Calling all baby boomers: choose to go nonalcoholic

Susan Carol Price
Island Forum

It is the 40th anniversary of my graduation from University of California, Berkeley. I was a 17-year-old freshman in 1965 and finally legal to drink at 21, my senior year in 1969. I’ve been reflecting on how my attitudes toward drugs and alcohol have changed since being a student in the 60s and now a mom and a psychologist on Mercer Island.

At Berkeley, my fellow students were advocating tearing down the military-industrial complex, boycotting all our classes, stopping troop trains and following Timothy Leary’s call to tune in and drop out. I attended all my classes, worked part time, marched against the war and only used drugs on the weekends. It started out all peace and love and ended with People’s Park, death, violence and marijuana laced with PCP.

Three months later, I started grad school at University of California, Los Angeles. A group of fellow grad students and I received funding to train drug-abuse counselors for the Army, Navy and Marines on bases ranging from the Naval Station in San Diego to the Marine base in Camp Pendleton. They also flew men in from the Army stationed in Germany to be trained. At first, I couldn’t understand why the military was so hostile toward drug users. They wanted to “line them up and shoot them,” and we were trying to train them to counsel and help them get treatment. Then I started to “get it.” When you are facing enemy fire, you don’t want to be injured or killed by “friendly fire” from a “druggie” you were counting on to watch your back.

In the 1970s, I volunteered to be in a study of hallucinations at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and was given LSD, Mescaline, Psilocybin, THC in capsules, Phenobarbital and a placebo. The drug researcher had to wait hours with me until it was safe for me to drive home. Thanks to our government’s National Institute of Health, I was given an optimally safe introduction to psychedelic drugs. As a result, I stopped risking my precious mind to “street grade” psychedelics laced with who knows what.

I stopped all drugs and alcohol while pregnant and nursing my children in the 1980s and have been a light social drinker ever since.

In the ’90s, I moved my children to Mercer Island so that they could attend excellent public schools. All went well until high school, and then the drug and alcohol abuse escalated. Many parents and I had to pay attorney fees to defend our teens arrested for MIP’s, DUI’s or Disorderly Conduct. Other parents were heartbroken as they paid as much for inpatient drug/alcohol treatment as they would have paid for years of private tuition or memorable vacations for the entire family. Some parents were enraged that their teen had dropped out of college and lost their financial aid. The parents were stuck paying off the student loans and tuition.

After praying and meditating on these problems that touch me very deeply, I would like to ask my fellow Islanders to:

Choose to be nonalcoholic: If your doctor or family has asked you to drink less, please start drinking nonalcoholic beer and wine. You can still drink with friends and hold a glass or bottle, relax, fit in and have a good time. This is good for your health, and you’re a good role model for your teens who are struggling to fit in with their peers.

With the economy tanking and parents experiencing cutbacks and unemployment, teens often continue in their addictions, oblivious to the spiraling chaos and despair around them. Rather than sinking into depression or panic attacks, I’m hoping that baby boomers will mobilize their leadership skills to turn things in a more positive direction.

Islander Susan Carol Price, Ph.D., is a member of the Baha’i Faith and a Psychologist in private practice on Mercer Island.

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