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It all started with a bottle of alcohol. I was headed to the store with a friend after drinking a whole bottle of Bombay together; we stopped to talk to two older men. My friend asked one of the guys for a cigarette and he got a rude answer. At that point I jumped in because I knew they were going to start fighting. The guy’s drugged out friend said he had a knife, and I heard him unstrap it from his leg. He took two steps and drove the long buck knife through my left arm. It went in one side and came out the other. I was too drunk to feel anything.

It all happened so fast. I was trying to protect myself by putting my hands up to my face. My blood came spilling out like a waterfall. I didn’t know how bad it was or how to help myself. I was mesmerized because I could feel the warm blood running down my fingers as I pushed the piece of meat that was dangling down from my arm back into place. I needed help right away, so I ran home with my arm sliced open. I was panicked; my body was trembling and my head was somewhere else, but the blood just kept pouring out.

When I got home I found my mom, her boyfriend and my sisters. Everyone was screaming and yelling because there was blood everywhere. My whole body felt tingly because blood thins out and flows faster when you drink.

On the way to the hospital I was fading in and out of consciousness. At the hospital, the nurse took one look at my arm and knew that I needed to be flown to a hospital in Sacramento. They weren’t trained to handle this severe of a wound. I was really scared because they said I needed microscopic surgery. They started cleaning and pulling at the flesh that was dangling from my arm. That’s when it hurt the most.

After that, they gave me some drugs for the pain and laid me flat on a gurney. They cut off all my clothes and started inspecting every part of my body for more wounds. I felt really embarrassed, frozen and powerless. I was in surgery for ten hours. The cut ran from my palm all the way up to my elbow. It took three weeks for it to fully close.

If I had been sober it would have ended differently. Being intoxicated can lead to death or life in prison for hurting someone and not even realizing it, like what happened to John Mendoza. I never wanted my mom to see me in so much pain. She was so worried; she was crying about what happened. It is mentally exhausting to know that what happened was my fault for drinking a bottle. I love my mom with my whole heart. She is the strongest woman I know. I put her through so much worry and pain in the past few years, because I have been incarcerated several times for fighting. The most painful part for me is watching my mom suffer. No one ever warned me about much, so I learned the hard way, through what happened to me with my friends.

Taking things for granted is not an option for me because I know how much my mom really loves me. When the phone rings it makes her jump, because she doesn’t know if something has happened to me. For that reason, I try my best to stay out of trouble. She doesn’t deserve all the pain I’ve given her.

Another important lesson I learned is that the people who you drink and do drugs with won’t reach out with their hearts and treat you right when you really need it. The friend I was with when I got stabbed told me, “Everything will be all right. Don’t call the cops,” when blood was spilling from my arm. Everything was not all right!

Looking forward in life makes me think about the whole situation. I want to evolve to be a better, stronger person and hang out with people who do care and will be there to help when I need them. Hopefully, my story can help other young people step back and analyze what they are doing to themselves and to others when they drink alcohol.

(This essay by 17-year old Fort Bragg High student Jose Plascencia won first place in a recent contest sponsored by Heroes for Youth and the Delinquency Prevention Commission of Mendocino County.)

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