As Willows resident James C. Bettencourt tells it, he was oblivious to the rampant abuse of alcohol and methamphetamine among young teenagers. Then it happened.
“The horrific nightmare exploded as I entered the emergency room. This was the first saturation of illegal drug reality into my drug-dummy brain. I witnessed my then-15-year-old son having a grand mal seizure induced by an illegal drug, his underweight, frail body rigid, shaking violently and eyes rolled back in his head. It was only at this point I truly understood what was at stake; it was at this point I really understood my son could die. As the EMT’s desperately tried to control my son’s body, I told the ER doctor that we needed life flight to Chico, a larger, better-staffed hospital, right now.”
So began one parent’s drug education, the hard way. The story is told in “America’s Choice, America’s Shame: The Reality of America’s War On Drugs: ‘Your Children, Your Family, Your Nation’” ($19.95 in paperback from AuthorHouse). A picture of Bettencourt’s son, Joe, appears on the cover. Inside, in the rough-hewn prose of a concerned citizen, Bettencourt lays out not only his son’s use of meth and its insidious pull, but the larger social issues that seem to give young people tacit consent for abuse.
“In our family,” the author writes, “our house did have hard liquor in the cabinet and a beer in the refrigerator. This was just as good as promoting alcohol. I saw marijuana as something for adults. I thought it harmless, but my personal use had been reduced to very seldom. . . . I might as well have waved banners urging our kids to use illegal drugs and alcohol.” (The second half of the book presents, verbatim, a lengthy report on alcohol use and abuse from the US Department of Health and Human Services.)
With deep parental support Joe eventually recovered and made plans for entering Chico State University. Many other kids have not been as fortunate, and that led Bettencourt to set up the “Not In Our Town Glenn County” coalition which focuses on drug abuse prevention. But his efforts, he writes, were not universally welcomed. “Drug education takes a back seat to special interest groups. . . . If you take into consideration many agencies and businesses are profiting annually, sharing $650 billion to deal with the devastating aftermath of drugs and alcohol, it is understandable why the solution of effective substance abuse prevention is not promoted.”
That, he says, is “America’s shame.”