“Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, July 1990, 17
Rest assured that you are not alone in having to face the temptation of alcohol or drugs or in being afraid of how you will be treated when you say no.
The answer to your question is that you must begin preparing long before you face an insistent friend with a can of beer in his hand. You need to decide now, within yourself, that drugs and alcohol are not in your best interest and that you will never use these substances.
To help yourself do this, you should first learn the facts. Drugs and alcohol are powerful mood-altering chemicals that are poisonous to the human body, especially to the nervous system. The chemical reactions in the brain that produce the “fun” are the very processes that break the body, poison the mind, and destroy the spirit of the user. Our Father in Heaven gave us wise medical advice in counseling us to avoid these substances.
After making a personal decision not to use these chemicals, you need to determine how to avoid people, places, and situations where drugs and alcohol are present. A wise father counseled his children to “stay out of dark places.” One successful drug and alcohol treatment program counsels its young recovering addicts to change their “playground and playmates” to avoid temptation.
In spite of your best efforts, you may still be invited to use these harmful substances. That’s why you need to develop and rehearse ways of saying no. Get advice from, and practice saying no with, nonusing friends, parents, youth leaders, seminary teachers, your bishop, etc. If you do, you’ll know exactly what to say and do when the time comes.
You should also be warned that your reluctance to say no suggests a possible lack of self-esteem and self-love. Sometimes when we have difficulty saying no to others and setting limits that are in our best interest, it is because we lack feelings of self-worth.
Self-esteem, or how we see ourselves, is something we earn by what we do. As we do good things, have personal victories, develop our talents, and experience personal growth, we tend to view ourselves in a more positive light. Look for and create successful experiences (no matter how small) for yourself, and you’ll see yourself as someone whose opinion matters. This makes it a lot easier to say no when you need to.
Self-love is a gift that you give to yourself. Heavenly Father gives his love freely to all of his children, sinners and saints alike, and holds you in the highest regard for your divine worth. Knowing that you are his child, shouldn’t you also give yourself the same gift o unconditional love? Once you have experienced and acknowledged the embrace of God’s love for you, you’ll find it easier to make decisions in the interest of your divine potential, no matter whom you have to say no to.
Finally, know that even though some decisions we make as followers of the Savior are not popular with the world, great joy and blessings will come from having followed the path. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10).
Put your faith in the One who loves you most and knows you best, and He will support you in this decision, as well as in any trial you may encounter. Pray for the courage to do what you know is right, and then do it. As you do you will enjoy the blessings of a healthy body, clear mind, and strong spirit.
The key to overcoming peer pressure is to decide now to say no, and then when the situation arises, say no right away. That way, people know where you stand. If you “beat around the bush,” others won’t know where you stand. Most people will respect your decision if you’re honest or up front with them immediately. However, if they don’t respect your decision, they aren’t true friends. A true friend loves you and wouldn’t want to hurt you. Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father are true friends and will bless you for your decision to say no. The Lord loves you unconditionally and doesn’t ever leave you all alone. You are a child of God. Ask Him for help.
Jason Wheeler, 18
The Lord knows all the trials and tribulations that the youth of the latter days go through, but remembering that he is always there to help you and that he loves you will help you be sure to not give in to temptations. Remember the faithful words of Nephi and believe that the Lord will never give a commandment to his children without preparing a way for them to accomplish the thing which he has commanded.
Christeena Michelle Riggs, 17
The main thing is to be with people you know and trust, who aren’t going to pressure you into the wrong things. Drugs and alcohol are very real problems in this world, and you need to pick more stable friends than those who are having these problems. But, most important, you have to know yourself. I wouldn’t go to a place where I couldn’t trust myself or where I might be tempted to break the Word of Wisdom. It just isn’t worth it.
Hang around friends who would protect you and stand up for what you know is right. Trust in the Lord. You couldn’t have a better friend! And, if your friends are truly your friends, they won’t think about ever pressuring you into something that is wrong.
Lisa M. Eyres, 16
I made a mistake similar to the one you wish to avoid because I was afraid I would not be accepted. This is the biggest mistake I have ever made. I was enslaved to that habit for the next eight years. I am just now getting over my addiction.
Drugs caused my love for life to slowly fade. I was ready to give up on life when I decided to turn my life around. I had to get rid of a “friend” to let go of the ties that held me back.
I now love myself enough that nobody can shake who I am. I do not know you personally, but I love the person you wish to be. If you ever have to give up a friend to protect yourself, do it. If your friends insist on falling, don’t tumble with them.
Make up your mind before these harmful substances are offered to you not to use them. Be your own person.
Albert Ramirez, 15
I believe peer pressure is one of the more difficult problems to deal with in high school. It’s sometimes very scary to be different than the average person. No one wants to be rejected. But you would be surprised at how many of your friends would rather not drink, smoke, or take drugs, but are scared to admit it.
When I was in high school, I was one of three LDS students in a student body of five hundred. One year I sent invitations out for my 16th birthday. On the bottom they read, “No alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs.” When I gave those invitations out, my parents and I were afraid that no one would show up at the party. However, 35 out of 50 did show up.
About a month later, I received an invitation to a friend’s party. On the bottom it read “No alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs.” More such invitations followed in the next two years.
What you have to do is decide now what you will do and then stick to it. True friends will accept you for who you are. They may continue to smoke or drink, but they won’t pressure you once you’ve politely said, “I don’t smoke” (or drink, or whatever). If they do continue to pressure, find a new set of friends who accept you for you and what you stand for.
Michelle Seibert, 21
Merritt Island, Florida
I know just how you feel. I have already been faced with that question. If a friend asks if you’d like to use any type of drug or alcohol, say NO and walk away. They’ll respect you for your willpower.
Just tell yourself ahead of time that you’re not going to use drugs or alcohol. I know saying no is hard, but once you’ve said it the first time, it will be a lot easier to say it the second time. Good luck!
Andy Johnson, 15
I went through three years in the Army Air Corps, including combat, with no temptation to smoke or drink, by deciding in advance what to say when offered a cigarette or drink. I always responded by saying. “No thank you. I don’t smoke,” or “No, thank you. I don’t drink. It’s bad for my health.”
Bernell Sharp, 66
Educate yourself on drugs and their adverse effects on human life. Then your courage to say no will suffice because you’ll know what you’re talking about.
Your friends may be angry if you don’t “try it,” but then again, are these friends?
Holly Pawlak, 17
The very fact that you have thought about situations where people may ask you to use drugs or other harmful things (even when it hasn’t happened yet) shows great insight and courage. Keep living your life right—reading scriptures and Church magazines, taking seminary or other classes to learn new things, being an example to those around you, and, most of all, pray for Heavenly Father’s guidance every day.
He has promised great blessings if we strive to obey him, even when our friends may tempt us to do differently. You seem to have found some pretty wonderful friends already, since no one has asked you to use drugs. Be thankful for that!
If your school or community includes a “Just Say No” group or some other form of peer support for youth, get involved in it. I did! I made a lot of new friends (which can also help those who need to get rid of a drug dependence) and became a big part of some really fun drug-free activities and conferences in my state. Besides, when people find out that you will stand up for yourself, they will be even less likely to ask you to go against the Word of Wisdom.
Believe in yourself. You are a child of our Heavenly Father who loves each of us very much. In Doctrine and Covenants 18:10 the Lord says, “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” [D&C 18:10] You are worth it! Don’t worry that your friends may think you are stupid or that they will be angry with you. If you tell them strongly the first time, they will probably respect that and not ask you again. They may even help you say no when someone else tries to tempt you.
Ann Brough, 17