[From the YWN 2008 archives]
Last Purim started off like all others from years past, but it was almost the last Purim of my life. Beginning two weeks before Purim, Hatzoloh started putting up signs saying, “This year don’t get carried away,” with a picture of some poor kid being carried away on a stretcher. To me, these signs blended right into the background with the other signs hanging up all around my hometown of Brooklyn, New York.
You see, this year I decided I would make Purim even more “geshmak” than in years past, because this Purim I would drink anyway. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t planning on getting drunk, just enough to make me high. I started out collecting like the last year, going from house to house. I had the most “geshmak” group, I thought, but there was something missing. So when I was offered a drink at the next house, I took it. As I recall, it was Johnny Walker Black Label, which is 40% alcohol. I figured that if I took a cup, 8 oz, it would be better than taking eight individual shots, because I could drink the whole thing in just one shot.
After a few minutes, it starting hitting me, but I was able to continue collecting. About 15 minutes later I had another “shot” of 8 oz. And was already getting “high.” The next few houses passed in a blur. I remember sitting in the houses and just singing. I couldn’t really dance too much anymore, so I just sat down and sang.
I was starting to get a little headache, but I kept on going… after all this was “geshmak”. No longer sober, and without my proper judgment skills, I took a cup and a bottle of Absolute Vodka. I remember my friends telling me not to take it, but I told them that I could handle it. “Just a little,” I thought, and this year would be most “geshmak”. I took one cup and, surprisingly, it didn’t burn when it went down. “Maybe I’m immune,” I thought. “This is great, I can drink and drink and I won’t feel it going down.” I took another cup and another, and then, another. Then I poured half of another cup and I couldn’t pour straight anymore, so I just drank what I had in my cup. I sat for about a minute without feeling anything. The alcohol didn’t have any effect on me.
“Why do they even put up posters telling people not to drink? Its not even so dangerous!” The people of the house didn’t realize that I had drunk anything, because there were four or five groups bothering them for money. I suddenly started falling over. My head was attached to my shoulders as if on a rubber band. My head flew back, then front, then to the right, then back again. The whole room was turning upside down. People were screaming my name. Then I blacked out! They called Hatzoloh and they were there in an instant. My eyes weren’t dilating and when they touched me, I didn’t feel it. I was staring straight ahead at the wall and didn’t even feel the Hatzoloh man pinching me. They put me on a stretcher but my body kept slipping off as though I was made of “jello”.
They strapped me down and off I was to the hospital. On the way out, Hatzoloh took my picture and later asked my mother for permission to use it. That’s right, the next year I would be the poor kid on the stretcher.
I woke up eight hours later tied down to a bed. The last thing I remember was my head hitting the table as I fell to the floor. I looked around and saw a white room. Then I saw my mother crying with a Tehillim in her hand and my father at her side. Then I heard beeping. I couldn’t get up because I was tied to the bed. So I just lifted my head. My mother asked me if I knew where I was. I thought, maybe I was in my room at home, but my room isn’t in white. Then I started thinking, maybe we went away on a trip somewhere, but why was my mother crying? Then I remembered the table coming at my head and then it hit me: I was in a hospital. The beeping? That was my heart rate being monitored on a screen next to the bed.
A doctor came in to make sure I was O.K. and to tell me how lucky I was to be alive. They told me that since I came in “early” I was able to get a bed in a room as opposed to sleeping in the hallway. I still felt a little dizzy, but I was able to go home right away. The doctors told me my Blood Alcohol Content and told me that the IV that they gave me lowered my BAC, so I would have nothing more than a bad hangover. And again, he called me lucky. On the way out of the hospital the halls were lined with bachurim, unconscious on stretchers and beds. Parents and rebbeim were crying and saying Tehillim. It looked more like a funeral than Purim.
On a visit to my pediatrician, I realized why that doctor kept telling me I was lucky. My doctor calculated my weight with how much I drank (approximately 50 oz.) of 40% alcohol and told me that, according to the charts, I should have been dead a long time ago. The fact that I was still alive was a miracle in itself. Most people with that BAC are usually, at the very least, brain damaged. I asked him why I was not dead if his calculations and his charts were right. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Someone up there is watching over you.” I really am lucky.
Almost dead! Not a cold, not the flu, dead, because I wanted Purim to be more “geshmak”. The people in the hospital and of Hatzoloh know that every year this happens to too many bachurim. Too many! Even one is too many! That’s why they put up signs telling you not to drink. No, don’t get carried away. What else do they have to do?
Written by Reuven Epstein, 18-years-old
NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.