Brian Hoeflinger: The harsh reality of teenage drinking

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Written by Dr. Brian Hoeflinger | |

To the graduating class of 2013:

Our son Brian Hoeflinger died in a tragic car accident on Feb. 2 at the young age of 18.

He was a kid just like you who had hopes and aspirations of going to college and having a full happy life.

On the night he died, he was at a party with friends drinking vodka and ended up driving intoxicated. I remember the phone call we received late that night when we learned Brian had been in a car accident. The sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach and the frantic racing of your heart when you don’t know if your child has been hurt or if he is even still alive.

When we arrived at the hospital, we were told Brian was dead. The image of our son lying there on a cold gurney dead in trauma room 21 at Toledo Hospital will never leave my mind as long as I live. His  lifeless body lying there almost as though he were asleep, wishing he were only asleep but all to well knowing he was dead and never coming back home with us.  It is the worst singular feeling we have ever experienced in our lives.BH-18-915

Brian Hoeflinger

The second worst feeling was telling our other three children at home about an hour later that their older brother Brian was dead and gone forever. We took them back to the hospital to see Brian. It was heartbreaking to watch Kevin, Julie and Christie say goodbye to their big brother forever that night. That life we had with Brian is over and an unwelcome new life without Brian has now taken its place.

We tell you this story because Brian could be any one of you, if you choose to drink. And we say choose, because it is your choice and nobody else’s. Once you take your first drink of alcohol, you are not making the decisions, the alcohol is. You are putting yourself and others at risk for injury or, even worse, dying like Brian.

Now you may say that Brian was stupid and not a responsible person. You would never make that mistake and it could never happen to you. Well, Brian used to say that too and look how it turned out for him. Let us tell you, Brian was not a stupid person.

He had a 4.5 GPA, 32 ACT score, was a 5-handicap golfer, and was accepted to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which is where he wanted to go to college. Brian always made good decisions until alcohol was involved.  You see, you can’t make good decisions when you drink alcohol. No matter how much you think you can, you can’t. Brian proved that.

He is now frozen in time at age 18 with no chance to move forward or make a difference.

As for you, you are very much alive and able to make your destiny what you want. This is a very defining time in your life because at this moment you are able to choose the path in life you wish to follow. At this moment, you have the chance to change the way others think by taking a stand against drinking, especially drinking and driving. You are able to define who you are and to make a difference now.  Be a leader and make it cool not to drink.

It is a privilege to be alive and to be able to make a difference in the lives of others. Brian lost that chance with a bad decision but we’re sure he wouldn’t make that same mistake twice. But for Brian, there is no second chance. No chance to redo things. As for you, you still have the chance to make a difference in your life and in the lives of others.

If we could ask you to remember just one thing from this letter, it would be to have fun without drinking. Be a leader and make it cool not to drink. You can do it.  We know you can.

And lastly, but most importantly, don’t drink and drive or ride with someone who has been drinking. If you could feel for only a brief moment the extreme anguish and pain that we as a family feel over Brian’s death every moment of every day, then you would understand what drinking can cost you and your family.  Please think about it.

Think about what Brian lost, all his hopes, dreams and ultimately his life, as a result of alcohol. Please stay safe and don’t put your family through what we are going through.

The Hoeflinger family

Brian would have graduated June 6 from Ottawa Hills High School.  He had attended St. John’s Jesuit High School for three years; their commencement was May 23. His elementary school friends from St. Joe’s Sylvania are graduating from schools all over the area.  Many of his friends from Toledo Junior Golf are also graduating.

You may be one of those friends, or know someone who knew Brian. As you are going through the fun and excitement of these final days, preparing for prom, graduation ceremonies and the parties of all your friends, think of us. There are no prom pictures to take, no corsage to match to a date’s dress. During graduation, we sat in the audience, not the proud parents of a wonderful son accepting his diploma with his classmates, but the parents choking back tears of grief and regret that he was not there.

We are the grieving father who will never golf again with his beloved son or be able to watch golf on TV without a hole in his heart. We are the mother suffering over the loss of the opportunity to excitedly plan the graduation party, shop for bedding for the dorm room and cry when she says goodbye in the fall. We are the siblings mourning over the death of the brother they all looked up to. For us, this is the harsh reality of teenage drinking.

If you would like to know more information about Brian’s life or to contribute to his , please visit

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