How Substance Abuse Affected My Life

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The present-day reality full of stress, tense work settings and personal life challenges offers a variety of means to cope with these difficulties. Although pro-social advertisements on TV may propagate information about the importance of healthy lifestyle and regular exercise, a great proportion of people still consider that the easiest way to fight the stress syndrome and depression is substance (ab)use. The paradox of substance abuse in the discourse of public opinion is that it is not officially approved or directly encouraged but rather traditionally upheld and passed from generation to generation. Another way it is latently promoted is the media. Although the World Health Association postulates that All children and adolescents have the right to grow up in an environment protected from the negative consequences of alcohol consumption and, to the extent possible, from the promotion of alcoholic beverages" (Framework for alcohol policy, 2006) a great deal of media space is still charged with alcohol advertising. Men and women drinking beer in TV commercials always look fit, smartly-dressed, successful and happy thus sending the message that drinking is not only innocuous but even beneficial for those who do it. Beer producers spend millions of dollars on creative and funny commercials to boost their sales and increase customer loyalty. They want their product to be positioned as an indispensible attribute of any fortunate and good-looking persons lifestyle.

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My personal acquaintance with alcohol was not as rose-colored as shown in TV commercials. I have never been susceptible to their luring images as I had another example of a drinking person in front of my eyes. My father had a serious drinking problem that affected our family life a lot. I can hardly remember a nice childhood memory with my Dad because he was drunk most of the time or away having beer with his friends. The worst thing happened when he thought he had a fatherly love and attention spell. He had to drink at least 6 cans of beer or the equivalent of that in other kind of spirit to have that spell. He would come to me and my brother or any other teenage relative (if it was a family gathering) and talk about something in a slurry and disgusting manner. It was difficult to make sense of what he was talking about and his breath stank with alcohol. I remember myself always crying during and after those talks. I also remember often waking up in the middle of the night because my father was shouting at my mother blaming her for all his problems low wages, debts and disobedient children. Once he even woke me and my brother on purpose and told us to pack our things as he decided that he would leave my mother and take us with him. It was a difficult time for our family. My brother and I probably never had that carefree joyful childhood that every child is supposed to have. The problem with my father was that he never could be or ever become an occasional drinker. If he drank even a sip of wine his body (or mind) demanded more and more until he could do nothing but fall asleep. Then if he started drinking one day, he had a hang-over the next day so it was necessary for him to continue drinking again. This could go on for weeks. He had some sober moments, of course, when he was generally a nice person but under too much tension. In those moments he probably understood the abyss he was falling into and even tried to give up. His main problem was family gatherings like birthdays, Christmas and other celebrations. Drinking has always been an integral attribute of any family party or any adult party I was to when I was a child. My ancestors come from Russia so it is probably deeply rooted somewhere on the blood level as well as in all the traditions. It was impossible and unheard of in our family circle to invite guests to ones house at offer them nothing alcoholic to drink. If the person refused to drink, they had to provide a really valid excuse for that, like a medical condition or pregnancy. Even in that case it was usually characteristic of the host to try to persuade the person with an excuse to drink just a little bit. It was unacceptable to say that you just did not feel like drinking. Moreover, the refusal to drink at somebodys house without a plausible excuse was inevitably considered as a personal insult to the host. Therefore, the mere social and generational institutions presupposed the person to become an addict. At that time my father was employed working shifts at the Fire Rescue Team, so drinking was also a professional habit. The firemen experiencing great stress everyday often resorted to drinking to reduce their anxiety level and forget about the horrors that they saw performing their work duties. Another reason they drank could be the fact that they just had nothing to do when there were no fires in the area and drinking was considered an acceptable social pastime. Therefore, drinking is difficult to eradicate as it was and still remains one of the deeply-rooted social institutes.

Since my childhood was heavily affected by my fathers drinking problem, I always thought I would never drink in order not to expose my own family to such suffering. However, when I was in high school it was quite common to drink and smoke cannabis among teenagers. Boys and girls took it for granted that everybody had to drink a little just to be in the mood before going to a dancing night in the club so it was rather difficult to fit in if you did not drink. Most teenagers try desperately to be one of the guys and I was no exception. I did drink but I did not really like it. I did feel more cool and adult but the picture of my drunken father with his slurry speech and unsteady walk was always right before my eyes. Another example of substance abuse I observed and experienced was cannabis smoking. I never approved of the habit or felt compelled to try it as many of the teenagers do. I have always associated smoking drugs with dim and smelly opium dens somewhere in the third world east. Nevertheless, during the last year in high school I had a friend who was into this culture. He actually grew some weed right in his parents kitchen garden for him to dry up and get high. Since I spent a lot of time with him I often watched him smoking. Every time he smoked he changed a little but not much. He would laugh and joke more at first, and then he experienced appetite attacks and would eat a jar of jam in 20 minutes. Finally he grew more serious and absorbed and often told me how beautiful the world seemed to him when he was high. He would often persuade me to try and I would persuade him to give up. He said there was no motivation for him to give up as smoking only did him good. He insisted that there were no side effects or addiction to cannabis so once I did try it. I clearly remember it was a full moon night and we went for a walk somewhere in the wheat fields in our provincial town. I was nervous and frightened that smoking would change me so probably that is why it did not have any effect on me. I also do not smoke at all so the procedure was new for me too and I think I could just have failed to inhale the smoke properly. Anyway, I never tried smoking cannabis again and it does not seem especially attractive to me when people do drugs in general. When I was a freshman at the university I had another friend who would take me to some kind of gathering of her pals. This gathering took place on the stairs of a private house somewhere in the outskirts of the town. The guy who lived in that house was in the wheelchair and there was something sickly about his whole appearance. He had a lot of questionable-type guys coming to the stairs of his house to talk about philosophy and rock music. They would also smoke some weed too. The crippled guy was probably twice as old as most of the others; he had chickenpox-ridden face and greasy hair. However, many of the girls found him attractive because he knew how to talk to girls and offered them an opportunity to feel grown up and streetwise while smoking some cannabis. For some reason I instantly felt defiant to the whole atmosphere of the gathering and soon refused to go there. The reason for my defiance was that everybody was supposed to sit in a circle and smoke the same pipe made of a cheap plastic bottle with some weed burning inside. I felt nauseous at the very thought of touching the pipe with my lips after I saw other people touching it with theirs. Besides being unhygienic the tradition of compulsory peace-pipe has something repulsively medieval about it.

To sum it up, I have experienced and observed a great deal of substance abuse of different types. The most traumatic example for me was my fathers dependant use that he acquired through sociocultural and generational factors. My high school friends and university acquaintances occasional drinking and cannabis smoking are the examples of recreational use as most of them did that in order to compliment their social image or just to have a good time. Theoretically there can be some positive effects of substance abuse like overcoming natural shyness or grasping some incredible beauty of the world after cannabis smoking but I personally do not approve of any kind of substance use other than medically prescribed. I might have been traumatized too much by my alcoholic father to even consider doing drugs or drinking myself, though I am not against responsible drinking.


"Framework for alcohol policy in the WHO European Region" . World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe. April 4, 2006. Retrieved March 2, 2016.

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