Sometimes the stories I hear through my research and work with Straight Up are grim — depressing reminders that unsafe behavior (binge drinking and impaired driving) can lead to destructive and fatal results. It can be overwhelming, seeing the almost-daily accounts of car accidents, incidents of alcohol poisoning, underage parties, and more.
I sometimes think “wow, the incidents are so much worse these days,” but really, they’re not.
I remember my friend Rick, killed at 17 in an car accident, when he was driving drunk. I remember Chuck, a friend of a friend, who died from a fall after drunkenly leaping from one roof to another. I remember Don, whose drinking and addictive behavior led him to a drug overdose. I remember Patrick, who raided his parents’ liquor cabinet at 15, drank a fifth of bourbon, and was comatose for several days. I remember Christine, my mother’s best friend — killed in her car after colliding with a speeding drunk driver.
The frequency of stories may increase, the ages may be younger, the social climate may be different. But the stories are the same. Youth from any era can have stories like this. Sad stories that are caused by irresponsible behavior. Stories about the ones that weren’t lucky, the ones that didn’t listen, the ones that went too far.
I often think of my own path through life and feel a lot of relief for having “made it” through my youth. There were a lot of temptations, a lot of destructive behaviors considered the “norm”, a lot of boredom-fueled foolish decisions. Easily, I could have become another Don, or Chuck, or Rick. But I made it, and I grew out of my bad behavior early. I’m one of the lucky ones. But I’ll continue to work with Straight Up on the behalf of (and in the memory of) those that weren’t so lucky.
Becky Newman works for Straight Up Ventura County.