Drugs and Alcohol/Morality/My Faith/Teen Faith/Virtue and Sin How to Really Peak in High School… and the Rest of Your Life by Thomas Clements When I was 16 I completely bought into the idea that I was at the greatest stage of my life, so I made my best effort to ensure that I was always having the most fun possible. Unfortunately, that led me to live a lifestyle of heavy drinking and using drugs. Looking back, I can’t believe I thought that was going to be as good as it gets! The False Peak You see, I thought my teenage years were the peak of my life and it would all be downhill afterward. So much so that I actually cringed at the thought of no longer being a teen on my 20th birthday. I thought that teenagers were at the height of being cool and every age after would bring with it a longing to be a teen again. What added to my false viewpoint of the world was my impression that feeling good was what life was all about. After taking on this attitude, I started to use drugs, drink, and party to get the most out of my amazing fun as a teen. I thought these things would add to the good times that I believed only young people could have. I eventually discovered that what I thought was fun was really my way of escaping my deep sadness. Low Points of Buying the Lie I was unhappy with myself, doing what I thought would make me happy, but it was not working. Always left longing for more, I was trying to fill my heart with things that would merely entertain. All of my choices in searching for happiness were selfish, such as lusting after women, putting others down to be funny, and mindlessly watching TV and movies. Essentially, I never thought about what would be good or beneficial or helpful to others, but only thought of me, myself and I. I was deeply unsatisfied with my life and I just wanted to feel good. The world told me that to feel good I needed a life like what I saw in the movies and on TV shows. However, the more I did this the less satisfied I became. Then, my partying became the easiest way for me to cope with the pain that was increasing. The more I focused on my outer senses and doing the things that were supposedly “fun” and made me feel good, the more empty I became on the inside. I was supposed to be having the time of my life just like I saw on TV and in the movies, but the movies never showed the sadness I was going through or the hurt I was causing myself and others by living only for myself. I did not quite know why at the time, but I had a lot of shame from the way I lived my life. It seemed like every morning I would wake up terribly regretting my choices from the day before — even though they were the choices that I believed would lead me to happiness. Furthermore, I put these choices before my relationships with others and began to feel increasingly isolated and alone. I finally came to realize God’s plan for me I started studying the Catholic Faith and putting it into practice by praying the Rosary, attending Mass and Confession, and following the teachings of Jesus, I began to realize that God loved me and had a plan for me. This plan was more than just me doing whatever I wanted and it was filled with fulfillment and joy. However, I had to stop grasping at everything the world was trying to offer me, in order to be open to receive everything God wanted to give me. The True Peak I tried to put God first and gave Him my time in prayer and receiving the sacraments. It might sound weird, but He actually gave me more in these than what I gave Him. I began to form a real friendship with Him, one with a real bond and even good memories to look back on. Additionally, I started saying yes to the needs of others. Not simply doing what I wanted to do, I sacrificed my time and energy to make others happy. Looking back, I see how sad I was from living for my own enjoyment and how that will never satisfy me the way a life of virtue and true love will. Furthermore, for God, I gave up what I thought I could never live without. At the age of 21, when most people start, I gave up drinking. I knew that I personally could not continue to drink without falling into sin, so it could not be a part of my life anymore. I quit the things I was addicted to so that I could focus on living for Jesus alone, and I couldn’t be happier. This was where I found my true peak in life. It’s crazy to say this now, but I really cannot stop peaking! Everyday my life is a vibrant experience of joy and I owe it all to God. He performed a modern day Wedding at Cana miracle, but instead of water into wine, He changed my drug abuse into good relationships with friends and family and my alcohol addiction into a good life filled with real meaning and purpose. The world lied to me and told me that it would only be through money, pleasure, and doing whatever I wanted when I wanted that would make me happy. However, I learned instead that, by sacrificing these things — everything the world wants to offer — in favor of a life lived in relationship with Christ that true happiness is found. This is what is meant by embracing the cross — we die to what the world wants to give us in favor of heaven. But heaven isn’t just something down the road when we pass from this life. We get to have beautiful heavenly experiences now through prayer, our relationship with God, and our relationships with others, when we choose to live in freedom from sin and in pursuit of virtue. It is not always easy but if we remember that God wants us to be with Him even more than we do, and we keep fighting for that relationship, the peaks of this life will take us higher than we ever knew possible. Ways to Climb I lived a pretty extreme lifestyle of serving myself, so it took a lot of grace to overcome myself. However, I took a few right steps in my saying yes to God and no to myself that helped me avoid making the poor decisions of my past. If you’re struggling to overcome the life of the world, here are some keys to starting to live for heaven right now: Sacraments: Jesus gives us great graces in the Sacraments with which He is helping to increase our love and overcome what is bad for us. Going to Confession and receiving Communion are great ways to do battle against sin. Reading Scripture: Allow God to speak to you through the Bible. It truly is His word that He meant for you to read. He also gives us many wonderful examples of heroism and triumph through God’s help. Prayer and Sacrifice: Prayer is our time spent with God. This can be done by speaking to Him, thinking about Him, staying quiet and listening, or simply sitting in His presence. All are beautiful and all help us grow closer to God. Furthermore, Jesus Himself said that we need to fast as well as pray. We can fast by giving things up. Try giving up something, even something that is not ‘bad’, simply to strengthen your will and offer to God a worthy sacrifice. The True Peaks Awaits After giving up what I thought was making my teen years the best of my life, I have discovered that each new day is actually the best day of my life and I could not be happier. The teen years for me pale in comparison to today, but they can still be great for those of you who are living them right now. By starting to live for God by practicing virtue and selflessness, you can set yourself up for a great life in which doing these things are like second nature. Think of the bible verses that says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). It still might be hard at first, but good things are difficult. And the really good things are worth the sacrifice. Furthermore, your future self will thank you for it. And, of course, you will escape a lot of pain, suffering, and baggage that many older people end up having to carry with them. Go ahead and give it your best and let God be your strength — aim to peak in high school, and keep that peak up as you grow older. With God’s help, anything is possible.