A Smart Choice

A Smart Choice

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reader's Choice 20th Anniversary Edition

A Smart Choice

If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.

~Anatole France

I was in fifth grade when my mom bought me Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul at my school’s book fair. Despite being a few years shy of being deemed a “teenager” I was eager to read the book. With all the different stories I couldn’t decide where to start so I began flipping through it. One story I landed on has stuck with me over all these years.

“Just One Drink” by Chris Laddish describes the devastating loss of a brother who rode with a friend who drove after only having one drink. The grief of suddenly losing a loved one, especially in a tragic accident, is unbelievably sad. Aside from the sorrow I felt in reading this story, the fact that it could happen to anyone also made the story stick with me. I had known adults who would have more than one drink and then drive, and it made me see that this story could easily be about them.

This story had a tremendous impact on me. We had been taught about drugs and alcohol in school, that they were bad, and that some really terrible things can happen because of them. Combining that message with this story made me realize that even one drink could do some serious damage, the one drink that we were taught wouldn’t seem like a big deal, but was huge. Learning about alcohol and then reading this story made me fully understand the possible repercussions and consequences of drinking alcohol, which unfortunately for Michael, Chris’s brother, did happen. I read the story and decided at that moment I would not drink and drive nor would I get into a car with a friend who had been drinking, even if it was “only” one drink.

That decision came into play some years later when I was at a party and my first opportunity for underage drinking came about.

“Do you want one?” a friend asked, gesturing at a can of beer.

“No, thanks,” I replied.

I knew my rights and wrongs. I wasn’t going to stop my friends from doing what they wanted to do, but I didn’t want to take part in it. Underage drinking was commonplace, but it wasn’t for me.

Later that night they wanted to go get food.

“I’ll drive,” I quickly volunteered.

I wasn’t willing to let any of them drive, even though they had only had one drink. I remembered the story “Just One Drink” as we were walking out to my car. I was a little surprised that the promise I made to myself all those years before, after reading the story, still stood strong, but was grateful because it also made me remember the impact that just one drink could have. It put a small smile on my face to know I resisted the temptation to have just one drink and then stood firm on being the sober driver.

This story has popped into my head randomly over the years and each time it does I think of how much it has shaped my decisions when it comes to drinking and driving. Chris Laddish wrote: “The only thing that helps is telling my story, hoping you will remember it if you are tempted to get into a car with someone who has had a drink — even just one drink” and I have remembered it. I am very thankful Chris shared his story. I am twenty-five years old now and still stand by the choice I made when I was ten after reading “Just One Drink.”

Thank you, Chris.

~Sarah Winkler

More stories from our partners