Barry Adkins’ son died of alcohol poisoning the day he moved out on his own. And Barry wants to help others so that something good will come out of that.
“It’s just alcohol; at least they’re not doing drugs.” How many of us have said this, heard it, or thought it? Often, we think that as long as they are “just drinking” our children will be okay, but we couldn’t be more wrong. Most illegal drugs are tried for the first time under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol kills more people than all illegal drugs combined. The younger your child starts drinking, the more likely they are to become an alcoholic. Still think it isn’t a big deal? Try using Google to search for the term “alcohol abuse” and check out how many results you get.
I am not advocating that we go back to the days of prohibition. It didn’t work before, it won’t work now. I am guessing that at least one person reading this article is asking this question; Barry, do you drink? The answer is yes, typically I will have one beer and I am not talking about one of those huge, 24 oz. beers.
I am advocating better educating our children about the dangers of alcohol abuse. Uneducated decisions, made by our children, can lead to tragedy; Educated decisions will lead to a far better outcome. As a society we do a lousy job of discouraging our children from drinking. Television shows and movies glorify binge drinking. They show people getting drunk and having a “good time.” They don’t bother to show you the bad things that can happen when your child drinks. Your child could get behind the wheel and kill someone or themselves, die from alcohol poisoning, or get a DUI. There could be things like rape or sexual assault—your child could be either victim or assailant. For your precious little girl, unwanted pregnancy and STD’s. For that boy you are so proud of, he could be assaulted, or assault someone, or become an unplanned father.
Those precious children that you have held, burped, changed diapers and loved—they have hopes and dreams. They dream of growing up and finding a cure for cancer, helping starving kids around the world, going to the moon, being president, (insert your child’s dream here). They will also be faced with many decisions. Decisions like where they want to go to college, what they want to study, where they want to live, who they want to marry, how many grandchildren they want to bless you with, etc. All important decisions, no doubt, but the decision your child makes about alcohol will define his or her life. Make even one bad decision about alcohol and all of the above hopes and dreams will vanish into thin air.
I am often asked for advice on how to talk to teenagers about the dangers of alcohol abuse. The standard advice is: “talk to your teenager.” Great advice, but I suspect for many of us, including me, it turns into an awkward conversation, with your teenager tuning you out. I believe that the easier thing to do, in the beginning, is to have conversations about alcohol with your spouse/adult family member while your teenager is within hearing distance. Teenagers are typically much more likely to want to listen in on a conversation than to be in the middle of it. The car is always a great place for this. Start by talking about a recent news story, and there is no shortage of them, where alcohol led to something bad happening.
Another fairly easy thing to do, is to make a list of the bad things that can happen when you abuse alcohol. Under each bad thing, list someone you know that has suffered the consequences. Everyone knows someone who has been impacted by alcohol abuse! Print it out and post it in places where it will be seen in your house such as, the refrigerator or the bathroom mirror. Update it when you hear new stories.
My son, Kevin, used to say, “Yeah, yeah Dad, you don’t have to tell me again, I know what I am doing,” but he didn’t, and it would cost him his life and alter mine in a way I could never have imagined. In life, as a parent, my job is to teach my children, with the death of my son, Kevin, the roles are clearly reversed. His death has taught me more about what is really important in life than I could have ever taught him.
Pause for a moment and close your eyes. Imagine yourself getting that “knock on the door” while your child lies dead in a morgue.
It’s too late for my son Kevin, who died of alcohol poisoning on the day he moved out on his own, but it’s not too late for your child. The decisions your child makes about alcohol will have a profound effect on how their life, (and yours), turns out. Educate yourself, and then educate your children.
Folks, I’m begging you, act as if your child’s life depends on it, because it does.
When you lose a child, the most that you can hope for is to make something very good come from it. That is what I plan to spend the rest of my life doing.
Something very good will come from this…
Photo: pinguino / flickr