'Some of the older lads managed to get a bottle of vodka' – Psychologist David Coleman gives an insight into what teenagers feel about alcohol

It’s very hard not to drink alcohol when you’re 15. Especially in Ireland, I mean. It’s like everyone else is drinking or thinking about drinking or has drunk, and so not drinking marks you out. Some people think I’m a total loser because I haven’t drunk alcohol yet. And it’s not true that I haven’t ever drunk alcohol: I’ve tasted beer and wine at home, just a sip from my Dad. He let me try whiskey one night. My mouth and throat felt like they were on fire.

What I haven’t done is drunk a full drink, or ever got wasted. One of my friends regularly gets off-his-head drunk. I don’t know how he manages it. He seems to be allowed to go to house parties and his parents don’t seem to check on him or care where he is or where he stays. He never goes home if he’s drinking, but I’ve heard from other friends that he can’t even stand sometimes, he’s that drunk.

My Mam and Dad would kill me if they ever found me drunk like that. They’d go through me for a short cut. I wouldn’t even chance it. Like last year, I was away with the under-16s. I was only 14 then, but I’m good, so I was playing up a level as well as under-14s. We had a trip to Manchester, and we went to Old Trafford and arranged to play a local youth team. It was a brilliant trip, amazing, but some of the older lads managed to get a bottle of vodka (one lad’s older brother is a mentor with the team) and they had it back in the room in the hotel. I got offered some, but I said no. Could you imagine if we got caught?! My parents would never let me go anywhere again.

We kind of laugh about alcohol in our house. Not that it’s funny, but it’s just that my Dad (yes, the one who lets me taste his alcohol) always goes on and on, whenever the subject of teenagers and drinking comes up. The reason it’s funny is because he just says the same speech every time. We could almost give the speech for him. Mam is nodding away whenever he goes off on one about drinking. But even though it’s kind of funny, you know they are deadly serious too.

Dad’s main point is that when you’re young, the alcohol is going to mess up your brain and kill off brain cells, just when they are growing, or something like that. He also always gives us the lecture about how you can end up making really bad mistakes when you’re drunk and can get yourself into real trouble. He often looks at my older sister when he says that… I bet he’s thinking she’ll get drunk and get pregnant some day.

But then I think about my friend and, apparently, he must be murdering his brain. It’s a wonder he isn’t half-dopey all the time, judging by how much everyone says he drinks. But yet, he doesn’t seem any worse for it; he’s still pretty smart in school and he’s one of the best players on our team.

My best friend said he got drunk last weekend. That’s the first time. He said it was an amazing buzz and he had the best time. He wasn’t exactly saying I should be drinking, but I think that’s what he meant. He reckons I’m missing out. I probably am. I’d just have to be so careful and plan it, so that my parents couldn’t find out. That’s not too complicated, as long as I can find the right house to sleep over in, so that my Mam won’t try to ring their Mam. I can’t afford to be a total loser.

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