Reality as a warning

From his wheelchair in the Corona del Mar High School gym, Aaron Rubin held up one finger to indicate "yes" and two fingers for "no" as he answered questions about a drug addiction that led him to a catastrophic overdose.

"This is Aaron," said his mother, Sherrie Rubin. "Aaron overdosed on OxyContin and prescription meds when he was 23. He was in a coma for three and a half weeks. He had a heart attack and two strokes."

Aaron, now 31, can no longer speak, Sherrie explained, and only about one quarter of his brain was undamaged after the strokes.

Aaron and his parents spoke to CdM high school and middle school students Thursday morning as part of the campus' anti-drug Red Ribbon Week.

"When you were in school, did you abuse prescription drugs, marijuana, alcohol?" Sherrie asked her son.

He lifted up his index finger to gesture yes.

Aaron found himself addicted to the drugs, Sherrie explained. He contemplated committing suicide from the cliffs above a La Jolla beach before seeking help.

He attended a residential treatment facility in Dana Point for eight months, but he relapsed in the weeks after he left and overdosed.

"Aaron thought he could control the drugs, but ultimately, Aaron, did the drugs control you?" Sherrie asked.

He lifted one finger.

"[Aaron] said he wanted to come and talk to you guys so hopefully you guys will understand the consequences of using drugs and misusing prescription drugs," Sherrie said.

When Sherrie asked if the hundreds of middle school students in the crowd know anyone who abuses prescription drugs or alcohol, a smattering raised their hands.

"Unfortunately sometimes [middle school] is when the kids might start experimenting with drugs," April Maniscalco, the school counselor, said after the assembly. "And if it's not them, it might be their friends, so at least if we can get the message out to the kids and they can help a friend if it's not them, then that's our whole goal here."

Maniscalco also advises the Peer Assistance Leadership student club, whose members organized the event as part of CdM's Red Ribbon Week.

Before taking questions from the crowd at the end of the assembly, Sherrie had one more line of inquiry for her son.

"Aaron, when you were in school, did you have hopes and dreams and goals that you wanted to do with your life?"

One finger.

"Can you accomplish those same goals now?"

Two fingers.

"Is it too late for anyone in this audience to accomplish their dreams if they don't use drugs and alcohol substances Aaron? Is it too late for them?"

Two fingers.

"It's too late for Aaron, but it's not too late for you. That's why he's here today."

More information about the Rubins is available at

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