Dec 122010
Authors: Beth Arnold, Mother of the late Devon Arnold

Devon would have been 23 years old on his birthday, if only…

There are many families who have lost dear loved ones, and each has a different way of ending that sentence. “If only he hadn’t gotten sick.” “If only the driver of the other car hadn’t messed up.” Part of what makes Devon’s loss so hard for us is the way we have to end that sentence: “If only he had made different choices.”

There were many points throughout his last day that Devon could have made a different choice and still be alive today. The first bad choice he made: If only he had not chosen to drink so much. He was incredibly impaired that night —- twice the legal limit. It caused his thought processes and decision-making from that point forward to be flawed.

Most of the other choices he made that led to his death came as a result of that first choice. If only he had not chosen to run away from the authorities at the stadium. If only he had answered the frantic texts and phone calls from his friends. If only he had reached out to us or any of his many friends in the Denver area for help. If only he hadn’t climbed on that train. His death was so completely avoidable.

Devon did not mean to die that night. I believe I understand his frame of mind.

He just wanted to go home to his Fort Collins apartment, and he did not want to have to hang around for the game to end, and did not want to impose on his friends by interrupting their pleasure in watching the game. He was too embarrassed to reach out to anyone else. He was going to solve this problem himself.

Devon truly thought he was being safe that night. He ensured he was with a designated driver, after all. He was with a bunch of friends who loved him and were looking out for him.

That’s all you need to be safe when you’re drinking, right? Clearly, that is NOT enough. When you drink excessively, you can endanger yourself in many ways, most of which you can’t or won’t anticipate. The biggest factor most people don’t consider is the absolute FACT that your thinking, reflexes and decisions are severely impaired when you drink.

What is a “safe” amount to drink? Some would say nothing. Others say you should have no more than two drinks in any 24-hour period. I know that many college-age kids and young adults drink much, much more than that. It is unclear how much Devon had to drink that day, but based on the police interviews, it appears he had in excess of 10 drinks that day. Way, way, way too much.

Up until now, I have resisted coming out and speaking about the incredibly bad decisions Devon made that contributed to his death. I did not want to sound “preachy,” and frankly, it is very difficult for me to confront this. But as we tried to get through the first anniversary of Devon’s birth since his death, I find this sentence is haunting me: “Devon would have been 23 years old, if only he had made different choices.”

We all make hundreds of choices every day of our lives…what time to get up, what to have for breakfast, whether to drive or take a bus and so on. Most of these choices are pretty mundane and have little risk associated with them. But I want you to consider the risk you are putting yourself in (and those around you) every time you drink excessively. Just because nothing bad has happened so far, or something bad has almost happened but you were able to deal with it, don’t kid yourself into thinking that something couldn’t go horribly, horribly wrong.

It is hard for someone who hasn’t been through the death of a close loved one to comprehend the pain and suffering it causes to those left behind. I know many people have experienced pain because of losing Devon. Though you may not know Devon, let his story be a lesson. Do not allow this to happen to your family and loved ones because of choices you make. It’s a hard way for loved ones to end a very sad sentence.

Happy birthday, Devon. We think of you constantly, and wish you were here with us now.

May you all be safe and healthy this holiday season.

Love to all,

 Posted by at 1:20 pm

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