Alcoholic beverages have been around for a long, long time. Invented literally thousands of years ago, the possibility that alcohol predates civilization is an interesting, and to the intellectual mind plausible, possibility. That people have been running around, consuming such beverages and inebriating themselves long before they began to band together and form governments is not surprising in the slightest; that they continue to do so nine thousand years later is surprising.

Alcohol consumption, whether it be in small amounts or large amounts, is a problem that people have been attempting to deal with for years. During the nineteenth century, a temperance movement, conceived by those who envisioned a world without harmful intoxication, sprang up to combat alcohol and its devastating effects on the American family. As more and more men became slaves to the bottle, drinking away all the troubles living in nineteenth century America, they became abusive, distant monsters whose lasting psychological effects had a deeply negative influence on the next generation of Americans. Eventually, those abuses led the next generations of Americans, as adult voters, to begin prohibition, an era of American history where alcohol became illegal.

Although prohibition failed, due to a large number of dependent alcoholics and a boisterous bootlegging trade, its essence remains alive today. Restrictions on the sale and consumption of alcohol are in place in all fifty states; and further punishments for crimes committed while intoxicated, like DUI, are more severe than their sober cousins. Still, such regulation exists only on the governmental level – what happens on the personal level is up to each individual in American society.

I am a teenager who has chosen not to drink alcohol.

My father drinks. That statement might come from the lives of scores of American teenagers, but the effect it has on each one of us is different. In my case, watching my father's drinking galvanized me against alcohol for life. The answer to why that is so is rather complicated, but I will endeavor to explain.

My family has a lot of problems, not least of which is my mother's illness, multiple sclerosis. She was diagnosed with the disease before I was born; since then, it has gotten progressively worse over time. Because my mother could not always function in the capacity of a full parent, a lot of the responsibility of raising me – mainly the responsibility of leading by example and showing me, the young son, what it is to be a "normal" member of American society – fell to my father, who was also solely responsible for taking care of my mother. This enormous stress caused my father to take up an old habit again – drinking. I'm given to understand that he didn't do it much, if at all, when I was a toddler, but I cannot remember that now.

In any case, as I was younger and beginning to grow older, I stood by and witnessed my family begin to fall apart at the seams. My mother's disease was getting worse and my father was drinking more and more; fights were getting more common and more pitched; his escape from the problems of our family were just making those problems worse. Throughout the whole thing, I was stuck somewhere around the middle – a little kid, six years old, whose mother told him that his father was a drunk who couldn't be trusted, and whose father told him that his mother was seriously ill and didn't always know what she was saying.

This pattern of mixed messages continued throughout my childhood. As a result, I became a deeply troubled teenager who was conditioned not to trust either parent. The whole thing resulted in a ton of therapy – its all something I'd rather forget, now, but know that I cannot. If I were to simply forget everything that happened to me, I might be able to get on with my life and be a functional, happy member of society. However, I would be abandoning my calling – that is, to tell others of my family's wretched plight and advise them against the evil that alcohol helped wrought. While I have the ability, through writing and speaking, to tell others of what befell me, I will, because the possibility that I might be able to prevent it from happening to even one more child like me – like I was – gives me a sense that I am part of a solution to a major societal problem.

Society – that is a funny word. We Americans insist on being treated as individuals, but when problems arise, suddenly they all have to do with "society". I cannot tell you what's wrong with society today; the answer is far too complex. I can, however, tell you that alcohol ruined my childhood, and that the circumstances that led to my own personal plight repeat themselves disturbingly often amongst others today. If I can, through my words, bring information and perhaps solution to those affected by the same situation, than so be it; I am all for it.