Examples of Substance & Alcohol Abuse in Pop Culture

Whiskey Lullaby – Brad Paisley & Alison Krauss

(Music starts at 2:15)

“I did not kill my daddy. He drank his own self to death the year after the County moved me out. I heard how they found him shut up in the house dead and everything.” Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons

This song, while put into the context of the video about a soldier and his unfaithful wife, is about people drinking themselves to death to get over pain, heartbreak, sorrow and regret. In Ellen Foster we don’t know why her father is a mean man and a drunk. We don’t get a backstory on his life or his relationship with her mother. We don’t know if maybe he was a soldier, or he had some trauma in his life that caused him to drink. In Young Adult literature, many main characters do not deal with alcohol or substance abuse themselves, but have a friend or family member that has the disease, like Ellen. However, in lived social worlds, this is not always the case. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), in 2015, 7.7 million underage adolescents (ages 12-20) drank alcohol beyond just a few sips at one time during the year. Underage drinkers are also more likely to binge drink, with males binging more than females but the two demographics being tied for overall alcohol consumption by the time they reach high school age. Pop culture perpetuates the idea that it’s “ok” for young people to drink as long as it’s at a party and they’re not driving, and of course they don’t get caught. Many TV shows and movies show teens drinking at parties and other social gatherings without any consequences.

Parenthood Hard Times Come Again No More (Season 2, Episode 22)
Characters: Zeek and Amber

(This is the only video I could find of this scene. Sorry it isn’t the best)

“In the middle of a crazy and drunk life, you have to hang onto the good and sober moments tightly.” The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

This powerful statement from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is beautifully illustrated in the scene between Amber and Zeek in Parenthood. While Amber and Zeek belong to the family social world, rather than the peer social world, sometimes it can take family to help young adults understand that the things happening in their peer social worlds can be harmful and can have serious lifelong consequences. Amber has been having a rough time in her life. She’s failing in school, she didn’t get in to college and she isn’t sure what to do with her life. She turns to drinking and drugs as an escape and comfort, despite her mother Sarah’s warning that her father was an addict and she could be susceptible to falling into addiction. She becomes friends with a guy, Gary, who is also an addict and Gary gets into a car accident while under the influence, and Amber is badly injured. She doesn’t want to listen to her mom or her brother that being friends with Gary and following down the path she is on could lead to jail time or death. It takes her grandfather Zeek and a little tough love to get Amber to understand how truly lucky she is to be alive and how alcohol and drugs are not the answer to relieving pain. This situation puts a twist on Alexie’s quote. While Junior is saying a drunk needs to hold onto the good sober moments in his life, Zeek is telling Amber don’t medicate the bad moments with alcohol and drugs because you lose the sober moments. You can destroy them with one bad decision.


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