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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The kids AREN'T alright- Why getting wasted with the kids is never a good idea

Photo: Charlottesville Police Department/AP

If you live in the Commonwealth of Virginia, you can’t miss all the coverage of the tragic murder case where two young people attending the University of Virginia were caught up in a volatile and finally, lethal relationship.

It is a sad and sick story, even more so because it is a story that could happen to any family, under the same circumstances. In this case, it occurred in a family of financial and societal means.  The Huguely family had everything going for them, by our current standards of success and good fortune. He was nice looking, smart, athletic, privileged. So, how does something like this happen to a family? Is it environment, culture, genes, or a deadly combination of them all?
What happened?
The young man, George Huguely V, is on trial for murdering his former girlfriend, apparently in a drunken rage. Reading the accounts in the newspapers of his massive alcohol consumption and drinking habits is disturbing by itself.

Even more disturbing is the information that on at least occasion, he was drinking with his father, George IV; and on another occasion with his mother. Perhaps this is considered normal in many families, and if that is the case, I think there is more to worry about than college high- jinx and partying. Parents take note: many of you are NOT going to like some of the things I am going to say, but perhaps you may need to listen.

Getting loaded with the parents
I am truly disturbed by the sad details that have emerged from this trial. In addition to being shocked by the amount of drinking that is going on in the lives of college students, the worst and most damaging part of this tragedy is that the parents were at best, enablers, at worst, accomplices.  

Clearly the culture of alcohol abuse and addiction is passed from generation to generation, not only through genes, but by the messages and values these parents are imparting on their kids. Perhaps the parents, and this is clearly speculation on my part, as I do not know any of the parties involved- are so steeped in their own alcoholism that they failed to recognize the serious warning signs in their son’s behavior.

Perhaps it is simply the culture of boozing and getting plastered so you can let your inhibitions out in a very button-downed, WASPish environment. I know of families who engage in what I consider outrageous drinking with their adult children and I have very strong opinions about it. I am not going to get on a pedestal and say that they are being bad parents. I don’t have to. The proof is in the pudding.

Time and time again there are instances that come to light about parents who allow their children, even encourage them, to drink to excess. Some of them have been famous- politicians, celebrities, sports personalities. Now and again there are articles or news stories about everyday “regular” families where this happens. The kids get in trouble, and upon further investigation, it is discovered that they were partying with the parents.

The death of common sense or generational problems?
This leads us to ponder, what are these parent’s thinking? Clearly there are some very serious family dynamics to investigate, but we will leave that to the mental health professionals. Many parents don’t have proper boundaries with their children and want to “be their friends” more than they want to play a parental role.

And last but not least, the addiction issue. If mom and dad can’t monitor or control their own alcohol use, how are they going to be able to have a clear and objective view of Junior, or in this case, the fifth’s alcohol use or abuse?

Lessons learned
So here we have a beautiful young woman, brutally killed in the prime of life by a young man with everything to live for, who is now most likely going to spend the rest of his days behind bars. Being drunk out of your mind is not a legal defense. Many people don’t realize that important legal reality. Just because you were drunk does not negate responsibility.

Such a waste of two young lives, and for what? It’s all fun and games until someone gets killed. How many people die every year as a result of young people, or their parents, being drunk behind the wheel of a car? It is a wakeup call when it happens, but then… it’s too late.

Too late for some, but not for others
I hope and pray that this case will be the wakeup call for many of these college kids and their indulgent and reckless parents.
Parents- please stop getting drunk with your kids. Kids- please get the clue that just because mom and dad do it doesn’t mean it is right or okay. Be man, or woman, enough to see that excessive drinking and alcohol abuse is no way to deal with life or problems or societal pressure. If everyone at the country club is shitfaced, be an individual and save yourself, and your future kids, some heartache.

If you find that you can’t stop or you need support outside your family, there are places you can go for encouragement and support in a sober life. Don’t wait until something horrible happens, because it usually does.

Boylan Heights bar at center of U-Va. drinking scene - The Washington Post


  1. Thank you for recognizing that alcoholism and drug addiction are also passed through genes and not simply by clueless parents providing poor examples. My friends think nothing of going to visit their college students and partying with them. Yet their children are doing well in school and are nearing graduation. My son, however, is the alcoholic and drug addict. My husband and I NEVER partied with our children or abused alcohol in any way. I do not believe there is anything we could have done different to have prevented this. Addiction, unfortunately, runs rampant in my family.

  2. Diana, the Huguely/Love case is a very sad story for all involved. I don't have kids at or near drinking age, but my older son is in adolescence and I try hard to set a good example for him, and to remind him that he can make a decision in an instant that changes his life, and possibly others' lives, and can never be put back.

  3. A truly tragic story that didn't have to happen at all. Thank you for your comments and observations. I sincerely hope this will be a wake up call for many, many, young people... and their parents.