The Associated Press, on May 6, 2009 reported that New Jersey has passed legislation that would give immunity to underage drinkers when seeking emergency help for their intoxicated friend or for themselves. Lawmakers hope that this immunity will encourage scared teens to help their friends in an emergency rather than hesitate and risk their friend’s life.
I think that this is an excellent move, something that New Mexico has already implemented and that eight states are considering. I believe that the fear of penalization keeps most teen addicts from asking for help.Fear of getting in trouble was my number one reason for never seeking help for my own drinking and substance abuse. I am lucky that I am alive. My using “friends” once told me that one night, after using, I went into an unconscious state. Rather than seek medical help, they left me in someone’s bedroom. When I came to, over 24 hours had passed. At the time, I was glad that they didn’t call for help; I would have been in so much trouble. Now looking back, I am horrified that my friends left me unconscious for over 24 hours and I am lucky I survived! Fear of getting in trouble kept me from asking for help as my addiction escalated. I thought that my parents would be so mad at me, but I have since learned that a lot of times fear is manifested as anger. It was a difficult conversation, having to come clean to my parents, but it was the best decision I ever made. It just kind of blurted out, without me meaning to say it, but as soon as I did, I felt relieved. I felt like I was safe from my brain that was trying to make me use even though I didn’t want to. As soon as my secret was out, it began to lose its grip on me. My parents helped me find a safe place to recover in adolescent residential treatment. I hope that more options are provided to teens so that they can safely voice their secrets without fear of penalization. I know more teens would seek help if that were the case. I am so glad there was someone there to help me when I finally asked for help.