An Open Letter to Young Adults about Sex, Drugs and Alcohol

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Dear Young Person: Alcohol, drugs and sexuality can enhance and create life. They work. They can alter your moods, change your perceptions and disinhibit you. It’s fun to be able to behave differently. Blotting out discomfort relieves anxiety. Going wild can release tension. Alcohol, drugs and sexuality have always been part of the human experience. Think of them as elegant enhancements to already very wondrous life experiences. The young adults I know move me with their energy, brilliance and dedication to causes and creativity. Even those making traditional choices bring unique voices to their work and professions. When I think that you are the future, I want nothing more than to nurture and support you, paving the way for your dreams. Yet, some of you have taken a dangerous detour. The current style of drug, alcohol and sexuality misuse both deprives and potentially harms you.

Our society, and that includes the people who raised you, haven’t figured out how to talk about limits without going back to a more repressive past. Rock and rap stars make tons of money pushing an image of sexy macho hooking-up druggy behavior but it isn’t real. When real people try and live that way, it usually feels really, really bad. People get hurt and violated. Further, attending high school, college or graduate school for the purposes of wild partying disrespects yourself, the concept of education, and all those people in the world who would give anything to have the privilege of education.

I know you have been given mixed messages about all of this stuff and it isn’t your fault if you think the only way to have a good time is to obliterate your mind. So, if you will allow me, I have put together a few modern guidelines for how to navigate the difficult terrain of drugs, alcohol and sexuality. Here goes:  Sexuality

  • If you won’t date, at least have dinner before exploring a sexual relationship with someone. Sex works best when it grows out of a relationship. If you know each other you will have developed an ability to speak with one another. Conversations help sexuality become consensual, mutual and meaningful.
  • Sober sex is far better than drunken, wasted blacked out sex. Most people – men and women – no matter how they may act afterward, feel awful about substance fueled hooking-up. Trust me. I know. I’m a psychologist and I’m always there the morning after. Alcohol or drugs can enhance a sexual relationship but they shouldn’t be the reason it happens.
  • It is totally fine to wait to have sex until you have met the right person or until you marry. While most people benefit from knowing each other sexually before making a life long commitment, choosing to relish sexuality as a sacred act between loving and committed partners is a legitimate choice.Don’t be afraid to be this person if it is how you feel.
  • Sexuality is a place of imagination, play, and poetry. It’s intense. It takes a good deal of maturity to manage it. Having sex before you are ready can make you feel as though you are split into multiple pieces. Slow down. Take your time. Don’t rush. If you can’t be comfortable holding hands with someone you aren’t ready for anything else.
  • Hold out for the magic of really getting to know somebody about whom you care deeply. Open the gift of love tenderly and slowly.

Drugs

  • Your brain needs time to grow and settle before introducing artificial ingredients into it, including weed. Research shows that what you put into your body can impact on gene expression. The drugs you do today may hurt your grandchildren.
  • Do not use designer manufactured substances. First of all you are supporting a network of drug dealers, many of who are very nasty people. They murder and behead people who get in their way (kind of like ISIS for dollars). Second, you have no idea what might be in those drugs and you might die. Third, you might end up being responsible for someone else dying. Fourth, you may be one of those people who have a proclivity to addictions. You may have no way of knowing that until it’s too late. These drugs might make you feel good for awhile, but most people usually feel really sick afterward. Again, I know this. I the person who is there the morning after.
  • The legalization of marijuana tempts one into thinking it’s safe. It may very well be good for you when used correctly. What your parents don’t know, however, is that the stuff you are smoking is much stronger than what they smoked. Don’t go to them for advice. Rather, slow down, take it easy and learn how to absolutely experience all of life’s many experiences before trying it. Make sure you know the beauty of authentic experiences before experimenting with distorting them.
  • Whether you are self-medicating or using drugs for fun there are some really well-researched alternatives that can give you an awesome high: exercise, yoga, good nutritious food, hiking, bird watching, whales breeching on a clear sunny day, taking care of others, a sun rising, loving someone.
  • If you use drugs to manage or otherwise regulate your moods do it right and talk to your doctor about psychopharmacological support. If you won’t take medication but like to do drugs, I don’t understand you.

Alcohol

  • All of the above applies to alcohol except that alcohol is a legal and socially acceptable method for altering your mood. If used wisely it can bring relaxation and mood sweetening to your endeavors. Used unwisely, it makes you stupid. If you have addictive proclivities, avoid it.  You can live without it and not have a lesser life.
  • Drink wine with fine food, as an accompaniment to good, deep conversations and the delicious and savory sensations of a real meal.
  • The same applies to beer.
  • Your body metabolizes what is known as hard alcohol differently, so learn your tastes and limits. Use it as a companion to what you are doing, not the focus. Guzzling and funneling alcohol can kill you because you can’t regulate intake. Blacking out should be considered a mistake not a goal.
  • Your brain needs time to grow and develop before it can manage the impact of alcohol. Wait. Be ready. Learn slowly. Do everything sober at least once before trying it with alcohol. That way you can always choose to drink rather than needing to drink.

Life can make you feel really good if you learn how to live it.The beauty of existing is in your hands. Nurture and cherish what you have been given and what you have earned. Respect yourself. Don’t get wasted. Get life. What do you think?

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