What were your attitudes toward use of substances when you were a child and an adolescent?
When I was a young teenager I did not know myself. I valued the opinions of others more than my own. My parents own their own business and they work long days. I had a stable family unit, but in my preadolescent years I began to rebel against my parents’ disciplined way of life. I did not fit in my suburban community being Chinese American. The only other Chinese Americans were my cousins and I saw them all of the time. I decided to venture out in the city with my cousin and started hanging out with the city kids. We would take the bus from the suburbs into Philadelphia. We would socialize with the city kids, and even then I still felt out of place because I talked “white,” I did not know what that meant until I started to pick up their accents of English and Chinese mixed together, which is known as “Chinglish.”
The kids we started to hang out with drank, smoked, and did what they wanted because their parents were not around. I never felt comfortable enough to do anything so I just abstained. My mom noticed my attitude change and decided it was time for me to work in the family business so she could keep her eyes on me. At the time I was angry but stepping back now, I realize, it was the best decision she could have done as a parent because I could have ended up in terrible situations.
What was your personal and peer group experience of substance use? How are your views the same or different now? What might it feel like to work with clients making different choices, or to encourage choices that you did not make?
Many of my friends started drinking at a young age of 15. Some of them started to have sex at 14 because it was the “in” thing to do. I refused to drink because I did not like the taste. My dad loves to drink Heinken and when I was a small child, I was curious. I asked my dad for a sip and i tasted terrible. I asked my dad why he would drink something so gross and he laughed. I smoked my first cigarette at the age of 8 and it was a terrible experience. My lungs were burning and I could not stop coughing. With all of these previous experiences as a child, it helped me turn away from smoking and drinking because I was not curious.
Who advised you about drugs and alcohol, and when? What was your response? What encouraged or discouraged use in the approaches you encountered? What do you hope to emulate or discard from your models?
The first time I learned about drugs was through the D.A.R.E program. I think it was a program that worked for me because I was convinced if I smoked one joint or snorted one line of cocaine, I would be immediately addicted. We had HBO in my house as a young child so I would watch a lot of movies and some had drugs and addiction. As a child, it scared me that someone’s life could end up like this. Now as an adult, I am aware Hollywood likes to exaggerate the stories but it worked for me! It was enough for me as an adult today to stay away. I know what is on the line if anything happened to me and the devastation it would cause my family, I do not know what I am missing if I have never experienced it. I live a pretty good life now and I do not need something to distract me from my goals. I know who I am and what I enjoy and that makes me happy. It might be different than my peers but that is okay, I know I am different.