From the August 2010 magazine.

Out of control

For a suicidal drunk, the death of a friend to alcohol is the wake-up call

To give you an idea of how I grew up, I'll tell you the story of my first drunk. I was 11 years old, and it was the night of the faculty Christmas party. My mom, who taught at the elementary school I was attending at the time, had about 20 or 30 of her fellow teachers over to our house. With my best friend by my side, I was shocked when the headmaster showed up at the front door with two cases of beer!

I saw all my teachers through a different lens that night. They weren't being strict and reminding me to tuck in my shirt. Rather, they were having a joyous time while they smoked cigarettes, drank beer and told jokes. Surely, there was something different. Then it hit me--it was alcohol. My second grade teacher and the school secretary weren't their normal selves because they were drunk.

-- EMMETT S.

Costa Mesa, Calif.

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