Is Saying ‘No’ Enough?
When someone asks if you want a drink or drugs, how will you respond? These practical tips might help...
By Micah Robbins
Rates of drug and alcohol abuse among teens are, thankfully, at historic lows, according to the latest annual “Monitoring the Future” national survey, released just last year. Still, it would be naïve to assume that this alleged decrease in teen substance abuse means peer pressure to smoke, drink or use drugs is now a thing of the past.
On the contrary, there remains a strong probability that you will get pressured (whether explicitly or indirectly) to drink or use drugs—at which point, knowing how to say “no” will be critical.
The pressure every teen feels
Regardless of your circle of friends and whether you attend a Christian school, the reality is that you’ll likely be invited to take part in underage drinking—or handed a joint or pill and dared to try it, as part of a misguided teenaged rite of passage.
In fact, it’s safe to simply assume you will encounter offers of drugs and/or alcohol, as evidenced by the following data from the 2016 MTF survey:
- Roughly 38 percent of 10th graders and 56 percent of 12th graders drank in the last year.
- While only 6 percent of 12th graders (or one in 16 high school seniors) reports using marijuana daily, there has been a sizable decrease in the number of teens who think the drug is harmful to use regularly.
Tips for Saying “No”
Below are some tips that may come in handy the next time someone offers you drugs or alcohol. While 'saying no' might seem like the hardest thing to do, remember Hebrews 2:18, which says about Jesus ... "Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted".
- Have a non-alcoholic beverage in hand. People will be far less likely to pressure you to drink when you already have a drink in your hand. Having a drink in your hands will also help you feel less awkward about saying “no” to offers of alcohol, cigarettes or other drugs. If you’re not sure whether the party you’re going to will provide non-alcoholic options, take your own drink with you. It’s unlikely that people will notice the drink in your hand is non-alcoholic. (In fact, there’s a greater chance they will notice merely that you have a drink in your hand, and consequently will forget to offer you one.)
- Offer to be the designated driver. Driving “under the influence” of alcohol, marijuana or other substances is never a good idea. If you've got your licence, one way you can show God’s love to your friends is to be responsible in looking out for them and getting them home safely after a night of heavy partying and drinking.
- Come prepared with a reason you're not drinking. For example, if you’re an athlete and have a game or race the following day, that is a perfectly reasonable explanation for why you’re avoiding alcohol, cigarettes or other drugs. Or maybe there’s a test tomorrow, or you need to be at work on time. There are a host of justifiable reasons that can be given for politely refusing drug or alcohol offers.
- Just be honest. Sometimes it's just easier to come out and say you don’t drink or do drugs, whatever the reason may be. “I’m not into that” or “I stay away from that stuff” is sufficient. So is “I want to stay healthy” or “There’s no way I’ll ever do that.” A polite but firm, self-confident “no” can set a positive example for your friends, improve your own self-esteem, and protect you from very real harm. In some cases, too, it may become a natural opening for talking about your faith and why you live differently to others.
About the author: Micah Robbins is a community substance use prevention leader and recovery and treatment advocate and proud part of the Beach House Center for Recovery team. His 23 years of experience in the field has seen him help several projects and organizations from Maine to South Florida. You will see him in the community with the Palm Beach Country Substance Awareness Coalition facilitating teen leadership development and advocating for the recovery community with the Recovery Awareness Partnership.