Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Hi! I'm a high school teen-ager from a little town in Washington state. This is the first time I have written to you. I hope you can give me some good advice.

I love sports, and my school has a code that if we get caught at a party where there is drinking or drugs, we get kicked out of sports. My life would really be over if that happened to me.

My problem is that I don't drink and everyone else in this small town does. It seems to me that I get pushed away by my friends because I don't drink.

I had a friend for about eight years, and during our sophomore year, he started to drink. This was when we stopped talking. I went my way and he went his. During basketball season, he got caught at a party and was kicked off the basketball team along with some other players. I felt bad for him, but I didn't know what to say.

Now everyone is out partying, and I'm home alone doing nothing, wishing I were out having fun with them. If I'm doing the right thing, please tell me why I feel that I'm being punished, and the people who drink are the ones out having fun.

Abby, can you give me some advice to cope with this stress? -- STRESSED-OUT IN WASHINGTON

DEAR STRESSED-OUT: The facts about teen-age drinking are disturbing, and don't be so quick to accept the myth that "everyone is out partying." Your peers are using this to pressure you to join them in their dangerous and illegal behavior. While it may appear that all your classmates are having fun, that kind of behavior is risky and sometimes carries a heavy price.

It may be difficult to stick to your decision to stay home while your classmates are drinking and doing drugs at parties, but trust me, it's the right decision. Fill your time with positive activities that will make your commitment more rewarding -- and might attract others who prefer drug- and alcohol-free socializing. I'm sure there are other teen-agers in your community who privately agree with and follow your policy of avoiding alcohol, but who are shy about speaking up in front of peers who might make fun of them.

Read the biographies of your favorite sports figures, invite others over to watch games on television, start a collection of sports memorabilia -- or help younger kids in your community develop their own athletic skills. Not only will this make you feel good about what you're doing, you'll win the admiration of others. You already have mine, for setting a good example and sticking to it in spite of peer pressure.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 35-year-old divorced male who has read your column since I was a kid. After reading your response to "Turkeyless in Arkansas," I felt compelled to write.

I believe two "turkeys" have already been bagged. Gwen, for dating someone who apparently has zero comprehension of who she is, and "Turkeyless" for insisting his girlfriend like all the same activities he does.

Mutual interests are important in a relationship, but I'll take mutual respect and open, honest communication first and every time. I have several friends who are avid hunters, married to women who despise the idea. But they have strong relationships based on love for who each other is -- not what activities they each participate in.

If "Turkeyless" really wants to bag a record-size bird -- tell him to shoot a mirror. -- MICHAEL CURRY, DALLAS

DEAR MICHAEL: You are obviously a man with solid values and an excellent sense of humor. (And eligible, too!) I have a hunch that when this letter is printed, it'll be open season in Dallas.

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600