DEAR ABBY: I have a message I would like to pass on to teen-agers. I hope you will print it.
Young people, that first beer may carry a cost far higher than the $5 you pay for a six-pack. Let me tell you what beer cost me:
1. A career in the Air Force because after six years, I wanted to drink beer instead of report for duty.
2. An accounting career because I stole from my employer to buy beer.
3. A close relationship with my parents and sister because they don't drink.
4. A son and daughter. They have refused any contact with me for 11 years. I last tried to talk with them in October 1997, but they wanted no part of me.
5. A close relationship with my wife and another son because my wife doesn't drink.
6. Friends. I used and abused them until they had enough and cut me off.
7. A secure future. I'm 53 with no savings, assets or insurance.
8. My driver's license.
9. Medical care. I fear what a doctor may find.
10. My self-respect. I'm a loser and there's no reason to be sober.
In the 1970s I attended AA and stayed sober for two years, but it didn't last.
Thirty-three years ago when I drank my first beer, I had dreams and plans. I had no idea that I'd be a common laborer and a drunk in 1998. Before you start drinking, think where it may land you in 33 years.
Abby, I am one of the lucky ones. You may ask why I think I'm lucky. Well, I'm alive and my drinking hasn't killed anyone -- yet. I wish there were a foolproof cure, but there's not, so the only way to avoid ending up like me is to never risk drinking that first beer. Believe me, it's not worth it.
You may use my first name, but please don't use my last name because I don't want to embarrass my family any further. -- DONALD IN FLORIDA
DEAR DONALD: Your letter is quite sobering. I hope it will prompt every young person who is tempted to try a beer to carefully consider the consequences. I urge you to return to AA or some other treatment program. Many people have successfully beaten this addiction, and you can too, if you get help.