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Jen - Interview 32

Age at interview: 25
Brief Outline: Jen used to drink as a teenager but has always been cautious about drugs. She grew up in a small village where there was a drug problem. A few of Jen's friends would take pills at raves. After seeing videos at school about the effects of pills, she has always been terrified of them. Jen drank a lot at University but doesn't drink so much now that she has a full-time job.
Background: Jen is married, a university graduate, and works full-time as a press officer. Jen grew up in a small village and her school friends would go out to drink vodka on weekends, which her parents didn't like. Some people she knew took ecstasy and speed. She tried cannabis but avoided drugs like ecstasy because she was afraid of what would happen. Ethnic background: British

More about me...

Jen says that she was a late starter when it came to alcohol, and that she grew up in a family where alcohol wasn’t freely available. It was not until she was sixteen or seventeen and started going to house parties that she started to share a bottle of vodka with friends. She would feel uncomfortable drinking and being drunk. This created problems with her parents. She had been quite well behaved when she was younger, so they were probably quite disappointed when she started to go out drinking. She says that it was just a difficult teenage phase, and that parents and children have to go through some readjusting. At the time she felt quite conflicted because she wanted to go out and drink and have fun with her friends. She says that it wasn’t so much the drinking but that she just wanted to go out and do what her friends were doing at the weekend.
 
A few of her friends were taking pills at raves. After seeing videos at school about the effects of pills, she has always been terrified of them.
 
She has always been cautious about drugs. She grew up in a small village where there was a drug problem. An ex-boyfriend was quite into speed. She and her school friends were just into alcohol. She tried smoking weed as a teenager but was afraid to continue.
 
Things changed when she went to university, where a lot of the social activities revolved around drinking: in halls, at a pub, or parties at weekends. Jen’s drinking definitely increased, going out with friends to drink about three times a week. However, she does emphasise that she and her friends were usually quite sensible and avoided putting themselves at risk. She met her husband during her first year at university. She thinks that she was 'far too sensible'.
 
Now Jen is happy with just a glass of red wine and a cigarette. Jen pointed out that people change their drinking habits through different stages in life such as when you get a job, start earning money, and get married. She says that the time for experimenting was when she was a teenager and she would rather put her job first now.

  

 

Jen may have the odd puff if friends are lighting a joint but she doesn’t like the way weed makes her feel and doesn’t know how to get hold of it.

Jen may have the odd puff if friends are lighting a joint but she doesn’t like the way weed makes her feel and doesn’t know how to get hold of it.

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But on those occasions when you smoked weed where were you?
 
Just with friends. Me and [husband] have smoked weed occasionally together, that’s my husband. Yeah just with friends usually. I’ve got two friends who are a lot more party-tastic than I am and often at the end of a dinner party or whatever they’ll have a joint. So we might. It’s like kind of like having an after dinner drink, so have that instead. But I will generally just have one or two puffs. I’m not. I just, I don’t like the way it makes me feel in my head. It just makes me feel really groggy.
 
You know people find it really relaxing and stuff and I just felt like I couldn’t move [laugh]. And I also had quite a few experiences when I obviously over imbibed and was sick. So all those things I was just like, ‘Ah I just can’t’ kind of. And again it’s the same, the same problem of knowing where to get it from. Because I do have friends and stuff that smoke weed but you’re never really sure of the social etiquette of asking people to get, to get you weed or so yeah.
 

So I’m quite happy with a glass of red wine and cigarettes. 

 

Jen got information about drugs, alcohol and sex from a local Youth Fellowship group run by her...

Jen got information about drugs, alcohol and sex from a local Youth Fellowship group run by her...

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You went to Sunday school so you discussed about these things so that also was a source?
 
Yeah absolutely. Not so much in Sunday School probably more in like we had a Youth Fellowship group on a Sunday Night and that’s when you’d all try to talk about, you know, difficult issues for teenagers and, you know, sex, drugs and alcohol were high up on the agenda [laugh].
 
And how?
 
It was usually embarrassing we were all like 14/15 and it was really embarrassing having to talk about it with, yeah it was just not good.
 
Who were?
 
It was all these people like in the church and stuff and you just knew them and they knew your mum and dad and you were just scared to kind of be like quite honest because you’re like well they might say, ‘[aaaahh]’.
 
Ok but they were your parents’ age or closer to your age?
 
Somewhere in between probably. Some of them were more close to my parents like there was the minister’s wife and so and they were like the same age as my mum and dad. They were quite good friends with my mum and dad. And it just felt weird talking about. You just didn’t want to talk about things with them it was just like, ‘Yeah’.
 
Yes sex and...?
 
Yeah you just like no, no. And they try to be like, ‘Oh it’s cool you can say whatever you want and no one will sit’.
But you’re just like, ‘You know what I’ll do is say something very embarrassing then like next Sunday it will be like, ‘Hi how’s it going’. So no.
 
[laugh] That’s a no no. What about school?
 
Yeah we had Social Ed which was like with our registered class we’d have that once a week and you talk about issues again that were affecting teenagers like bullying and all that sort of things and sex and drugs came into that as well. That was far more boring because it was done from a very kind of. Like our teacher just, he was our English teacher and he had to take us for it. He was just like not interested in this really embarrassing sort of... So in the end that didn’t. So that again.
 
For him or for?
 

I think it was just embarrassing for everyone as well to be honest with you. So I don’t think anyone really learned much from that now. 

 

Jen explains that she’s grown up and as a result changed her lifestyle.

Jen explains that she’s grown up and as a result changed her lifestyle.

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…that has totally curbed as, even that’s like from people probably smoking two or three times a week that’s gone from like maybe once a week, maybe every couple of weeks. Like it, you can see it kind of petering off as people kind of get like proper jobs and have to start kind of earning money and stuff. So that’s, it’s very. We’re all kind of goodie-two shoes actually [laugh].
 
Yeah I think everyone as. Well there is, [sigh] there’s two kind of different. I would say among my group of, [husband] is a lot older, well he’s like 4, 4½ years older than me so his friends are all kind of like up in their early 30s. They’re all starting to get married and have babies and all that sort of thing. 
 
My friends on the other hand we just, we graduated two years ago. A lot of them are still doing kind of post grads and stuff. And so I’ve noticed the difference in their attitudes of drinking is quite different. And around my age people are still more likely to go to the pub several nights a week and just, you know, have it but more here then it’s all kind of more family orientated stuff now. So I’m somewhere kind of languishing in the middle, somewhere.
 
Somewhere in between.
 
Yeah so I probably feel more guilty, [ha] than my friends do. That’s what probably the lasting effect is I feel more guilty about it. 
 
 

Jen says that she was 16 or 17 when she first started drinking alcohol. She had conflicting...

Jen says that she was 16 or 17 when she first started drinking alcohol. She had conflicting...

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I was quite a late starter when it came to alcohol growing up in. I grew up in quite a Christian family. So alcohol wasn’t freely available or freely drunk. So it wasn’t until I was about. I was quite a late starter 16 or 17 and started going to kind of like house parties or in Shetland then we have, you know, people go to country halls and there’s a band playing and it’s all under-agers drinking basically. And usually we’d just, get a bottle of vodka and we kind of shared it around. I often felt a little bit uncomfortable because I’d had no real kind of...
 
Experience?
 

Yeah and alcohol was quite a kind of scary concept to me. I didn’t like the feeling of being drunk. I found it, I kind of was in a lot of conflict how I was feeling at that time with my family and all that sort of thing. So yes so I was quite a late starter  

 

Jen has never taken ecstasy because watching a film about Leah Betts at school made her terrified of the possible consequences.

Jen has never taken ecstasy because watching a film about Leah Betts at school made her terrified of the possible consequences.

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And what about among your group of friends was anybody doing sort of drugs or?
 
A few of my friends were taking pills. They’d go out to big raves and stuff and. See I was more affected. You know Leah Betts who died after it. I was in Social Ed when I was at school. We were shown the video of her all sort of puffed up and stuff after she’d taken a pill. And since then I was always just too terrified to. I was always really scared about what might happen if I took a pill. So I have never, I never experienced that actually.
 
This is interesting. So how old were you?
 
I was probably about 16 when I saw that video.
 
And this was at school.
 
At school yeah
 
And it was discussed?
 
And it was discussed yeah and the dangers and stuff and that had a total lasting. I know and a few people who I went to school with it also had a lasting effect on that kind of. This is what. And it’s probably, the thing that now looking back on it I, there’s part of me that wishes I’d been a bit more adventurous but which is that lasting legacy of that image in my head and it was probably very unusual and it was so rare for that to happen but it did definitely have a lasting effect on how I viewed what, you know, taking pills might do to you. I guess because it was so awful and so terrible but it’s just happened to a normal girl I guess and that really put me off.
 
Normal girl so someone like you?
 
Yeah.
 
You could identify with her?
 

Yeah absolutely and you know if that happened to her then. And I think probably because you’d heard, you know, oh you should drink lots of water when you take pills and stuff. And I could easily imagine myself, you know, drinking too much water and you know. I could imagine the scenario so. 

 

Jen grew up in a practising Christian family and felt bad about drinking alcohol. It created family tensions at the time but she now thinks that it was just a phase in her teens.

Jen grew up in a practising Christian family and felt bad about drinking alcohol. It created family tensions at the time but she now thinks that it was just a phase in her teens.

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So drinking alcohol particularly when you were younger did it kind of create conflict with your family?
 
Yeah, they were very because they knew I was going to church every week et cetera and, you know, I was, I was quite well behaved I think when I was younger. I wasn’t a typical teenager I think I was. You know I went to church every week and didn’t go out partying and stuff. And I think when I started to do that I think they were probably quite disappointed. I think they were a bit like, ‘Oh. Why, why is she’. Because my elder brother he went off the rails massively and I think when. I think they hoped that it wouldn’t be the same for me. And I don’t think I went off, I didn’t go off the rails but it was. I did start drinking and they weren’t pleased especially the couple of times that I would come home and be too hung over to go to church. Now I think good. They were not pleased about that.
 
But that as I’ve kind of got older and stuff and been more open and then that’s all just kind of. I think that was just a kind of typical kind of teenage difficult phase. I think it just came later with me because I hadn’t, you know, experienced it as soon as other teenagers basically. It was just that kind of difficult kind of readjusting that parents and children go through always, yeah.
 
And how did you feel at that time? Did it create sort of conflicts for you?
 
Yeah it probably did, probably in a very kind of teenage angstie sort of way that now looking back on it it wasn’t really a big deal. But at the time it was, ‘Ooohhhh, why am I falling out with my parents and all that’. But now looking back on that it was just the kind of. It wasn’t. At the time I felt quite conflicted because I wanted to go out and drink and have fun and stuff but at the same. Well it wasn’t even the drinking thing like I mean that was tied into it but it was more just wanting to go out and do what my friends were doing and doing what they were doing at the weekend.
 
Instead of just, you know, having quite a sensible life. I guess I wanted to stretch my wings a little bit I think.
 
In retrospect how kind of useful has that upbringing been?
 

I think it hasn’t been detrimental at all like I don’t feel like I’ve missed out really like in the, like I really don’t feel like I’ve missed out. Like I did one line of coke once and I’m done. I’ve, I, you know, smoked weed and I don’t. I think that for me in my, at that I felt comfortable enough with that. And yeah I don’t feel I really don’t feel like I’ve missed out. I feel that. I was perhaps over cautious and I kind of did think to start with that you know if I did smoke weed then I might be a heroin addict. Now I see that’s totally not true. Like I just that I mean I don’t think the two are really connected to be honest with you. But yes I was over cautious but I don’t think it’s had any detrimental, I don’t regret any of that, no. 

 

Jen says young people should only do what they feel comfortable with, in a safe environment.

Jen says young people should only do what they feel comfortable with, in a safe environment.

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Just don’t feel pressured into anything. Because I think when you are younger it seems such a big deal and it seems like a really like, ‘Ah people will remember us forever or if I don’t do that or I don’t do this, and I’m so un-cool.’ And like now you look back and you’re like, ‘No’. And I like at the time you’d be just like, ‘Oh stop patronising me. That’s a really patronising thing to say. You don’t know what it’s like, you don’t know what it’s like to be me’. And I can totally take that point on but it really doesn’t matter what, like you should only ever do anything that you feel comfortable with and I think like teachers and parents and stuff really need to impart that on their children. That they should only be doing things that they feel comfortable with and that they feel in a safe environment and. And then if they want to talk about things then there are places that they can go and that there should be openness about these things.

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