By: D. Mckay
In 1984, the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed by Congress, implementing 21 as the minimum legal purchase age of alcohol, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Underage drinking statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism state that, “By age 15, about 33 percent of teens have had at least one drink. By age 18, about 60 percent of teens have had at least one drink. In 2015, 7.7 million young people ages 12-20 reported that they drank alcohol beyond ‘just a few sips’ in the past month.”
Me? I was different. My first drink of alcohol was when I was the legal age of 21—I waited. I made the decision to wait for many different reasons. I’ve seen alcohol destroy the lives of those close to me, I don’t like not being in control, and I didn’t see the need to drink… it wasn’t a necessity for me.
There were a few times I was tempted, there were times I was teased for it, and there were even times when people evidently tried to get me to drink after I clearly told them I didn’t want to. But I have to admit, just because I chose not to drink didn’t mean that I cared if other people did. My motto is, “You do what you want to do, and I’ll do what I want to do.” I never judged other people for drinking underage.
I’m not the only one who made this decision. Stephanie Split, a 2016 Robert Morris University graduate, also waited until she was 21 to drink alcohol. She had several reasons, but there was one that really stood above the rest.
“The biggest reason is my grandmother was an alcoholic, and I got to see firsthand… the negative effects of alcohol. And to be honest, it was terrifying,” said Split.
Like myself, putting everything on the line and risking getting caught didn’t appear worthwhile for Split. Getting into those types of situations, for some people, is uncomfortable.
“The thought of getting caught or in trouble from underage drinking made it seem like it wasn’t worth it,” said Split. “I tried to keep myself out of situations that would involve underage drinking so I wouldn’t feel pressure. I don’t think there was anyone who ever pressured me to drink.”
Abstaining from alcohol before 21 is not as hard as many think it is. A lot of people always ask me, “How did you do it?” It’s a choice. Just like drinking before 21 is a choice. Everyone has a reason for doing what they want to do.
There are always people who support those who make this decision along the way, as well. Family, friends and even strangers respected our decision, and it meant a lot.
“Friends never teased me or made fun of me. I was actually surprised by how many people respected my decision,” said Split.