Sex, drugs, drinking and dying with the frat boys

Sep 21st, 2017 | By | Category: Articles, Ayni Books, Psyche Books

Reprinted from LinkedIn (https://goo.gl/n9Rn1z)

by Louis M. Profeta

Most bowed their heads or held their hands across their mouths as I described how it would happen. I told them that they will awaken with the smell of shit filling their bedroom. The lights will probably be low and the shades pulled and, because they are just waking up, they might have trouble focusing their eyes, especially after a night of heavy partying.

“Damn it, Benny, did you fart or shit yourself?” they might yell out. “F.cking get out of here, you smell awful!”

Those are the words I told them that they might shout just before they flip on the lights or stumble out of bed and trip on the now blue and stiff body sporting a college T-shirt passed down from an older brother who graduated two years past.

Dead, waxy, with “rock-still” clouded eyes, you could never envision a stare so distant. You played pickup basketball yesterday at the campus rec center and Benny maybe hit one out of 10 threes. You blew him crap all day about it. Now, though, he is so still, laying among the pile of yet-to-be-washed clothes or wrapped up in a blanket on a piss-soaked IKEA futon delivered to him last week. You bought the TV and the coffee table. The top two drawers are yours.

“Think about it. Nobody gets up in the morning, brushes their teeth, combs their hair and says to themselves, ‘Today is the day I die,” I told them.

This was the second time I had given this talk — one I wish I could give to college students across the country as campuses now return to life. My son’s fraternity at Indiana University-Bloomington, a Big Ten school and my alma mater housed in limestone buildings in an impossibly picturesque college town, had invited me to sit in front of more than two dozen young men in the living room of their fraternity. It was the most beautiful of Sunday afternoons. They could have been doing anything else. They did not have to be here, but here they were.

So I walked them through it. I showed them how I would tell their mom and dad that they were dead and how mom would pull hunks of her hair out ‘til it bled and dad would punch the wall shattering a bone or two but not noticing, a river of snot pouring from his face. I described how his “brothers” from the frat would sit along the wall in the waiting room and sob. But, already, mom and dad would be blaming them for getting their kid drunk or stoned to the point puke bubbled up in his throat, then plugged his trachea, choking him just as surely as if they had taken their foot and crushed their child’s windpipe on their own.

“They will blame you for their child’s death until the day you die. Are you ready for that?” I asked.

They sat silent, not wanting to look up.

I spent a few minutes pretending to breathe like someone asleep under the influence of a large amount of alcohol or just a few sedatives but who was at real risk of aspirating vomit into their lungs, or choking on their own tongue as it falls to the back of their mouth. You could tell from the look on their faces they all knew someone who once breathed like that after passing out drunk and now they were wondering how close they might have come, how close.

I challenged them with how absolutely idiotic it was for them to think that, just because they had perhaps taken a first-aid class or read a what-to-do-with-a-drunk-friend primer on the internet they somehow now had the skill set to “monitor” a friend who passed out after the fifth vodka slammer.

“We use well-trained nurses, paramedics, sophisticated pulse oximetry and cardiac monitoring in our ER to assess these patients, not some pledge vying to become a ‘brother.’”

And they listened, and they listened intently. You could tell they wanted to know, and each one knew they needed to know.

“If you drink to the point that you do not have control of your faculties you are an idiot. If you encourage someone to get to that point you are an asshole and certainly no brother. Friends don’t do that. It takes one little mistake to ruin your life or someone else’s life forever.” The room stayed quiet for a bit, but you could tell they wanted to ask more questions.

“You guys have a chance to ask me anything you want. You’ve got an ER doc who practices in a level I trauma center and who is on the board of directors of a major metropolitan city crime lab standing right in front of you. What do you want to know?”

And the hands finally went up — I should have known better; you could tell they needed a bit of a break.

“What about Viagra, is it safe for people our age?” Nervous laughter erupted.

“Son, which part of erection lasting more than six hours don’t you understand?”

“Doc, that’s the whole point.”

“You’re 21 and in college. You have Tinder for God’s sake. If you can’t get an erection now, you’ve got a hell of a lot bigger problems than are fixable with Viagra. Besides, you know what we have to do for an erection lasting six hours? It’s called priapism and its treatment involves two large needles…” A collective groan of thirty men a few years removed from puberty filled the room.

“What about Red Bull?” another hand shot up.

“It’s just a boatload of caffeine; I’ve never understood mixing it with vodka. I guess if you like the taste, but what’s the point of mixing a stimulant and a sedative? Seems like a waste of good vodka to me, but I feel the same about Jack and Coke. It’s too easy to drink too much. Just…think about maybe not.”

“What about Ativan?”

“Mix it with alcohol of any kind and you got a decent chance of dying. Why do you need to pass out? What the hell are you doing with it anyway? That’s just stupid. If you are going to have a few drinks, then do that. If you are going to smoke some weed…well that’s one thing, but don’t fuck with prescription or non-prescription medications.”

“Can you tell us about cocaine”

“Yeah, use it once and you can die of a heart attack or have a stroke then you can spend the rest of your life in a nursing home with a feeding tube poking out of your stomach, in a diaper, limbs contracted, getting huge bed sores and urine infections. You are out of your f.cking mind if you use that. The same goes with heroin. You stand a good chance of dying or ending up brain damaged with even one single use. You guys need to kick out of your house anyone ever caught doing that shit. It’s horribly addictive, life-destroying garbage. I have never, ever met a person that was glad they started using it…even once. And you are now one degree of separation away from the worst criminal element on earth.”

“What about vaping.”

“It’s better than smoking.”

“What about Adderall?”

“It’s a stimulant too, it’s an amphetamine, you know like meth.”

“Yeah but nobody does that here…”

“Bullshit, pal.” I interrupted and snapped back. “This is the Midwest. Memphis has barbecue. We make meth. Besides you probably don’t have ADD; just try sleeping earlier, on occasion open a book and pay attention for a change.” More than a few snickered.

And we talked a bit about sexual assault and what they never, ever envisioned, and it became quiet again.

“Do you honestly think you would ever know or find out if one of your ‘brothers’ had been raped or sodomized? Do you honestly think that guys confide in anyone other than us in the ER that this has happened? You don’t think for one minute that if you follow some girl home and get passed-out drunk, some other guy or ex-boyfriend might not use your intoxicated state to seek revenge, humiliate you, soil your face, photograph you? You don’t think we see that?”

You could tell that it had never crossed their minds, but I’ve seen it.

And we talked more about women.

“You asked me here because you want to do the right thing; make the right choices. When it comes to women under the influence, don’t go there. Don’t sleep with them because no matter what, one of you may regret it and the reality is, they…will…not…believe…you. I don’t care if it was consensual. They will not believe you. Besides you all have moms or sisters that you respect. Me, I don’t have daughters, but if I did, I’d probably hate all you out of my own irrational fear as a father. If you are not absolutely sure she consents, then don’t have sex with her. It’s not worth it and it simply is not right. Be men, not animals.”

We talked some more, about other drugs and prevailing dangers of their time.

“I’m not here to preach about all the evils of sex, weed and alcohol to you. I’m not going to tell you to abstain, but just some food for thought. Studies clearly show though that your long-term earning potential will be less if you smoke weed on a regular basis. For that reason alone, I’d probably think twice, unless of course your lifelong dream is to always work for someone else. Weed typically doesn’t open doors in your life. Drink, but think about perhaps not getting drunk. Have sex, but have responsible sex based on mutual understanding and respect. If you have to think about whether or not it’s the right thing to do, then it’s the wrong thing to do. Doing the right thing is simply not that confusing. It may be hard to do, but it’s not that confusing.”

“I’m a parent,” I said, as I motioned to my child who seemed proud that I was there and I was proud that he asked me. “I want you to have a great college experience that helps prepare you for a long, healthy and happy future. We understand each other?” They nodded. “You can always call me or one of my partners, or go to any ER in America if you need help or are scared or confused or worried or lost. Don’t make me go into that quiet room, kneel in front of your mother and tell her you’re dead…please.” They all nodded one final time.

And I could tell, on this sunny Sunday afternoon, that they were listening and that what I said mattered to them and it gave me hope. It gave me hope.

Dr. Louis M. Profeta is an emergency physician practicing in Indianapolis. He is one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices and the author of the critically acclaimed book, The Patient in Room Nine Says He’s God.

 

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