Hissy Fit - July 2017

Respect: You Have to Ask For it


How many times have I heard a teacher, who is encouraging students to speak up, say, “There are no dumb questions”? It’s a great theory, and in a learning environment, has a lot of merit. Allow me to take this theory to a parallel plane, where there still may be no dumb questions, but perhaps dumb choices to whom the questions are being directed. My beef, and what I’m getting at, is parents asking their children questions, which children have no business answering.

I sat in the balcony of a beautiful, historical, Lutheran church in downtown Charleston. It was a Friday morning. I peered down to the sea of black, bulging from the pews of the filled sanctuary. It was somber. The overwhelming sound of sniffles wafted through the air, followed by quickly wiped tears. It was the funeral of Carter. He was 22.

I didn’t know Carter well, but his mother and I had roamed the streets of Charleston together 30 years ago as coeds at the College of Charleston. We became fast friends and have always kept in touch. She was a bridesmaid in my wedding. I was the friend who always made her laugh. Not once, did we ever think we would reconvene to our old stomping ground for this unbelievable occasion.

Carter was a 4.0 senior at Clemson. He was majoring in biological studies and preparing for medical school. He was loved, he came from a good home, he was smart, he was funny—everyone talked about his great, big, goofy laugh—and unfortunately, he was dumb. These aren’t my words. These are the words used by the pastor, with the permission of Carter’s parents. You see, Carter died from drinking too much alcohol, and his parents don’t want his death to be in vain.

In the balcony across from where I was sitting was a long row of boys—all college age, all dressed in black, all completely sober. It’s ironic how sobering a death caused by alcohol can be. I counted the long row. There were nine of them, hanging their heads, wiping away tears, stunned in disbelief. They were Carter’s fraternity brothers. I wondered how long the sting of the death of a brother would keep them from getting wasted. I figured they would be back at it the next day. After all, there was a football game to attend.

My mind drifted from the pastor’s words and I began to wonder why. Why do teens, college students and adults saturate themselves in alcohol? When does life turn to make drinking the activity of the day? I thought about how young children don’t get tanked up, and yet they are some of the happiest people on the planet. Then my thoughts turned to animals—dogs—and how they are joyful creatures, filled with energy, and they don’t need alcohol to be that way. Then I realized no other species on the planet has the need to alter their minds to the edge of death in order to have fun, fit in, be cool, not be bored, be outgoing, be entertained or whatever, and I thought about what sad shape we humans are in.

I understand alcoholism is an addiction, a disease. I’m not talking about addiction here. I’m throwing the gauntlet at excessive social drinking amongst young adults. How often do you hear of adults drowning in their own vomit? It happens, but not at the same rate as young adults. The excessiveness has to stop. How many children need to lose their lives before other kids get the message? Enough is enough and too much is deadly.

How do we get across to young adults it is not just you who is affected? Carter has left life-long pain, heartache and suffering for his mom, dad, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, girlfriend, and the aftermath will continue to ripple for a very long time. Obviously, he didn’t do it on purpose, but it’s something he can never change, never take back, never rectify, never make whole and never be sorry for. His irresponsible drinking killed him, but it also killed the spirits of many who loved him. However, the living have to pick up the pieces and move on, even on days they feel they can’t.

According to a national survey, almost 60 percent of college students, ages 18–22, drank alcohol in the past month, and almost 2 out of 3 of them engaged in binge drinking during that same timeframe.1 I get it. I was a college student at one of the biggest party schools around. I’m lucky I didn’t end up like Carter. I was fortunate to have a built-in, though sometimes faulty, governor. But now? Now this bothers me…a lot. I just attended the burial of one of my best friend’s son—all for a senseless death. All in the name of a good time. Really? Was it a great time? Was it worth a life?

My college-aged son showed up to a pool where his friends were on July 4. He had not been drinking because he had been with us all day on the lake. When he arrived, the girls were drunk and laughing about their friend—the one who was passed out in the public pool bathroom. My son decided to check on her. She was passed out, lying in her own feces. Her bikini bottom was down around her ankles. Her friends thought it was hilarious. Thankfully, my son found it pathetic. He helped the girl: Woke her up, cleaned her, wrapped a towel around her and sat her on a bench to wait for a ride home. He wasn’t sure if he was more disgusted by the grotesque state of the girl, or the friends who did nothing but laugh. Do you seriously think that was a fun day for that girl? Even yard work would have been better than that! Do you think she figured out what kind of people she was hanging out with? My son did and lost respect for all of them.

There are so many reasons to know when to stop. Maybe it’s that about 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor-vehicle crashes.2 Or, maybe it’s that about 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.3 Or, perhaps a good reason to know when to stop is that around 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.4

I only wish these kids would get it and understand this can happen to them. Perhaps it all boils down to self-control. Sometimes, saying no to alcohol (or drugs) is actually declaring a loud and proud YES to your life! How cool is that? But hey, it’s your life and you have the right to live it how you want. Just remember, you can’t live when you’re dead.

Source: 1,2,3,4 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism