How Do You Handle A Drunk Teenager?

Nothing prepares you for the first time your teenager gets drunk.  None of the "teenage expert" talks I have attended, the books I have read or the multiple online resources I have scoured could have equipped me for dealing with the harsh reality of my son's inebriation.

A keen cricketer, Teenager No.1 plays for his college 1st XI and last week marked the end of a particularly gruelling set of matches against a stream of touring sides from across the Southern Hemisphere.    After the final match the team had drinks in the club house before joining a celebratory party for the players and their parents. The mood was jubilant and the plan was for the boys to head off to a "post-party" party.

Now Teenager No.1 was one of only two 17 year olds playing in a team of 18 year olds, who had not only finished several physically demanding full days of cricket but had also completed their A'levels and therefore left college, so for them there was a lot to celebrate.

There are not many occasions to drink at his age other than at "gatherings" at people's houses and those are few and far between, but as always we had the chat with him prior to the party about remembering his age and taking things easy.  Like us he has attended numerous talks on the dangers of alcohol.  He has nursed his friends through some nightmare scenarios.  We have talked openly as a family about drinking responsibly.  He has never let us down before, but in this situation in particular we were mindful of the fact that his peers were older and he may feel pressured to try and keep up.

It was impossible to monitor his every move but as the night unfolded our worst fears were realised.  He had drunk more than he could handle and despite us trying to rein him in discreetly we were temporarily rendered powerless.  I found myself apologising for his exuberance but everyone just kept saying "Don't worry. It's been a hard season, they are all unwinding."  Rarely, however, is a mother's sixth sense wrong.  It was like watching a kettle boil and I knew it would only be a matter of time before the switch went. The challenge was to persuade him to leave before that happened.

In the end Mr MoT had to employ a mixture of gentle encouragement and brute force, supported by Teenager No.1's best mate, (the other 17 year old in the pack) and his parents.  We agreed another party was unwise, but we needed the support of the best mate to get Teenager No.1 out of the door, which meant ending his night early too.

In retrospect I expect we have been quite smug until now, listening to the endless stream of stories about teenagers getting drunk at parties, bathing in the warm glow that it would never happen to us as our son knows better.  What idiots quite frankly.

Hands up to having been there myself.  I can remember my own humiliating drunken teenage experience like it was yesterday.  The truth is that I knew it would happen, it was just a case of when and how bad it would be.

It was bad.  Once the switch went, the demons were unleashed as his capacity for rational thought was eradicated.  He railed against our interference.  All he could focus on was that we had ruined his night.   All we could focus on was getting him home.  Before that, however, we had to endure the agony of a car journey with copious stops for "vomit breaks", turning a simple ten minute journey into an hour.

At home, he managed to lock himself in the bathroom, pass out near the loo and vomit some more. Between us we spent the night nursing him as he cried at how sick he felt and how he had let himself down.  Sobering up was hard.  Eventually he slept but not without one of us there to keep an eye on him. I never imagined that the young child I had nursed through various illnesses would, as a young adult, need us as much as he did that night.

The next morning his humiliation was complete as now fully sober we talked him through his loss of control which of course was the really scary part.

There will be those that judge us as well as him, but despite our best "textbook" endeavours for our son not to be one of those statistics, it does happen and there is no way to sugar coat it when it does.  At some point in life almost everyone will learn the lessons of alcohol the hard way.

Our son was mortified.  He apologised in person to everyone, backed up with emails castigating his own behaviour and his appalling downfall from grace.  To be honest nobody saw the situation in the same way that we did.  Many said they saw a young man who had conducted himself impeccably all season and was letting his hair down, but an apology felt right.

The really "bad bits" as I call them happened once we had left the party and only us and our dear friends who drove us all home, were privy to those.  It is true that a crisis always tests friendships and shows which ones are the ones worth hanging on to and I am so thankful for the unswerving loyalty of our friends that night in our moment of crisis.

I will also be eternally glad that we were there to intervene and hate to think of the consequences otherwise.  The real challenge now is for Teenager No.1 to learn from this and not make the same mistake twice.

As for us, well our confidence has taken a knock and we are naturally apprehensive.  For now he is grounded as we feel there needs to be a consequence to his actions, more because of his treatment of us as a result of the drinking than of the drinking itself....he has surely learnt his own lesson there.  Ultimately though we have to have faith in the son that we raised and love unconditionally and trust that this will be a one off.


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  1. July 21, 2016 / 8:20 pm

    My drink was spiked at 15 and I passed out sick and got in huge trouble for drinking (I had only had one) but they didn’t believe me till years later. It put me oh for a long time but my parents wee never open or talked about it. Sounds like you are doing an amazing job! Thanks for linking to #picknmix

    • July 23, 2016 / 4:26 pm

      Oh gosh that sounds horrific. Why do people do that? I am always telling my eldest to be wary of people trying to do something like that. We can only guide them but ultimately at this stage many of the decisions fall down to them. Thanks for commenting #PickNMix

  2. July 19, 2016 / 11:30 am

    Oh gosh – I have all this to come. Not a fun part of being a parent but an inevitable one 🙁 . Thanks for linking to #sharewithme

    • July 23, 2016 / 4:24 pm

      I am learning that you can only guide them as they enter the teenage years but you can’t ultimately control them. The decision has to be theirs. #sharewithme

  3. July 18, 2016 / 11:30 pm

    I am absolutely petrified of the day my eldest gets drunk… he’s only 12 but I am already thinking about it as with his Type 1 Diabetes getting drunk for him could be life threatening if not handled correctly. I know there will be a time when he drinks too much, who of us haven’t?! I just so hope that like you I will be there to look out for him. I hope his head wasn’t too sore the next morning!

    Thanks for linking up to #Picknmix

    Stevie x

    • July 23, 2016 / 4:23 pm

      Yes of course the consequences will be far graver for your son than for others. Hopefully, he will be mindful of that from the outset. #PickNMix

  4. July 17, 2016 / 9:13 am

    Hi Jo, having two teenage ‘children’ (nineteen and sixteen) I have no doubt that we will be experiencing an over indulgence one day. However my son had a mouthful of beer on his eighteenth and really didn’t like it, and prefers coke, so I have a feeling it won’t come from him. We allow our daughter to enjoy a glass of wine with a meal on a special occasion and, like you, have tried to enlighten her about the not so nice side of over indulging in alcohol. So time will tell.

    I am hoping that as the culture and attitude of teenagers towards alcohol is different here in Greece than the UK, it may not happen. Teenagers don’t tend to have house parties here and would rather go out and enjoy a coffee on an evening. I do know that on occasion my daughter has had a glass of wine, instead of a coffee, when she’s been out with friends, as she tells me. But I am sure that one day we will be faced with a slightly worse for wear teenager, who will be cleaning up there own vomit and will have to face being teased mercilessly by all who knows her.

    Oh for the love of teenagers!


    • July 17, 2016 / 9:41 pm

      Debbie that sounds so much more civilised. If only it was like that more here. The exposure of our young here to alcohol so early at house parties undoubtedly has a part to play. Thanks for commenting. x

  5. July 17, 2016 / 8:31 am

    Oh gosh, this will be interesting when we get to this point with the Twins….. Dread to think! Especially if they both explore this rite if passage in the same night!! Double sick bowls at the ready methinks! Only 10 yrs at the moment so thankfully a little way off. Your post really made me think about this whole subject, something I’ve not wanted to do yet but I’m glad I have! Forewarned is forearmed!!!

    • July 17, 2016 / 9:38 pm

      Enjoy the next few years – you are a while off yet. A dear friend of mine has twins and she says it gives her increased peace of mind because they always look out for each other so as a result she thinks she has avoided any exposure to any “bad” behaviour. #PickNMix

  6. July 15, 2016 / 2:15 pm

    I am dreading this age with my two. I wasn’t that bad although will never forget getting home from a work do age 17 at about half 8 completely smashed on wine and with vomit down me! Not a good look and as punishment my mum made me go on a uni visit the following day! #picknmix

    • July 15, 2016 / 2:38 pm

      Oh dear how funny, I think it is the punishment that is the hardest but it has to be done doesn’t it? Thanks for sharing your experience. #PickNMix

  7. July 14, 2016 / 9:30 pm

    If my kids are anything like their parents were, then god help us! You sound like you handled this so well. i guess the key thing is also not getting drunk yourself – that would have been a total nightmare!
    Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub

    • July 15, 2016 / 11:18 am

      Ha ha, yes indeed but in moments of crisis your mind becomes startlingly clearer. Thanks for commenting. #coolmumclub

  8. July 14, 2016 / 8:58 pm

    Oh goodness, I’m dreading my kids being teenagers and doing this. I was a pretty sensible teenager but still went out and got into a state on a few occasions, happens to everyone at some point I guess x #coolmumclub

    • July 15, 2016 / 11:16 am

      Emma it’s not all bad, there are bucket loads of wonderful moments too, it’s just the tough bits are quite challenging. #coolmumclub

  9. July 14, 2016 / 12:51 pm

    This post really moved me! Firstly it is so well written. Secondly, I have girls aged 12, 14, 15, 17 and it scares me. What moved me is your honesty. No-one should judge you or him. As parents it sounds as if you are being amazing in the way you had discussed alcohol before the incident and how you have dealt with it since. Essentially your son only did the inevitable. It’s not an excuse for how things turned out that evening and the effects are immediately a nightmare for the adults involved and lasting for a little while. However, it’s a learning experience. We’ve all had them. I am just dreading when I have to deal with this. Thank you so much for sharing it. Alison x #coolmumclub

    • July 15, 2016 / 11:03 am

      Thanks Alison. To be honest, I dithered a lot before writing the post because it is such a hot topic and one on which everyone has such strong opinions. I also felt slightly disloyal to him for putting the story out there but actually it was quite cathartic writing it and part of the purpose of starting my blog was to be honest about the good and the bad bits of being a teenager and a parent to one. There are lots of lovely moments but as with everything it is not all perfect 100% of the time. #coolmumclub

  10. July 14, 2016 / 12:29 pm

    Not sure ‘enjoyed’ is the right word but I found this a really interesting read, it definitely hit a nerve with me. My son is only 7 but I know how quickly time goes and I’m sure it doesn’t seem too long ago your son was a little boy too. I really dread everything that comes with them getting older and having more independence. How awful for you to have to see him going through that but you are definitely NOT idiots – entirely the opposite!! The fact that you were so concerned about him and managed to get him home where you could look after him shows you care and want what’s best for him. For a teenager to make apologies like that (and genuinely feel remorseful) is no small thing, it shows that you have raised him to be a good lad 🙂 I suppose we think we are invincible at that age and he has to learn by experience, good or bad. Glad to hear he is ok and hopefully the experience has put him off having quite so many beers next time the opportunity arises! #coolmumclub

    • July 15, 2016 / 10:54 am

      Thank you for your lovely comments Charlie. You are right teenagers do tend to think they are invincible and that it won’t happen to them. He has learnt the hard way and unfortunately I think the experience itself taught him more than the drink awareness talks ever did. #coolmumclub

  11. July 14, 2016 / 12:22 pm

    It makes me cringe to think what my parents went through with me! Thanks so much for sharing things from a parent’s point of view. Am now off to work on a machine to freeze time so my toddler never reaches teenagehood….. #bloggerclubuk

    • July 14, 2016 / 12:24 pm

      That would be a valuable machine indeed! Thanks for commenting Ursula. #BloggerClubUK

  12. July 13, 2016 / 9:03 pm

    It’s amazing how we all did this to our own parents and probably never thought how awful it must have been for them. Hopefully he’s learned a good lesson, and what a fine young man for having the courage to apologise to everyone afterward. That takes real guts xx

    • July 13, 2016 / 10:05 pm

      You are right, it made me reflect on my own incident and how my parents reacted. They were definitely less understanding and this influenced how I behaved. My priority was his welfare not castigating him as I knew he would do that himself. I was ashamed but equally proud the next day with his immediate responsiveness in apologising. Thanks for commenting. x

  13. July 13, 2016 / 7:03 pm

    Oh gosh – this is something I fear. My eldest is 18 and I know she drinks but so far has not got into a real state. My middle daughter is 14 and more of a dare devil and I am really fearful of her first encounters with alcohol. I feel such a hypocrite as I drink myself – it’s really difficult isn’t it? Thank you for sharing – it’s great to find blogs written by parents with children of a similar age to mine.. #BloggerClub UK

    • July 13, 2016 / 9:59 pm

      We have similar age children then – mine are 17.5 and 13.5, glad to have found you too, there are few blogs with teenage children. You can’t hide your own drinking habits and I don’t think that is the issue, it’s the peer pressure and the scenario that influences it more than anything else. For us it was the shock of being there to witness it but we were equally grateful. Thanks for commenting Sharon. #BloggerClubUK

  14. July 13, 2016 / 5:24 pm

    Gosh, it’s a rite of passage isn’t it, but to see it from a parent’s point of view is scary. I know I did it a teenager and it’s something we all have to face in our society. Thanks for the illuminating read! Hope he learns his lesson 🙂 #BloggerClubUK

    • July 13, 2016 / 5:30 pm

      As I said we were pretty confident we had escaped it but there is nothing like getting drunk in spectacular fashion to teach you that necessary lesson. His tail is still firmly between his legs! #BloggerClubUK

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