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Saving Friendships Versus Saving Lives

JC was born into a family of privilege. He was the only child of two well-educated, successful parents. His parents moved to the "Gold Coast" twenty years ago because they wanted good schools and a ...

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JC was born into a family of privilege. He was the only child of two well-educated, successful parents. His parents moved to the "Gold Coast" twenty years ago because they wanted good schools and a good environment to raise their only son in.

In elementary and junior high school, JC excelled in school and in sports. He was born with a competitive spirit. He loved to compete and to win. He had a small, but positive group of friends. His Mom worked part-time so she could be home when he came home from school.

The transition from junior high to high school was not easy. There were many changes that JC had to confront.

In elementary and junior high school, classes were reasonably small. His classmates and he grew up together. High school was a different challenge. The high school was much larger than he was used to. He was close to students he had never met before.

The academic and athletic competition was much more intense than in past times. A number of adolescent insecurities started to emerge.

By the end of ninth grade, JC seemed to find his niche. He played JV sports for each season, starting on each team he tried out for. He continued to do well academically, taking a range of advance placement classes.

However, his guidance counselor noted that his interest in school had radically shifted. His focus was much more on connecting with and making new friends (not so abnormal for a fifteen year old).

Freshman summer was the first major parenting challenge that JC's parents had to face. JC was pushing his social envelope to the limit. He wanted a later curfew that seemed somewhat unreasonable to his parents. At fifteen, he wanted to stay out till 2:00am on the weekends. He claimed that every one of his friends had that and more. His parents did inquire and were shocked at how many parents had no curfews for their ninth grade sons and daughters.

Needless to say, for JC's parents, 2:00am was ridiculous for a fifteen year old, especially when there was no social agenda other than hanging out. More often than not, it would be in homes where there was no parental supervision. JC's parents could not believe that other parents would leave fourteen and fifteen year olds home alone for an entire weekend.

JC felt terribly repressed that his parents would not lighten up on his curfew. He started sneaking out after his parents went to bed. That practice ended dramatically when the house he snuck out to was raided by the police because of excessive noise and teenage drinking. He was arrested for trespassing, underage drinking and disorderly conduct, along with fifteen other boys his age from the high school.

His parents were called at 4:00am to come pick him up from the precinct. They were shocked and mortified. They thought he was sound asleep in his bedroom.

Although JC expressed remorse and begged forgiveness for sneaking out and being deceptive, his parents were unmoved by his academy award performance. He was grounded for the rest of the summer and was treated like he was in a prisoner of war camp.

Resigned to his new fate, JC was focused on better days beginning in his sophomore year. The year began with a bang. He made the varsity football team and earned a starting defensive position.

By the sixth week of the season, JC was suspended from high school along with two other boys for smoking pot on the campus. His parents were devastated. He was dismissed from the team and was not permitted to participate in competitive athletics for the rest of the year.

The school insisted that JC go for an evaluation. He did that. The evaluation did not indicate that he had an addiction problem, but rather an impulse problem.

Under duress, he agreed to short term counseling. The rest of sophomore year unfolded without incident.

Sophomore summer was uneventful. Junior year was relatively conflict free. The old JC seemed to return. However, around the time of the junior prom, there was a drinking incident that caused a major world war in JC's household.

JC and his friends gathered at another friend's house with their prom dates. Before they went to the friend's house, they smuggled vodka and orange juice in thermos bottles and had a little party. By the time they reached the friend's house, JC and two of the other boys were four sheets to the wind. Their parents were called. The junior prom was a disaster.

When JC was confronted about this drinking episode, he insisted it was an error in judgment. He was very contrite, especially since he ruined the evening for his prom date. He was adamant that it was a one time behavior and that he had learned his lesson, like he did from the pot episode.

Unfortunately, JC was well liked. He was polite and mannerly. Everyone liked him. He was always the life of the party. His parents really wanted to restrict him. However, many of his friends interceded as well as some parents to underscore that he was really a great kid.

JC's parents backed down from the long-term restriction they intended to impose on their son, basically because so many people intervened on their son's behalf. They also started to second-guess their own parenting skills since they had never been parents before.

What JC's parents did not know was that at the time of the drinking incident, JC and his friends were drinking and smoking pot on a regular basis. He had learned to be very discrete and sneaky about it.

The tragic aspect here is that all of his friends knew that he and a few others were becoming dangerously reckless.

Junior summer was uneventful as was senior year, that is to say JC was not angelic, but he had mastered the art of being deceptive and not getting caught.

After graduation, his parents knew he was drinking, but he never drank and drove. At the beginning of his sophomore year in college, they became concerned that he was losing weight. They confronted him and he played it off as poor eating habits because of his heavy and stressful course load.

He came home that Christmas. The weekend before Christmas he went to a party with college friends. He never returned. He died at the party from a heroin overdose.

His close friends knew that he was out of control, but did not know how to stop him. Some of them felt guilty saying anything because they had better control over their street drug use than he did.

The bottom line: a good kid from a good family is dead at age twenty, a death that never should have happened.

When do you put saving a life before saving a friendship?