ALCOHOL: The number one drug of choice for America's youth.
Chris p. 10- The End at the Beginning
Throughout his college years, Toren Volkmann partied like there was no tomorrow. And like so many parents, his mother, Chris, overlooked Toren's growing alcohol problem. But when he graduated, Toren realized that he had become a full-blown alcoholic with a college diploma.
Written from the viewpoints of both mother and son, this is a riveting, enlightening, and heartbreakingly true story of a family that was able to confront the fear, pain, and denial that threatened to destroy them-and survive the epidemic of teenage drinking that is putting America's future at risk.
When I left for the market earlier that day, my son was living in Paraguay working for the Peace Corps. By the time I returned home to put the groceries away, he’d become an alcoholic headed for rehab. So what happened between the produce aisle and my driveway?
Toren p. 21- My Drink
Even more disturbing are the terrible physical reactions, depending on the amount of alcohol I consumed and my eventual detox. This is the big problem. During detox, inside the unsettled body, a nervous and sometimes nauseous sense begins…an anxiety and almost a fear, like being too alone. You see yourself and everything differently. Like a sudden collapse of the stock market in your brain and every single nerve ending throughout your body wants to turn inside out and puke out some unidentifiable pain or itch. You sweat, and you sweat increasingly when you let unreasonable thoughts trick you into feeling like whatever you are thinking must be true, like for example, “this is normal,” “this will never end,” “I deserve this,” or “hhhhmm…maybe another drink will solve the problem.”
Chris p. 79- Put on Your Beer Goggles and Don’t Ask Why
Binge drinking looks fun and blurs the reality of what really happens when thousands of kids drink way too much. And all the while, we parents are blind. Maybe that’s because we’re busy sipping wine as we bid at fund-raisers, or we’re knocking back a few tall cold ones at our alumni tailgate parties, or maybe we’re out to a two-martini dinner with intimate friends while our successful kids are tucked away on campuses where fun can’t be categorized as dangerous. Or progressive. Or addictive.
Toren p. 132-133 –Party My Face Off
Were all these classy visits to other campuses rehearsals for my behavioral outbursts during my college freshman year? Hell no. I was just getting my green feet wet and still learning the ropes. There was no problem. I was still in high school. Relax. (And don’t think, Gee, man, it sure is surprising that no one ever pulled you aside and said, ‘You know, I think some of these things are pretty scary. Maybe you have a problem and should think about getting help.’) No, it’s not surprising that never happened, because most of these things went under the radar of any counselor, authority, and more important, the parents. You think I went home, and when asked, “Hey, Toren, how was your night last night?,” that I responded, “Oh, it was great. I drank a forty in under five minutes, we made a double-funnel beer bong, we outran the cops, and later, I blacked out and woke up in a strange bathroom with my pants on inside out. How was yours?” Never. There was always a normal activity or at least a smoothed-over version of what we were up to, the imaginary side of the coin of my perfect teenager life. There was no friend of mine who would suggest to another that anyone had a problem, because it was all too early and too fun. What could possibly go wrong in our worlds?
Chris p. 246- What Parents Can Do
Within our family, we now have the courage to talk about high-risk drinking. It’s easily discussed because the disease is with us. Drinking is now considered as dangerous as a bad sunburn—a weekend souvenir that begins as a haunting cancer and can progress to death.
Toren p. 168—In Descent
I imagined myself sliding on my knees across the hard floor into the middle of the circle with my fists clenched in the air, screaming for some sort of relief…but of course I stayed at the edge of the circle, adamant that no one would know about the war being waged inside me. I remember looking at a couple of the people as they stood in the circle and desperately thinking, Maybe they are having problems, too, like me. But then, I thought, These people have no clue what it is like to experience the difficulties that I have.
Chris p. 278- Warning Label
It has been said that “Alcohol is so potent that, if discovered today, it would be classified as a Class II drug, available only by prescription.” [Wright & Wright] Adults who willingly provide minors with alcohol often think they are doing them a favor, especially when it occurs within the confines of a private home. But in fact, providing young people with alcohol can contribute to violence, driving under the influence, sexual assault, and binge drinking. By allowing underage drinking, parents are sending the message that it’s okay to drink. Parents may not be able to control actions of intoxicated youth once they have left a party, or even within the confines of the home. Car crashes and injuries following parent-hosted parties are a huge risk, and parents can be held liable for these incidents. Recent information about the susceptibility of adolescents to severe damage from heavy drinking causes me to stop and reconsider attitudes about serving alcohol to underage kids. Collecting car keys and allowing minors to party in the basement may be more detrimental than most parents realize, even without considering destruction caused to the adolescent brain. Which of we parents wishes to be responsible not only for destroying cells in our children’s still-forming intellects but for the crashes, sexual incidents, and violence brought on by underage abuse of alcohol?
Toren p.173- Progression Without Progress
When I came to again I was shivering and lying face down on the hard bus terminal floor near a wall. I was still in Asunción and it was early the next morning. A security guard was inspecting me as if I were crazy. He must have noticed me passed out. Hungover, dirty and ragged, I’m sure I looked like a total street bum. The plastic bottle, now empty, had fallen out of my pocket. I didn’t know how long I had been there. I still had my ticket but had missed my bus.
Chris p. 338 – Moving On to Gravy
Of all the points to consider about heavy teen drinking, I am most struck by the fact that oftentimes young drinkers and their parents don’t realize they are in trouble until too late. It can be after college graduation that symptoms become pronounced, just at the time when an emerging adult begins to seek out lifelong goals. Abusive alcohol consumption is associated with alcohol-related problems after graduation which can permanently affect achievement of a young person’s dreams and aspirations. As with Toren and our family, the results of this continual abuse will finally stack up until it falls with crushing force onto our heads.
Toren p. 348- Could You Spare Me Some Change, Please?
Some friends have said things along the lines of, “I think it’s cool what you’re doing…but I could never go that route…I could never go straight-edge, completely sober.” I used to think that exact way, too. It really comes down to the fact that this is the only direction I can go if I want to have a seminormal, productive life. And for now, that sounds like something I should want, right? I don’t want to be enslaved to toxins that disconnect me further from living. That’s where I was when I was last drinking. So I can mirror similar sentiments to those friends of mine respectively: “I think it’s cool that you still drink and use drugs…but I can’t go down that road…it would destroy me.”
“An important book for every parent of a teenager. This fearless and searching diary brings the reality home that alcohol does not care who it conquers. From Binge to Blackout offers honesty, hope and hands-on guidance for parents and teens to make empowering choices.”—Marci Shimoff, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul
“I recommend this book to parents, students, and anyone interested in the current alcohol culture in which many of today's young people have become so entrenched. The dangerous attitudes and behaviors towards alcohol that many are exhibiting are a threat to the future of our children. I admire the courage it took Toren to recognize and overcome the devastation that alcohol was having on his life before it was too late. We challenge each of you to be aware of alcohol abuse and to educate yourselves and your children about the potential deadly consequences. It cost our family the ultimate, as our daughter, Samantha, died in September, 2004 of acute alcohol poisoning. Our goal is to prevent another family from having to endure the pain of losing a child in such a senseless and preventable manner.”—Patty Spady, mother of 19-year-old Samantha Spady, a student who died of alcohol poisoning at Colorado State University