Having the conversation about underage drinking

Where do I start?



Having the conversation about underage drinking – Where do I start?

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 18. 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 (MADD) 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 teen-focused 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.

Through my grief, I wrote a book, “Return to the Water,” and proceeds from sales go to support MADD.

Jan Withers, national president of MADD, had this to say about the book: “This is a deeply honest and touching story of a father’s deep love for his family. John’s primary dream was to create a family bond and be the father he felt was denied him. It is a reminder that even though we devote so much of ourselves into envisioning and planning our dreams, we cannot always protect ourselves and those we love from devastating tragedy. This poetic prose relays how a family can be shattered by the violence of drunk driving which killed his son, Adam. John gripped my heart as he took me on a journey of passionate family devotion.”

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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