One of the hardest things to do throughout high school is finding the strength to hold on to one’s values. High school is supposed to be a time of self-discovery and a time that is free to explore one’s own personal beliefs. However, high school is simply not an easy time for this amount of self-discovery to occur, especially with academic and social pressures.

As the daughter of a pastor and a psychologist, I believed that I wholeheartedly knew what my own values and beliefs were going into high school. I had made a vow to myself that alcohol and drugs would not be a temptation and I believed that my beliefs were strong enough to never doubt or question my defiance of alcohol. However, it was simply not that easy. I thought that throughout my high school experience, the ability to avoid drugs and alcohol would only strengthen by surrounding myself with the right people and simply never putting myself in a risky situation. Although high school is a time for self-discovery, for most people, it is also a time of experimentation. Everything is new and the world seems to be ours, which will often get us into trouble.

Although I am proud to say that I have made the smart and healthy decisions thus far in my high school experience, the opportunities for things to go wrong have begun to come up for me more so this summer than throughout my entire three years in high school. Now, more and more of my friends drink alcohol or require the use of drugs in order to have fun. I began to lose sight of my strong values and beliefs as I didn’t see a need to have such a strong mindset anymore. If avoiding drinking alcohol or taking drugs was going to cause me to lose friends or miss out, was it doing more harm than good?

This question has been something that I’ve struggled with, however I’ve been able to realize the power of understanding and staying true to one’s beliefs. Drugs and alcohol, not only can cause legal struggles for the students and adults involved, but they become more of a burden than a fun time. I have always been the caregiver among my friends, and, because of this, I’ve always experienced the negative consequences of alcohol. I have woken up in the middle of the night to pick up friends for fear of their safety, I’ve held back friends’ hair as they were getting sick, I’ve had to stop people from making terrible decisions, and I’ve witnessed the long-term effects of addiction and trauma caused by alcohol and drugs. I needed these shocks and realizations to occur in order to solidify the promise to myself that neither I, or anyone I love, would ever be in any video shown to scare students about the horrific effects of drinking and driving or living with lifelong regret.

I have been tempted, tested, and put into incredibly difficult situations, but I am so grateful to the person I was during my transition into high school that was confident in who they were and what they wanted. I am very different from the person I was three years ago, but I love to think that my values and resulting personality are still the same. Throughout high school my values have been tested and questioned, however I can say confidently that one does not need drugs and alcohol to form real and true friendships and have valuable and wonderful experiences. I’ve made true and meaningful relationships, been on adventures that I will remember for a lifetime, gotten involved with countless clubs and organizations around town, and have never once regretted a night out. Drugs and alcohol causes more harm and regret than it could ever do one good. Students must be taught to stay true to who they are, no matter what that means to them, through their years of self-discovery. It will never be easy and there will always be great temptations, however, the power of one’s personal values and beliefs are far greater than the fear of missing out.

If I were to step back in time to talk my younger self, I would tell her to never doubt who you are or what you believe in. We all have a voice inside of us that tells us right from wrong. In high school it makes it especially hard to find and listen to those voices, but they truly have something to say and discovering what these voices mean to you can prevent nights full of regret and a lifetime of smart decision making and wonderful memories.