Archive for Thursday, May 18, 2006

What’s behind Door No. 3?

Speaker tells personal stories of alcoholism, prison

May 18, 2006

For Rick Voisin, it's painful to relive memories of his grandfather's death, his struggles with alcoholism and his stint in prison.

But if his stories will help even one student, he says, they are worth retelling despite his feelings.

Voisin spoke to students last week at Lansing Middle School about alcoholism and making choices.

"I'm not here to teach you a thing," he said. "I'm just here to share my story."

He introduced himself as "Rick, a.k.a. 62873." He was known only as 62873 - his inmate number - while he was in prison, Voisin said.

He ended up in prison, Voisin told the students, after he was fired from a restaurant where he was the manager in 1995. At age 35, it was the first time in his life that he'd been fired, he said.

After it happened, he went on a drinking binge. After several hours and cases of beer, Voisin, now 46, said he was so mad that he got a toy gun and a mask, robbed the restaurant from which he'd been fired and locked the employees in a walk-in cooler. He later turned himself in and spent three and a half years in minimum security prisons.

Voisin, who gave separate presentations to each grade level, introduced the subject of making choices each time. He said the students could be in one of three doors: in Door 1, life consists of success, happiness, "da bomb"; in Door 2, students have to make a choice to go back to Door 1 or move on to Door 3, which Voisin called "your worst nightmare." Door 3 could be jail, institution or death, he said.

"Please stay in Door No. 1," Voisin told the students.

To reinforce the benefits of staying in Door 1, Voisin shared the story of a high school friend who was killed when her boyfriend drove home drunk from a party. He talked about his grandfather, who also was an alcoholic. And he told stories about life in prison, such as the humiliation of being strip-searched.

Sheryl Chavez, LMS social worker, said Voisin's presentations fit into the school's anti-drug curriculum. This was the first time Voisin had been to LMS, Chavez said, but the responses from students and teachers about his presentations were primarily positive.

Chavez said the imagery of what lies behind Door 3 could be powerful for some students.

"It was sad. I almost cried," seventh-grader Heather Averill said after the presentation. But she did learn from it - she said she hadn't thought of alcohol as a drug before.

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