A 16-year-old boy struggling to beat the drug and alcohol problems that turned his Park City home into an "absolute hell" told the Citizens' Council on Alcoholic Beverage Control he seldom had trouble getting a drink.
The boy and his father, who asked that they not be identified by name, testified before the council Wednesday to describe firsthand the problems associated with underage drinking.The council has been studying whether laws should be proposed to make it more difficult to obtain beer and other alcohol products now sold in convenience stores and supermarkets.
The boy spoke first, outlining what he termed an addiction to various drugs and alcohol that began when he worked in a French restaurant and stole sips of champagne.
By age 14, he said he was drinking regularly and using prescription drugs taken from members of his family or from the medicine cabinets of his friends' parents.
Soon, he was also using illegal drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and LSD. "Just about anything you could think of, I used to get high," he told council members.
His "drug of choice," he said, was mixing beer and other alcohol with prescription drugs. "I'd like to get a numbing feeling, to be alone, to get away, to have no problems and no one bothering me," he said.
The well-groomed but youthful-looking boy said he was purchasing beer in supermarkets, convenience stores and even state liquor stores with fake identification that usually was accepted without question.
Buying a drink in a restaurant or private club was not difficult, he said, describing how he would go with older friends and get to know employees who later served him when he came by himself.
To support his drug and alcohol habit, he turned to crime, burglarizing homes. He grew further and further away from his family until he was literally living on the streets.
After running away once from a local drug-treatment facility and being returned by the police, the boy is back home and preparing to return to high school, where he is a junior.
His father told the council that progress has come as a result of a great sacrifice by his family. "The cost is tremendous," the man said. "Right now, as I sit here, I am $30,000 in debt with no idea how I'm going to pay that."
The man's voice broke slightly as he told the board how his own personal accomplishments were offset by what his son's problems did to the family. "Home was an absolute hell," he said.
The father, who does not drink, said he came from a background of alcoholism that was passed on to his son.
"Because of those drinks (his son's first tastes of champagne) and the accessibility of alcohol and his body's craving for more and more after that first drink . . . our family is in a very precarious position," he said.
The council asked that both the boy and his father come to a future meeting with suggestions for curbing teenage alcohol abuse. Members said they want to learn how to reach young people.
The boy had told them of being at school assemblies with his friends and ignoring lectures on the danger of drinking. "We'd just sit in back and laugh and not even think anything about it," he said.