Dear Straight Talk: I want to make everyone aware of something that cost me my son Joshua’s life. Several of his friends died in high school. He first buried his feelings with marijuana, then switched to alcohol in order to pass drug tests for jobs. Finally, he sobered up completely — for 18 months — and we thought we had him back.
The day before his death I had a nagging feeling. He was living on his own and had lost his job that day. He bought a bottle. The coroner said that when alcoholics sober up and then binge they will drink what their body used to be able to tolerate, only it can’t tolerate that amount anymore. None of us knew this or we would’ve formed a safety network. For example, his girlfriend would’ve called us when she saw the bottle rather than threatening to leave. If you know someone who has cleaned up, make sure they and their loved ones know about this. — Missouri Mom
Jennifer, 19, Irvine: I’m so sorry for your loss. I know two people in their twenties who died from the same thing, only with pills. Just like Joshua, they’d suffered trauma and become drug-users to cope. Then they got clean. Then something emotional occurred and they returned to the pills, taking the same amount as before. I pray this will be a warning to everyone.
Brandon, 21, Mapleton, Maine: I fasted for the World Hunger 30-Hour Famine. In just 30 hours my stomach shrank and it was painful to eat as much as before. Imagine 18 months of sobriety! I used to be able to pound 24-packs of Guinness. After five years of sobriety I bought a bottle of Baileys for my 21st birthday and couldn’t handle even a small swig — the alcohol just made me sick. I hope this gets out to sobered alcoholics. The sobriety program I went through did not warn me about this.
Frankie, 24, Sacramento: I understand people getting drunk, blacking out and throwing up (most young people can relate). But when I hear about people dying from alcohol poisoning — how does that even happen? After 18 months of sobriety, wouldn’t you vomit before you consumed enough to die? My response demonstrates my ignorance. So many drink to the point of blacking out, yet I leaned nothing about this in health class!
Molly, 21, Berkeley: This is a danger for any drug you’ve built up a tolerance to. Many former drug users don’t realize this and it’s a common killer. Regarding alcoholism, it’s hard to spot in young people. Everyone looks like they’re drinking about the same, but they’re not.
Jessie, 21, Eugene, Ore.: For friends whom you suspect are alcoholics or drug abusers, go do things with them! Help them create fun sober memories. Let them know you enjoy spending time with them. While some obviously need rehab, others will respond if you show them a different take on life without judging them. There’s power in being a sober friend. It’s not a total solution, but it’s part of it. My friends definitely look to me for sober activities or to talk about problems.
Dear Mom: I’m deeply sorry for your loss. You’ve done something very positive by writing. It appears, from the panel responses, that many young people are not aware of this. You and Joshua have opened many eyes today — and I guarantee that many safety nets will be formed for those who have cleaned up. Death is difficult for survivors. If you and your son’s girlfriend haven’t done so, I encourage joining a grief-support group. —Lauren
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