As a youth, the adults in our life say things like “don’t give in to peer pressure,” or “just because others are doing it doesn’t mean you need to.” Peer pressure can be hard to say “no” to at any age, and especially so during the adolescent years when our only desire is to be part of a group. To fit in.
In hindsight, many of those who struggled with drug addiction as a young person now recognize that the crowds they surrounded themselves with weren’t necessarily the best for their well-being, and most likely weren’t even truly friends at all. This is a common realization for patients at Lakeview as well as our staff who are in recovery.
It’s difficult to see this as peer pressure or low self-esteem when you’re caught up in the middle of everything. When you crave being liked and are in the throes of addiction, focused solely on getting and using drugs with your “friends.” Many addiction journeys begin in an oddly similar way – as teenagers the person was hanging out with a group of people who were taking pills or drinking and there was no way they could be the nerd who didn’t do it, too. Little did they know, no matter how badly they wanted to, they’d be the one who couldn’t stop after that one time.
Our patients and some of our Lakeview staff, openly share their stories about peer pressure, low self-esteem, and how using and/or selling drugs was their ticket to being popular. Eventually, they realized that it was all an illusion. Their “friends” weren’t constantly calling them because they cared or were interested in them as people. Their phones rang off the hook because they had what people wanted – drugs or connections to drugs. It wasn’t until they got clean, and had a clear head that this epiphany pretty much slapped them in the face. They got help, stopped using, stopped selling, and the phone calls stopped, too. All those “friends” moved on and suddenly, being sober and thinking straight allowed them to put things into perspective.
Being a teenager can be tough in general. As we’ve heard from patients and staff in recovery time and again, teenagers may end up turning to drugs to cope with stress and everyday pressures. This is not a healthy coping mechanism, and as these individuals start on their path to recovery, they can see when their life turned upside down. Where the pressures and addiction took over their lives. On the flip side, treatment and sobriety allows them to begin to develop healthier skills they can tap into when they feel overwhelmed with life.
Sometimes it’s difficult to believe we are worthy and likable, even lovable, just by being our authentic selves. Especially during our youth. The one sentiment that almost everyone who has struggled in their younger years agrees on is that having a contact list full of people who disappeared once they no longer served their needs meant nothing. To look around and see who was, and will continue to be, by your side through good and bad times – that’s friendship and unconditional love. They realized that they are each important and they do matter to people who care about THEM, not the drugs, which is truly a great feeling.
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