British Columbia

Zak Saint-Onge shares alcoholic past in new anti-drinking campaign

A B.C. high school student is sharing his story of alcoholism in the hopes it will deter other young people from going down a similar path.

"I felt like I couldn't get through the week without it"

Zak Saint-Onge started drinking when he was 12. He is sharing his story as part of a new Vancouver Coastal Health campaign: "Think before you let them drink" (CBC)

A B.C. high school student is sharing his story of alcoholism in the hopes it will deter other young people from going down a similar path.

"I had seen it on TV a lot as people having fun, drinking together socially. It made it look like it was a lot of fun and something I would want to do. When I tried it, I agreed. I thought it was awesome," said Zak Saint-Onge, a Surrey high school student who started drinking at the age of 12.

At first, Saint-Onge started taking liquor from his parent's cabinet, hoping they wouldn't notice.  By 14, he was waiting outside of liquor stores hoping someone would bootleg for him.

"I would ask pretty much everyone who walked by if they could take my money and go buy me alcohol with it," said Saint-Onge. 

Within a few years, Saint-Onge had a serious drinking problem and was living in shelters and on the street.

"The desire to drink and use drugs was too strong for me. I thought it was just a phase I was going through," said Saint-Onge. "[I] felt it was very easy to get caught up in that and to blame my family....and my group of friends at the time for all of my problems than look at what was really happening and taking responsibility for it."

Saint-Onge's is speaking out as part of a new campaign urging adults to consider the consequences of buying alcohol for youths -- it's called Think before you let them drink.

"I got carried away. At first it was fun, but it stopped being fun when I started using it as a way to cover up feelings. I knew that it felt good, so when I felt bad I did what I knew would feel good."

A recent West Vancouver student health survey found 80 per cent of youth obtained alcohol directly from an adult. Saint-Onge says adults who buy beer or liquor for teens may not understand the message it sends.

"There's a lot of people who will answer yes. I would tell those people to hear my story and stories like it and to think that's the path you could be helping someone get to by providing them with alcohol," said Saint-Onge.

Saint-Onge is 18 now getting set to graduate from high school and back living with his parents.

"Our relationship is fantastic now. We have the kind of family dynamic I've always wanted now because I've been sober."

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