Young People Need Our Help

Bowen at thirteen years old on a summer-camp trip to Baja,
posed with a bottle of tequila and a marijuana pipe

Whether we have our own children or not, we must offer ourselves to our younger selves. Not to direct them, but to offer them companionship, reflection, and to share our experience.

I got drunk for the first time at the age of nine. I was drinking alcohol regularly in junior high school, when I was eleven and twelve years old. This is what we did, my friends and I, and many of us ended up with a lifetime of damage—or a very short life—as a result.

There was no space in my young mind for my intuition to develop and flourish, so there was no way for me to know or feel that I was really interested in. I wasn’t “depressed,” I was deadened by the constant input of a foreign substance. Alcohol clouded my perception, sapped my energy, left me in pain, and, most importantly, stunted my intuition just as it was beginning to develop. 

And, because alcohol was part of all of my friendships and relationships, I wasn’t having real conversations, I wasn’t making real connections. I was lonely and I didn’t know why—and alcohol was why. I was lonely for a good reason: because I wasn’t building the connections that we all need to survive and thrive as human beings.

Our younger selves don’t only need us to help avoid drugs and alcohol. To begin with, they need us to help build their foundation of self, to see what it means to be a person, to learn how to live—to show them what living well looks like.

I wrote a longer piece about this time in my life, called “Nobody asked me“.