By Priscilla Behnke

I am hypercritical of Hollywood’s portrayal of teen substance abuse. It tends to be glamorized or downplayed. Teen comedies show parties where the worst that happens is vomiting in front of the heart throb or suffering a hangover.

Recently Be Awesome took its youth leaders to the movie Beautiful Boy. It’s a film based on the true story of a father and his son’s battle with addiction. It is an honest look at the pain and destruction addiction has on individuals and their families. It is hard to watch, raw, real, and they pull no punches with the pain it causes. After the film we all spoke and here are some of the takeaways we had after watching:

Danjaan Nelson, eighth grader: “First, don’t even start with all the drugs and alcohol because it will end up really bad. And don’t give up hope; there are people out there who want to help you.”

Matea Bernales, freshman: “Parents need to pay attention to their kid’s behavior and don’t ignore what’s wrong even if you really want to. Seek the help you need even if it’s a friend or family member.”

Deanna Nelson, sixth grader, was struck by how hopeless the son felt, and was glad he kept trying after he gave up and almost died: “Don’t give up. There is always hope even when you don’t feel like there is.”

Lesley Gonzales, freshman, shared that she was affected by how “he rejected help and wouldn’t take it when it was offered because his father kept trying.”

Tatyna Ware, a mentor and local college student, wanted to encourage parents with a child facing addiction to find as many resources and options as possible.

Brandi Homan, Be Awesome co-founder: “The road to recovery is hard and long and one that the individual with the problem has to face. I can’t imagine having to tell one of my children they can’t come home.”

My takeaway stemmed from a scene where the father and son smoke pot together. It’s not unusual to hear from parents that they have used with their kids in an effort to make sure they are safe when they used. The research shows an opposite effect – teens who use with their parents are more likely to use when their parents aren’t around – substances that have disastrous effects on their developing brains.

For more information on drug prevention or our youth leadership program and how to get involved visit us at You can contact us at for more information and resources.

 Priscilla Behnke is director of Be Awesome Youth Council.

This column appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.


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