BELOIT — “Her middle name was Rose.”
She was just 26 years old and she died of alcohol poisoning on Nov. 5, 2014, said her mother, Jenny Hallett of Milton.
“I came home and I found her in bed,” Hallett said of her daughter, Brittany Rose Hallett.
The heart-wrenching presentation she was about to give on Thursday night at St. John’s Lutheran Church was sponsored by the Youth2Youth 4 Change group. The organization is a coalition of youth and adults whose mission is to reduce substance abuse among youth and adults through positive change. The presentation featured Hallett and three panel members who answered questions related to alcohol use and abuse.
“She just couldn’t stop, she couldn’t stop to save herself,” Hallet said of her daughter’s drinking. “Unless you witness it yourself, you can’t imagine how hard it is. The second you have a problem you have to stop — you have to take care of yourself. I can’t recommend enough to go to Alcoholics Anonymous.”
Hallett has made it her mission since losing her daughter to reach out to the public to help make people aware of the dangers of alcohol abuse, both for youths and adults.
“I had the urge to scream from the mountain top. The last couple of years have been agonizing for me and for her entire family,” Hallett said of when she found her daughter. “If you are already struggling with alcohol dependency, you need to get help right now, today. No one ever chooses to become addicted. Give them your unconditional love — hate the disease but love them.”
The key is helping them get treatment.
“When I first realized Brittany had a drinking problem, I thought I would be that parent to get her through that. I was so naive,” Hallett said. “For all the minors and adults I hope to reach you before you cross over that invisible line into alcoholism. I want to spare you a lifetime of struggling. Don’t cave to peer pressure or pressure someone else.”
Hallett also said if you know someone who has passed out from drinking alcohol, don’t be afraid to call for an ambulance, as it could save the person’s life. The Rock County Crisis Intervention Hotline number is 608-757-5025.
Joining Hallett for the presentation were Tonya Ramsey, mental health counselor and OWI Treatment Court Therapist; Beloit Police Sgt. Andre Sayles, Drug and Gang Unit Supervision; and Debbie Fischer, Director of Youth2Youth 4 Change. Beloit City Councilor Kevin Leavy was the moderator.
The panel answered a series of questions. The first question they answered was why youth choose to drink or not to drink.
“They drink because of social acceptance,” Sayles said. “They think it’s cool to fit in with other kids.”
They choose not to drink because some are athletes and don’t want to lose out on a scholarship or have strong family values, for example, Sayles said.
Hallett also said youths drink to fit in with their friends, because they have low self-esteem or because they are rebellious or curious or maybe they think it’s fun.
“They don’t understand how dangerous it is,” Hallett said.
The reasons they don’t drink is because they have high self-esteem and they don’t want to disappoint their parents, she added.
Ramsey said adolescence is a turbulent time. Kids think drinking is a form of escape, but they don’t realize it doesn’t last. They are more likely not to drink if they have a good support system, goals for the future and can manage their emotions.
The panel was then asked: How can kids deal with peer pressure?
“Friends won’t have you do negative things,” Sayles said.
He said youth need to think about how alcohol affects their behavior, about consequences of getting behind the wheel of a car and getting into an accident. And that they need to get involved with positive activities and people.
Hallett said they should be leaders and role models and to let their friends know they don’t have to drink to have a good time.
“Hold on to your individuality,” Ramsey advised. “Be yourself and don’t follow other kids’ bad choices.”
With prom approaching, it also was mentioned that the Youth2Youth 4 Change members would be placing signs around town that state that say “Hosting underage drinking could cost you $1,000 or more.”
“Right now it is critical as we come up on prom to tell kids to leave alcohol and drugs alone,” Leavy said. “Their whole entire lives can be impacted. And don’t send your child to a house where you know alcohol is being served.”
When asked where kids get their alcohol, the panel members said convenience stores and from their parents homes’ and the homes of friends’ parents.
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Inc., one in nine adults will have an alcohol problem at some point in their lifetime.
“We need to change the norm, alcohol doesn’t have to be a part of everything we do in life,” Fischer said.
Besides giving talks, Hallett also has a website at www.BrittanysACAP.com and she can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BrittanysACAP.