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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Part V of "Why I Don't Drink"

My desire to be “exemplary" to teens in this matter

Several years ago, I was at a nice country club for a wedding reception that had an open bar. Father Walter Brunkan, the priest who presided over the ceremony, also oversaw the local Catholic High School. As he and I were standing off to the side of the room, visiting about educational matters, an annoying but important-looking barfly kept coming up and offering him the drink in his hand. Walter kept declining, and explained to me that, in his position, he had a long-standing practice to never drink in public and this individual knew it.

The third time the glassy-eyed barfly approached he said, "Come on, Father, these kids need to see a good example of moderation."

Just then a mere twenty feet away, a groomsman puked his guts out all over the brocaded carpet. The hall fell silent until their etiquette kicked in and everyone went on as if nothing happened (giving a wide birth to that part of the rug).

My friend turned to the persistent man and said, "Tell you what: I'll be the example of the abstainer; you put your drink down and be the example of knowing when to quit; and we'll let that fellow be the example of what happens when you don't."

The speechless man walked away. I smiled at the perfect sequence of unfortunate events, and whispered, "Can I quote you on that?" I often have. [When he retired, they re-named the street in front of his school "Father Brunkan Blvd."]

I don't claim to be a perfect example in every "self discipline" matter of life. Case in point: When I was in high school, I was what we euphemistically call a "late bloomer." I was one of the smallest kids in my school until I grew six inches in my Jr. and Sr. year. Still, I wrestled in the light weight classes. My freshman year of college, I wrestled at 118. My brother Dave also wrestled (30 pounds above me). We were in good shape. Now I confess we would be as exemplary in "stretchy pants" as Jack Black is in Nacho Libre (but we wear shirts and have better hair and slimmer legs).
However, when it comes to the dangerous, peer-related matter of alcohol, I intend to hold my ground. In all my years of working with thousands of teenagers, not one would say, at that moment of decision, "Mr. K does it so it must be alright. After all, the drinking age is just a man-made rule." I'll concede that many students have probably seen me take an unneeded third slice of pizza at a cast party, but it didn't impair my ability to drive them home.

In more recent years, I've spent a few evenings in the restaurant side of Buffalo Wild Wings watching the Detroit Pistons play-off games or the Tigers with dozens of current students and alumni. Though strangers around us are drinking, I would consider it reckless to flaunt my legal right to have a beer in front of my students, even if I sipped just one bottle all night.

Even though it's fun to cheer with hundreds of others, I have since declined invitations to that particular setting during such games, because frankly, I can't shake the funny feeling of mixing enthusiastic drinkers and under-aged non-drinkers into such crowded conditions, and I can't help but think it’s not good for teens. Many of my peers disagree, and that’s fine. Time will tell, but I'd rather invite the group over to our home for the game (which we often do).

I’ll wrap up Part V with several Googled factoids and links, but let me share something you won't find on the WWW. Here are seven of my most heart-felt reasons for my choice to keep alcohol out of my life:

(1) My cousin Mike (on the couch here) was killed by a drunk driver the year after he graduated from high school. The drunk who killed him had killed another person while DUI a few years before.
(2) The fourth week of my student teaching, I walked into my 9th grade English class and noticed that the last desk in the first row was empty. The night before, my student was in a car with a drunk driver going 100 MPH down State Park Road where the car did a Duke’s of Hazard jump into two large trees, killing all four occupants.
(3) I knew another teen, suffering from alcoholism and depression a few years after graduation, took his own life in his father’s office parking lot. He and his note were found Monday morning.
(4-7) Four other students of mine have been killed by drunk drivers. One was finishing his medical residency at a hospital in Oklahoma; one was coming home from his girlfriend’s house on his motorcycle. A drunk driver crossed over the median of the highway. A witness said Kyle saw him coming, laid down his bike and scrambled out of the way, but the drunk driver swerved to miss the bike and drug my daughter’s classmate 30-40 yards before continuing on his way home without stopping. At the drunk driver's trial, he got the lightest sentence possible, because since he didn't even stop at the scene, the judge deemed him “too drunk” to know what he was doing. (Had he been less drunk, he would have been dealt with more severely.) My daughter still has his picture on her wall.

You may be thinking, "That's sad, Tom, but all of those cases had to do with someone who got drunk. I'm against drunkenness, too. Our kids need to learn how not to get drunk when they drink."

There is a percentage of adults who can testify to having that balance in life, but many of them look back at an age where they weren't as successful at it, and they'll whisper that they currently have friends or associates who claim to have that balance but who in fact often lose it. (Over 25% of adults--not teens-- admit off the record that they sometimes knowingly drive DUI.)

Let me say again that I'm not "preaching" on this topic. I'm explaining why "the burden of proof" has simply not been met for me to change my view toward alcohol as a person who works with teens every day. The factoids and links to sites like this below have reinforced my intention to be living proof to my students that you don't need alcohol to enjoy life.

...............Factoids to follow up on...............
Just added July 17, 2008 This article says, "Driving intoxicated is not only dangerous, but getting caught can come with a hefty price tag. In 2006, intoxicated drivers contributed to 32 percent of traffic fatalities, or 13,470 deaths. By taking some precautions, you can avoid a costly DUI and stay safe on the road.A BAC of .08 percent is now considered legally intoxicated in all 50 states. If you're caught driving at or above this level, you'll get arrested and handed a heavy fine. But that's only the start. For years afterward you'll have to deal with increased insurance rates, legal bills, licensing fees and other court appointed expenses. After it's all said and done, costs go well into the five figures."You should never drink and drive, but thousands of people make the decision to do so every day...." This article says, "On an average day in the USA, 10 teenagers are killed in teen-driven vehicles. The death toll could swell in coming years. A record 17.5 million teens will be eligible to drive once the peak of the "baby boomlet" hits driving age by the end of this decade — 1.3 million more than were eligible in 2000. "Young people aged 16 to 24 were involved in 28 percent of all alcohol-related driving accidents, although they make up only 14% of the U.S. population." 1

The Monday, April 2, 2007, Detroit Free Press reported: “On any given day across the country, 5,400 kids under age 16 are taking their first drink, according to the latest research [of the] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration...."

Alcohol is the most commonly used drug [and number one cause of death] among teens. A recent survey of students found that:

52% of eighth graders (and 80% of high-school seniors) have used alcohol at some time; 25% of eighth graders (and 62+% of high-school seniors) have been drunk.1 32% of high-school seniors say they have been drunk in the past month.3

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC published a study in the January 2007 issue of Pediatrics, found that 45 percent of the teenagers responding to a survey reported consuming alcohol in the past month, and 64 percent of the students who drank said they were binge drinking, which is defined as having five or more alcoholic drinks in a row [with the purpose of getting drunk].
The official PTA website says this about teens and advertised booze: Ten magazines, each with at least one-fourth of their total readership below the legal drinking age, featured nearly one-third of all alcohol advertising expenditures in magazines. More than half of the money spent on alcohol magazine advertising could be found in 24 magazines with youth audiences, ages 12 to 20... In fact, 25 brands placed all of their magazine ads in such publications.
Parents are passing out the booze: Two out of three teens said it is easy to get alcohol from their homes without parents knowing about it. One third responded that it is easy to obtain alcohol from their own parents knowingly, which increases to 40 percent when it is from a friend's parent. And one in four teens have attended a party where minors were drinking in front of parents. (Another related article.) [Tuesday night's "Law and Order SVU" episode was on this very topic. The parent was charged with manslaughter when someone was killed on the way home from the party where she passed out the booze.]

Researchers have established that... the risk for developing an alcohol use disorder is approximately 50 to 60 percent genetic. Children of alcoholics are at high risk for developing problems with alcohol and other drugs; they often do poorly at school, live with pervasive tension and stress, have high levels of anxiety and depression and experience coping problems. Each year between 1,200 and 8,800 babies are born with the physical signs and intellectual disabilities associated with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), and thousands more experience the somewhat lesser disabilities of fetal alcohol effects. FAS is the leading preventable cause of mental retardation in the United States.

College-age drinking at all time high: Nearly half of today's college student population is stumbling through the college year, either drunk or high on drugs, ...Forty-nine percent (3.8 million) of full time college students binge drink and/or abuse prescription and illegal drugs, according to the report, "Wasting the Best and the Brightest: Substance Abuse at America's Colleges and Universities." The study also finds that 1.8 million full-time college students (22.9 percent) meet the medical criteria for substance abuse and dependence.... Nearly 38 percent of college administrators say the major barrier to more effective prevention is the public perception that substance abuse by college students is a normal rite of passage. This fact leads to... Article 4:

15% of American workers are under the influence on the job: Workplace alcohol use and impairment directly affects an estimated 15 percent of the U.S. workforce, or 19.2 million workers....

Update: On May 9th, 2007, the St. Louis Cardinals banned beer in their club house after the DUI death of one of their players. Kevin Hench at FOXSports.com had this to say:

"We have a problem in America. The only thing we love more than our booze is our car. Mass production of the Model T began in 1914 and by 1927 there were 15 million on the road. The 1919 Volstead Act, proscribing the sale of alcohol, was repealed in 1933. And thus our 20th century exercise in killing each other and ourselves with our motor vehicles began in earnest.

"If it's too dangerous to provide a couple of beers to 25 guys in a clubhouse — all of whom can afford cab fare or limo fare and some of whom can afford to charter the Concorde — then what of the tens of thousands of over-served fans that the park just disgorged out into the parking lot? I mean, if a team is serious about public safety and its own liability, shouldn't it really extend the ban to the entire park? Ah, but now we're talking about the bottom line. Banning beer in the clubhouse doesn't cost the club anything. In fact, it saves them a few bucks. Banning $8 beers on the concourse — and thereby jeopardizing massive sponsorship deals — would be a financial hit no club will ever take.

"I laughed out loud the first time I saw the Jack Daniels commercial (during a sporting event) on cable that suggested several ways to drink J.D. before intoning, "... but however you choose to enjoy Jack Daniels, enjoy it responsibly." Really? Who sidles up to the bar and orders Jack Daniels with the intention of drinking responsibly? When I order a Jack and Coke, it's my declaration that I plan to drink irresponsibly. It also means I'm not driving." [Because goodness knows it's just too much to ask people not to get drunk. TK]

The Hidden Epidemic of Very Young Alcoholics /MSN.com 5-10-07
By Heather Millar "The stats disguise a startling truth: Kids are starting to drink at the age of 11, 10, even 9. This is how it's happening — and how three young drinkers finally stopped." Read the article here: 1 2 3

Part VI follows...

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Blogger Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I admire your stand on the issue. It does seem that in many parts of the world but in USA especially there seems to be way too many drunk driving tragedies. I drink from time to time but dislike being drunk. I remember when I was a teenager there was this peer presssure to get drunk; similar to the glamorisation of drinking that you mentioned. Great post.

5/4/07 11:48 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Helpful comments, LGS. You bring more of a cosmopolitan perspective to the discussion and have touched on question I've never thought about:

Do teens in other parts of the world where "drinking is less of an issue" have early and easy access to cars like American teens do? There is one more part in the series, and it has to do with confusing the realities of another time or another place with the current realities in America. This was helpful.

5/4/07 3:35 PM  
Blogger SusieQ said...

These figures is what I was talking about. It is shocking really.

I, too, know of some very sad cases involving drunk driving in which there were deaths. One involved a car load of teenagers from our high school. They were classmates to our children at the time. The teenagers were drunk and driving fast on a winding country road. They came upon a sharp curve, missed it, and hit a tree. The passenger in the front seat died instantly. His neck snapped. The driver, a girl, was pinned behind the steering wheel. Due to the impact,there was about 3 inches between the steering wheel and her seat. She was caught inbetween the two. Her head had hit the windshield. Glass was embedded in her brain and her eyes and face. She survived, but she is mentally and physically inpaired for life. I don't recall what happened to the backseat passengers. It was oh so sad.

5/4/07 4:57 PM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

One of the reasons I never started drinking was watching a drunk in my home town and deciding I never wanted to look like that. Television pictures od dr unks reinforced that feeling. Televison pictures of social drinking tended to bother me because there were no consequences.

5/4/07 5:44 PM  
Blogger Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Interesting question, PoI. I hadn't thought about it before but I think you are right. USA is car central cause your infrastructure promotes cars, cars are cheap and you have a car culture.

In Malaysia, when I was a teenager(1970's), none of my friends owned a car. Maybe about a quarter will own cars by the time they are at University. Today, more teenagers have cars but I don't believe in anyway comparable with the US situation. The exception are the extremely rich kids where majority of them have cars and BMWs even.

The high price of cars relative to earning ability is one reason for low car ownership amongst teens here. For example, our cheapest rock bottom no-frills car is probably about RM50,000 and a small decent car at about RM 75,000. In comparison, a teenager working at McDonalds will earn about RM600/- per month.

So interestingly, the serious drunk driving incidents in Malaysia tend to involve the rich kids.

5/4/07 8:29 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

This is helpful. I mentioned I'd Google it, and surprisingly I found that Malaysia is the 3rd higest "car per capita" nation. USA is first, Luxembourg is 2nd, and then your home country.
I suspect the rate of teens driving cars in the US compared to other industialized nations where teens drink is much greater than either of us guessed.
Here's the web address:

5/4/07 8:51 PM  
Blogger Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Hi, I was surprised to learn that Malaysia was third highest for car per capita. I can assure you that many people do not have cars until they at least start working. However, like many developing nations, we have a huge disparity betwen the wealthy and the poor. The top 5 % of the population may have many cars. In that strata, it is common for each member of the family to have a car.

The other point is that Malaysia has its own national car, the Proton. To support the proton, incentives have been given in the last 15 years for people to buy Proton. At the same time, public transport has been deliberately underdeveloped. This has resulted in an increase in car ownership especially amongst those who are in the work force.

6/4/07 3:52 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

This is fascinating! I got my info from that chart I cited, but your explanation makes perfect sense. This would also explain why teen drunk driving accidents in Malaysia always involve "rich kids" in cars.
I have an idea for you. I think many of your readers would be interested in the Proton story. I have never heard of that car or of the concept of a "national car" (other than knowing where "imports" come from here in the U.S.) After Easter, I think you should write a post about this third highest explanation and the contrast in "class" in Malaysia.

We have several foreign exchange students from Korea in my school. One family came a year ago and has become relatively "close friends". We shared Thanksgiving with them, and we're having them over for Easter. (They do not yet understand that holiday or its personal significance. Any ideas?) We've learned so much from them.

6/4/07 6:37 AM  
Blogger FlipFlop Mom said...

WOW... I just read about half your blog... ( thanks for letting me know that you had continued!!!).. LOTS and LOTS of info here and I love it!!! I have a 16 year old daughter that I have YET let get her license... and she's shown no interest in really getting it.. However.. I know that there will be a time when she'll NEED it!! sighhh....
I have a foreign exchange student now who says cars in Spain are somewhat useless unless you really travel.. so most of her friends don't have cars or a license and the age there is 18 by law.. She says drinking is casual.. and part of their custom.. and she was shocked that we don't drink wine at every meal... ( we don't drink it at all actually!!).. having been a child of an alcoholic and having been thrown into cars while my parent was plastered... I can remember crying and screaming because it was such a horrible experience.. so scary.. I knew all my life.. I would NEVER put my children in a situation where they could NEVER trust me!!!
Thank you so much for sharing!!! I'll be back!!

6/4/07 1:16 PM  
Blogger Josie said...

Tom, didn't you just have a different post? Have you removed it?


6/4/07 2:18 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Hi, Josie,
You must have caught the "draft" of the last section I'm writing. I hit "post" in stead of "save draft" and then took it down since it's not done. It will be here soon before I move the whole series back to St. Pat's Day. (I don't want it at the top for Easter.)

6/4/07 2:37 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Without looking for additional articles on this topic, I keep coming across them. I will continue to add the links and quotes here. 5-10-07

10/5/07 7:34 PM  

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