PWLMS students talk about experiences with alcohol in hopes of reducing abuse by peers
Convincing your father to go to Alcoholics Anonymous and experiencing the suicide of a drug-addicted friend can have a serious impact on a 9th-grader.
So can experiencing your own near-death by alcohol poisoning.
Ninth-grade students at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School are now using these experiences to slow down teenage drinking.
Jeff Groves told the students Friday that he almost died; in fact, EMTs had to revive him on the way to the hospital, after he had drunk too much at a 1998 Halloween party.
Jeff said the parents of the boy hosting the party expected the party would be drug- and alcohol-free, but that a friend asked him to take liquor from his parents’ house. The group shared the full bottle of vodka that night in the back yard while the adults thought they were trick-or-treating.
“Right after the last sip, it hit me, and I couldn’t walk,” he said. “We went inside and the last thing I remember is I fell off the bed and hit my head and that’s when I blacked out.”
Sean Linehan, 15, was also at the same party, but had decided not to drink and left the party when he discovered others were.
“I pushed my way through the crowd and went into the bathroom, and Jeff was lying lifeless on the floor with puke all down his front. I was angry with myself. I should have stopped them from drinking, too,” he said.
Jeff said the mother of the boy hosting the party found Jeff lying on the floor and called the ambulance. He said his breathing stopped on the way to the hospital, and when he woke up in the hospital, he did not know what had happened.
“I woke up in the hospital in restraints, and I remember hearing the heart monitor racing like a race horse and seeing my mom looking down at me like she had lost her son,” Jeff said.
Jeff said it still didn’t hit him what he had done to himself until an aunt yelled at him and asked him if he knew just how lucky he was to be alive.
“The hardest part was going back to school. Everyone was looking at me like I was a ghost like I should have been,” he said.
Nicole Valdez, 15, talked to the group of 7th graders about her experiences with an alcoholic father.
“Alcohol doesn’t just hurt you, it hurts the people around you, too,” Nicole said.
She said her parents divorced when she was six months old, and during her visits with him, her father would forget to feed her and sometimes even forget she was there.
“When I got older, I began to tell him about how I felt about his drinking, and he started going to AA,” she said.
He has been going to AA for about six years now, she said. It was through her father that she met a young man, Joey, who was also in AA, and she became good friends with him. But Joey was a heroin addict who couldn’t escape his addiction and hanged himself last summer.
Nicole said it is art and writing poetry that gets her through the bad times, rather than turning to drugs or alcohol.
“I’ve never once done drugs or smoked or done alcohol. It doesn’t get you high, it just brings you back down. And I find that I get respect for my decision. Even people who do drink always respect me,” Nicole said.
The three students also acted out scenarios in which they badgered other students to go to a party with them and went over the best ways to get out of those situations.
“He should have said no and given alternative things he had to do and then gotten out of the situation as soon as possible because the longer you stay there, the more of a chance we have to convince you,” Sean said.
Counselor Mary Wolery said the program started with 9th grade students approaching teachers last year with concerns about the number of students drinking.
“Because it was so impactful we asked 9th grade students this year to volunteer, and we originally had 65 kids who said they wanted to do it,” Wolery said.
The students had to fill out an application and write about their experiences with alcohol or drugs and why they wanted to be a part of the program, she said.
“They chose to share their personal stories and to teach refusal skills,” she said. “Because the stories are coming from other kids, the kids can relate to them.”
Nicole said the 7th graders evaluated the program and wrote down comments. Some comments were: “I didn’t know you could die from drinking,” and “I know I will never do it now.”