship group with others who didn’t drink, I was far less often in positions of temptation. If there was a massive party I just wouldn’t go to it as I knew it would make me too vulnerable. Since I turned 18 I can drink legally, but I think I know where to stop. My advice to others is: if you know you’ll be weak, don’t go wherever the alcohol will be. And get a good group of friends who can have fun without drinking.’ – Anonymous, Cape Town

TOP TIPS for beating the BOOZE TRAP

(compiled by Cape Town youth leader Andrew Vaughan)


In your teens, your brain is still being formed into the way it’ll be for the rest of your life. This makes it really vulnerable to excessive alcohol. Even irregular drinking can really mess up the structures developing inside your brain… and can lead to problems with your concentration (as if you needed that to be any worse that it is already!). Alcohol also damages your long-term and working memory, which makes it difficult for you to remember things, think clearly and solve problems


If you don’t realise in advance that there’s a group of people around you trying their hardest to get you to drink, the chances are you’re going to cave in and do what they want. Parties aren’t particularly good places to think about what might happen if you drink too much. So make your decision not to drink before you get there


It’s way easier not to do what everyone else is doing if there are two or more of you who’ve decided not to drink. That way you’re not on your own, and any bad vibes you get from people can be offset by the fact that there’s someone else in the same boat as you


If you’re not sure what non-alcoholic options there’ll be at the party, bring some of your own. There’s a whole range of hip drinks that’ll help you be part of the party without getting you drunk

What to say if someone calls you a wuss for not drinking

Well, you could try Mr/Miss Nice Guy (there’s a proverb that says a kind word turns away anger). So… ‘Have fun guys, I’m just not cool with that. Sorry!’

Or… use an upcoming sporting event as a reason to keep away from alcohol. ‘My coach says …’

If the pressure continues, how about something like…

‘Glad drinking makes you feel cool. I’m really happy for you.’

‘Sorry … why does joining you make me brave?’

‘So what takes more courage guys – to join you or stand up for what I believe?’

‘Anyone here brave enough to join me [in not drinking]?’

‘Hey, I’m waiting to have fun laughing at you just now …’

Found on Facebook…

‘Wuss? If I want to cause myself brain damage I’d rather be bailing on a mountain bike [or something else awesome] than drinking myself into oblivion.’

‘Er, why exactly do you need me drunk?’

‘Alcohol messes with my awesome smile/body.’

‘When you turn 30 and need a new liver, don’t come crying to me coz mine’s in mint condish!’

‘Some of us are confident enough to have fun without getting drunk.’

‘Ok, cool, don’t care if you think that.’

‘I’m a wuss? Your DOG is a wuss!’

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