Natural High vs. Peer Pressure

A couple weeks ago, Allura Garis, the Youth Engagement Coordinator over at Natural High, asked me to write a back-to-school post about rising above peer pressure by pledging and choosing your natural high. Why would someone choose a natural high and reject alcohol and drugs when it seems like everyone else around him or her is doing just the opposite? After much thought, only one main reason stood out to me: because a natural high is something that truly makes you happy and will always be worth more than any drug or alcohol. It’s really that simple. Everyone wants to be happy, yet many fail to realize that their misery and unhappiness often comes from drinking, doing drugs, and the consequences that follow. They think that the short-term euphoric effect that drugs and alcohol give is what they need to be happy when in reality, a natural high provides lasting happiness without the damaging effects.

Throughout my life, I’ve realized that one of the ways I used to get me through the difficult times in school and withstand the peer pressure to give in to drugs and alcohol was one of my natural highs, music. I found myself keeping busy with concerts, helping out with promotions for bands, and discovering new music regularly. And it was something that I truly loved and enjoyed. I never had a desire to do drugs or alcohol because I felt like I found something in my life that mattered. During the hard times when close friends decided to head down that path and other discouraging life events, I listened to music that I could relate to. That was my way of dealing with the pain and all the emotions that come with being a teenager and something that I do even to this day. No matter how hard it was to stay drug- and alcohol-free during my teenager years, I made it through and am grateful for being able to do so. I know that my life would be so different now if I had given in to the peer pressure and just accepted the drugs and alcohol. Now that I’m in college and legally allowed to drink, I have actually found it to be just as difficult now as it was in high school. I can no longer use the excuse “Oh, I’m not old enough to drink yet, thanks but no thanks” and instead, have to really stand firm and be able to explain why I choose not to drink or do drugs. I have also learned that the friends who don’t pressure you into drinking or doing drugs when you don’t want to are the friends you need to keep for the rest of your life. Those who are true friends will respect your decision and help you stand with it. You will even begin to realize that people will respect you even more for staying true to your beliefs.

So, as the new school year begins, take some time to sit down and just think about what truly makes your life fulfilling and worth living for. Are alcohol and drugs really worth throwing away your future, your dreams, your life? Figure out what honestly makes you happy and have good friends who are willing to stand up for you and your beliefs, even if they don’t choose to be drug- or alcohol-free. Plan activities that don’t involve alcohol or drugs. Volunteer your free time at a local charity. Spend time with your family and your loved ones. Create art. Learn a new skill or hobby. Explore the outdoors. Go on a road trip with friends. Engage in your natural high and share it with others. This world has so much more to offer than just drugs and alcohol. Don’t even waste one second experimenting with these deadly substances that could destroy the rest of your life. You will never be able to take back a mistake, and you will never be able to ignore the devastating consequences that follow. Rising above peer pressure and standing up for your beliefs has never been easy. I’ve already been there countless of times, and it will always be a continuous battle. But I can promise that it has been one of the best things I have ever done for myself and will continue to do.

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Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is a nonprofit based out of Irving, TX, that was formed in 1980 by Candice Lightner after her 13-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver. Its mission is “to aid the victims of crimes performed by individuals driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, to aid the families of such victims, and to increase public awareness of the problem of drinking and drugged driving.” The organization basically aims to stop drunk driving, support those who have been affected by drunk driving, prevent underage drinking, and advocate for a stricter alcohol policy. Throughout the years, the mission and focus of Mothers Against Drunk Driving has expanded; the organization itself has also grown tremendously. Today, there is a MADD Canada that was founded in 1990, an “Eight-Point Plan” that was introduced in 2002, and the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving that was started in November 2006.

MADD Canada is the Canadian arm of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Its purpose is to stop impaired driving and to support victims by holding public awareness and education programs, campaigns, and fundraisers that focus on stopping impaired driving.  The “Eight-Point Plan” is comprised of eight points: resuscitate the nation’s efforts to prevent impaired driving, increase driving while intoxicated (DWI)/driving under the influence (DUI) enforcement (especially the use of frequent, highly publicized sobriety checkpoints), enact primary enforcement seat belt laws in all states, create tougher and more comprehensive sanctions geared toward higher-risk drivers, develop a dedicated National Traffic Safety Fund, reduce underage drinking, increase beer excise taxes to the same level as those for spirits, and reinvigorate court monitoring programs. The Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving is a four-point plan that aims to completely eliminate drunk driving in the United States by using a combination of current technology, new technology in smart cars, law enforcement, and grass roots activism.

Drunk driving is something that is so deadly yet easily preventable. When I was home in CA this past weekend, there was a drunk driving accident on a street near my neighborhood. A parent was driving two 14-year-old girls and two 15-year-old girls home after a birthday party around 1:15 AM on Sunday morning, May 29th, when a Toyota pickup truck crashed into their Mercedes Benz. The accident left one of the 14-year-old girls dead and another one of the 15-year-old girls critically injured in the hospital; the drunk driver and his passenger walked away from the accident uninjured. The other two girls and the parent were also sent to the hospital but have since been released. So please, next time you are in a situation that involves drunk driving, think twice before you drive drunk or get into a car with a drunk driver. That decision could drastically change your life forever.

To learn more about Mothers Against Drunk Driving, visit them online or go to their Facebook page.

Jason Wade of the band Lifehouse wrote the song “From Where You Are” for Allstate’s Teen Driving Program. This song is dedicated to all those teens who have lost their lives in car accidents and to Jason’s friend who died in a car crash at age 16. It is also used to educate teens about safe driving.

From Where You Are by Lifehouse
So far away from where you are
These miles have torn us worlds apart
And I miss you, yeah I miss you

So far away from where you are
I’m standing underneath the stars
And I wish you were here

I miss the years that were erased
I miss the way the sunshine would light up your face
I miss all the little things
I never thought that they’d mean everything to me
Yeah I miss you
And I wish you were here

I feel the beating of your heart
I see the shadows of your face
Just know that wherever you are
Yeah I miss you
And I wish you were here

I miss the years that were erased
I miss the way the sunshine would light up your face
I miss all the little things
I never thought that they’d mean everything to me
Yeah I miss you
And I wish you were here

So far away from where you are
These miles have torn us worlds apart
And I miss you, yeah I miss you
And I wish you were here

To listen to more of Lifehouse’s music, visit their Facebook page.

Take the Natural High Pledge

On the morning of Tuesday, May 17th, 2011, more than 80% of Rancho Buena Vista High School’s 3,000 students stood up and took the pledge to live naturally high. Megan Hastings, Natural High’s summer intern, suggested the idea of a Natural High Pledge after being inspired by Seventeen‘s Body Peace Treaty Pledge. Michelle Ahearne, executive director of Natural High, and Allura Garis, youth marketing associate of Natural High, were fascinated by the idea and immediately put their plans into action. The pledge would give the youth a chance to take action and be directly involved in the cause. The first ever Natural High Pledge was held on that day, and Rancho Buena Vista High School became the first school to have the Natural High Club, founded by Mitch Medrano, with Jenna Glazier as the president. The high school even proclaimed May 17th to be “Natural High Day”.

The day started with the students alternating between watching the Natural High 4 DVD Series and attending an assembly. The Natural High 4 DVD Series features the band Relient K, professional skater Paul Rodriguez, Jr., NBA player Mike Conley, Jr., professional surfer and musician Timmy Curran, and many more. The DVD shows the youth how they can live up to their potentials and achieve their goals without the use of drugs and alcohol, and was distributed to every middle school in the United States in September 2009. The assembly began with speakers Chelsie Hill, a Pacific Grove High School student who got into the car with a drunk driver and is now paralyzed from the waist down, and Aaron Rubin, a 27-year-old who overdosed on oxycontin and can no longer walk nor talk (watch Hill’s interview about her accident here, and watch Rubin’s story here). At the end of the assembly, Natural High Club president Jenna Glazier asked the students of Rancho Buena Vista High School to stand up if they wanted to pledge to live naturally high, and more than 80% of the students did so. 20 students were filmed by Natural High’s filmmaker Josh Landan, pledging on camera to live naturally high. These students will potentially be featured in the next video, Natural High 5 DVD Series; this video will also feature the band Hey Monday and fashion designer and actress Lauren Conrad.

Take the pledge to live naturally high, to live a life without drugs and alcohol. “Together, we are not alone. Together, we are the uprising generation. Together, we can be the movement.”

Natural High is currently working on making the Natural High Pledge virtual so that those who want to sign it can do so online. The pledge will also be available at the following Vans Warped Tour dates: Pomona, CA (July 1st), Ventura, CA (July 3rd), San Diego, CA (August 9th), and Carson, CA (August 10th). To learn more about Natural High, visit their website online or go to their Facebook page.

Natural High TV

As one of Natural High’s tools to advocate drug-free and alcohol-free lifestyles, the organization uses Natural High TV, an online film series that features drug-free professional athletes, musicians, and celebrities. The first short film was released in April 2010, featuring professional surfer Dillon Perillo from Malibu, CA. To learn more about Natural High, visit their website or read my blog post about my personal experience with Natural High and why I made the decision to stay drug- and alcohol-free.

The lead singer of one of my favorite bands, Cassadee Pope of Hey Monday, was featured on Natural High TV in August 2010. Check out her interview below! I have seen Hey Monday in concert numerous times and even had the opportunity to work with Cassadee on one of the band’s music videos and be a part of it. I have always admired Cassadee’s ability to sing, write expressive lyrics, and perform on stage. She and the rest of the band are really quite talented musicians, especially for being so young. I gained even more respect for Cassadee after I learned that she supported a drug- and alcohol-free lifestyle and agreed to share her morals and beliefs to all her fans on Natural High TV. She is setting a great example for thousands of young people throughout the world and is truly an exceptional role model. In a world like today’s, it’s crucial to have celebrities who know what’s important and show others that drugs and alcohol are destructive and not the way to success. If Hey Monday is ever in your area, go to their show! They are amazing in concert and very sweet people. You won’t regret it.

Hey Monday is a pop rock band that formed in 2007 from West Palm Beach, FL. The band consists of lead singer Cassadee Pope, guitarist Mike Gentiel, bassist Patrick McKenzie, and drummer Alex Lipshaw. Hey Monday was discovered after Pete Wentz of the band Fall Out Boy heard one of their demos at the Crush Management office and offered to sign them to his label, Decaydance. However, Columbia Records was also interested, so Hey Monday signed a joint deal with both labels. They released their first full-length studio album, Hold on Tight, in 2008 and shortly began touring with bands like We the Kings, The Academy Is…, The Cab, and This Providence. In 2009, Hey Monday toured with Fall Out Boy on their major U.S. tour and international tour, and then with All Time Low on the Glamour Kills Tour later that year. They have also released two EPs (Beneath it All in 2010 and Candles in 2011). This summer, they will be touring in Indonesia, Brazil, Chile, and Argentina, and will be writing their second full-length studio album. To check out Hey Monday’s music, visit their Purevolume page.

  

To see more interviews from drug-free celebrities, visit Natural High TV.

What’s your natural high?

Shine by Plain White T’s

Shine by Plain White T’s
You know it tears me up inside
To see the feelings that you hide
Hide inside that empty bottle
I wish you saw how great you were
I wish you saw what life was worth
You wouldn’t have to hide your problems

And I don’t care what you might think
I think you’ve had too much to drink
Can’t even talk when you’re this way
Run away, run away
But that won’t make it any better
Run away, run away
And make tomorrow harder to live than today

There’s so much out there you could miss
There’s so much life out there to live
If you would just believe in yourself
You know you’re better than all of this
You know you’ve got so much to give
But you’re so afraid to give all of yourself

And I don’t care what you might think
I think you’ve had too much to drink
Can’t even talk when you’re this way
Run away, run away
But that won’t make it any better
Run away, run away
And make tomorrow harder to live than today

There’s a bright light shining inside you
It shines out through your eyes
Don’t drown it away, don’t be afraid, don’t hide
Let it shine
Ooh, ooh let it shine

You say you’re looking for happiness
But when it comes, you run away from it
You tell yourself you don’t deserve it
There’s not much more that I can do
Now the rest is up to you
Until you love yourself, you’ll never change

Run away, run away
But that won’t make it any better
Run away, run away
And make tomorrow harder to live than today
Run away, run away
But that won’t make it any better
Run away, run away
You’ll keep on running until you deal with today

To listen to more of Plain White T’s music, check out their Purevolume or visit their Facebook page.

If you or someone you know is suffering from alcohol addiction, please visit Alcoholics Anonymous or call the Alcoholic Hotline at 1-866-800-1369.

To Write Love on Her Arms

It all started when Jamie Tworkowski, founder of the nonprofit To Write Love on Her Arms, befriended a young girl named Renee who was struggling with addiction, self-injury, and depression. She was also suffering from the effects of abuse and had already attempted suicide. With cocaine fresh in her system, brand-new wounds up and down her arm, and no detox available at the treatment center, Renee was deemed too much of a risk by a nurse and was turned away from the center. For the next five days, she was taken care of by her friends until she could be admitted into the treatment center. For those five days, they served as a hospital for Renee and a source of moral support. They loved her, they cared for her, they supported her, and helped her on to the road of recovery through love, hope, and music. To help pay for her treatment, they designed and sold shirts and created a MySpace page for the project. Bands like Anberlin and Switchfoot immediately began to show their support by buying the shirts and wearing them on stage, and people struggling with the same issues as Renee began to send messages and comments on the MySpace page to share their stories and ask for help. Those messages made Jamie realize that it wasn’t just one person who was hurting from these problems; in fact, there were millions of people throughout the world dealing with issues like Renee’s. What started out as an attempt to just help a friend turned into something much bigger than that. It turned into a plan of action, a movement to help others realize that they are not the only ones to feel the way they do, that help is available, that things will get better.

To Write Love on Her Arms is a nonprofit organization that was founded in Cocoa, FL, by Jamie Tworkowski in 2006. Its mission is to present hope and find help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. It exists to encourage, inform, and to invest directly into treatment and recovery. The organization encourages people to honestly and openly talk about these issues and to build up a source of community filled with love, encouragement, support, care, and hope. To Write Love on Her Arms serves as a beacon of light for those who can only see darkness in the midst of today’s chaotic world and connects the broken people of this world as one to show them that it is okay to not be okay and that they are not alone, no matter how lonely they may feel. To fulfill its mission, To Write Love on Her Arm invests most of its expenses into treatment and recovery centers. The organization partnered with the Kristin Brooks Hope Center in 2009 to help launch IMAlive, the first online crisis counseling through instant messaging. To Write Love on Her Arms also works heavily in the music scene and has had a booth at every stop on the Vans Warped Tour for the past four years.

When I first heard of the organization To Write Love on Her Arms, I immediately knew that this was a cause I supported and believed in. It was the first organization that I saw working in the music scene and that inspired me to look into nonprofits and see what they were all about. I never thought of using music as a tool for nonprofits and I never thought that this organization would spark my interest in nonprofits and the possibility of working in the nonprofit world as a future career. Although working in other organizations, especially those focused on mental health and drug/substance and alcohol addiction, would be just fine with me, working with To Write Love on Her Arms has become one of my life’s goals and dreams. This organization entails all of my interests and passions: music and helping those with addiction and mental health issues. I hope that I will someday be able to have the opportunity and privilege of working with such an amazing organization, and reach out to others to help them turn their lives around for the better.

To learn more about To Write Love on Her Arms and read the story, visit their website or go to their Facebook. If you or someone you know is depressed and/or is thinking about suicide, please call Hopeline at 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) immediately.

Natural High

Since Natural High was the nonprofit organization that helped me make the decision to work in the nonprofit world, it only seems fair to dedicate my first post to them.

Many of you are probably wondering what exactly a “natural high” is. A natural high is an activity, art form, or sport that you love to do that does not involve alcohol and/or drugs. Every single person has one, no exceptions. It can be music, skateboarding, painting, rock climbing, photography, laughing, running…..anything! It is something that makes you feel good inside and makes your life worth living for.

When I first heard of Natural High, I was ecstatic to see that there were other people who shared the same morals and values as me. All throughout my life, it seemed like all my other peers just wanted to smoke and get drunk on the weekends. I knew there was more to life than hangovers and throwing up, and I made it my goal to keep myself away from those deadly substances. I volunteered at the local animal shelter, surrounded myself with good friends with high standards, went to numerous concerts/shows and music festivals, took a music technology class, focused on my school work, helped local bands with promotion, and so much more.

Today, I am proud to say that I have remained 100% drug- and alcohol-free all of my life. I’d be lying if I said the journey was easy. All throughout high school, it was extremely difficult to stand up for my values, especially when two of my closest friends decided to head down the path of drugs and alcohol. But as I have stayed true to my beliefs, I have been blessed with the joy and freedom that comes from staying away from drugs and alcohol. I have seen those who have fallen into the traps of addiction and all they have in their lives now is pain, sorrow, and anguish. If I had been involved in drugs and alcohol, I know without a shadow of a doubt that I would not be where I am today. I would not have had the opportunity to tour on the Vans Warped Tour with Natural High last summer, I would not have the wonderful friends and family I have in my life, I would not be at such a great university, and I would not be in control of my life. I may or may not even be alive. Choosing to stay drug- and alcohol-free has been one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life, and I am excited to work in organizations like Natural High to help others realize this.

In conclusion, I want to just simply state my natural high and what I live for. My natural high is music…..what’s yours?

For more information, visit Natural High at their website here or their Facebook here.