From time to time, I wonder what happened to Kiki. I interviewed her at a pizzeria in downtown Merrick in June 2004. At the time, she was 16 and a Calhoun High School junior. And she drank –– a lot.
I was working on a yearlong Herald undertaking, “Teens & Alcohol: An Occasional Series about an Adult Problem,” and was writing a story about keg parties. I met Kiki through a friend whose daughter attended school with her. Kiki was a pseudonym I used to protect her identity.
“Kiki flashes a magnetic smile as she speaks,” I wrote in “Culture of the keg: Beer bashes gravitate from college to high school,” which appeared in the June 24-30, 2004, issue of the Herald. “She exudes teenage nonchalance and adult-like self-confidence. She dresses stylishly and likes to talk on a cell phone. … She also fits every definition of a binge drinker.”
I noted that Kiki was a good student and a class leader. Her trouble was, she drank heavily two to three times a week, but she didn’t believe she was becoming an alcoholic. She was especially fond of keg parties held late at night in the dark woods beside the Meadowbrook Parkway.
In 2006, my friend told me that Kiki went to Penn State after graduating from Calhoun, but dropped out because of her drinking. Then my friend lost track of her.
It was an all-too-familiar tale. A promising student starts drinking, perhaps by sneaking beers from the refrigerator once in a while, gradually building up to heavier alcohol consumption. Perhaps he or she starts smoking marijuana, as was the case with Kiki. Soon, days, weeks, months blur into one jumbled mess. Grades plummet. Life spirals out of control. Social workers and psychologists might intervene. A treatment program might be prescribed. Whether it takes is anyone’s guess. In the end, the student never truly fulfills his or her promise, regardless of whether he or she sobers up. Think Lindsay Lohan, Merrick’s most famous substance-abuser.