I'm shy, and when I meet new people, my mind goes blank. I have no idea what to say, and even if I do say something, it's stupid. I'm actually a very bubbly and nice person, and I just want to be able to talk to people and show them the real me. Help!

—Cassidy, 16, Waterbury, Conn.

Here's what you need to do, Cassidy: First, remember that meeting new people is stressful in some way for everyone, and that "talker's block" (not having anything to say) is common for everyone, too. But it's OK not to have something to say; sometimes silence is way more natural than trying to fill every second with conversation!

That said, when you're stumped for what to talk about with someone, try asking a question — nothing nosy, just something specific to her. (For example, you could compliment a girl's cute earrings, then ask her where she got them. Or you could just ask her if she has any plans for the upcoming weekend.) Then really listen to what she has to say — that will give you more things to talk about, help bring you closer and fill the silences you're trying to avoid.

Plus, when you ask questions, people are more likely to ask questions of you; before you know it, what started out as some questioning will turn into a natural conversation. Everyone wins!

For the past year I've been drinking alcohol. Every day it becomes more and more of a need, and I've realized I am a binge drinker. I'm scared for my future and that something bad will happen. I just want to know if I should seek help.

—Lauren, 16, Clermont, Fla.

We're so proud of you for reaching out to us, Lauren. You definitely need help, and you deserve professional, expert attention — you can't expect to beat this problem alone, and you certainly don't have to! See freevibe.com to educate yourself about substance abuse, then visit alcoholics-anonymous.org to find a list of meetings and resources located in your area. Go to the one that will be the most convenient for you to attend regularly; if you need support, consider asking a trusted friend to come with you to the first meeting. If there's not one close enough to where you live, you can talk to your doctor or school nurse about getting help. Either way, please promise that you'll follow up on your courageous intentions and get the care you need and deserve.

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