Karen Osborne

History’s proven it: People have been drinking alcohol since the beginning of time. Romans had their wine, Egyptians had their beer and the medieval English had their mead. Despite this long and storied history of partying, humans apparently still haven’t learned that drinking too much alcohol can be extremely bad for us.

Our culture glorifies drinking as much as the ancient world, where getting blitzed at feasts and religious services was just the way things were done. These days, we can’t get through a popular song without at least one reference to champagne, wine, tequila or cognac. Every pro sports game I’ve seen this year has been sponsored by some brand of alcohol.

But alcohol isn’t glorious. You probably learned in health class that alcohol is a drug, a depressant, to be exact. You probably learned that too much of it will destroy your brain and your body. We only have to look at the stories of alcoholics battling addiction, their ruined families, ruined lives and ruined bodies, to know that this horrendous disease can afflict anyone.

Yet, teens still start binge drinking at parties, seeing only the fun side and never the potential risks.

I could only see the fun side when I arrived late to a college party one night in senior year. I had already turned 21 and was determined to “catch up” with my tipsy friends. It wasn’t so fun when I woke up the next day in a hospital room with absolutely no recollection of what happened. I later found out that my friends, people I trusted, had put off calling the ambulance because they were afraid they’d get in trouble.

Needless to say, they weren’t my friends after that. This happened to me and I was a good girl.

It could have been much worse if I hadn’t been in a safe space. I think about the experiences of girls who’ve been sexually abused after others had too much to drink, or about the boy who drove drunk in Tarrant County, Texas, last July, and killed four people. I think of the thousands of teens who struggle with drinking and who are ashamed of it and don’t feel like they have anyone to talk to.

Sometimes, even if you’re responsible, even if you’re good, even if you pride yourself on always doing the right thing, alcohol can turn you into a person who isn’t any of those things. That’s what alcohol does.

The drinking age limit may seem like a bummer right now, but it’s a blessing. It gives you the space you need to develop as a person, what you believe in and what you want out of life. When people begin drinking alcohol early in life, things change and rarely for the better. I lost some of my friends, but other teens have lost their trust, their innocence, their health and their lives.

Even if everyone else is saying “yes” at the next party, say “no” and encourage your friends to do the same. Wait until you’re of legal age, and even then, be responsible. If someone’s been drinking, don’t let them drive.

It’s the right decision for you and for your future.