Brandon Silvera traveled from California to New Canaan High School to tell juniors and seniors on Monday about the time he drank a couple of beers with his friends.

When Silvera, who was 17 at the time, went to that Saturday night party, he had a girlfriend, a car and a promising future as a rower at Boston College.

"Just a couple of beers," changed all that, Silvera said.

Standing on stage at the high school auditorium for one of many Alcohol Awareness Month presentations he will make to students across the nation this month, Silvera recounted the moment when his life changed forever: on his way home from the party, he fell asleep at the wheel of his car, crashed into a tree and slipped into a coma.

Silvera said he nearly died. He suffered severe brain damage, and spent two years regaining some of his strength in rehabilitation.

On Monday, it took noticable effort for Silvera speak. But he wasn't fighting tears; we was fighting to control his speech.

Before starting a sentence, he inhaled deeply as if drawing support before belting a stanza of music; but his words were dull, mechanical and monotone.

"Do you know how hard it is to speak like this?" he asked the audience. "People look at you like you're weird."

Silvera said his speech complication wasn't the only scar from the crash."I had to relearn how to do everything," he said. "And I do mean everything: how to walk, how to talk."

Silvera's father accompanied him on stage on Monday. He told students: "If you ask Brandon what he had for breakfast this morning ... he can't tell you."

Silvera said he came to New Canaan not to scare students, but to startle them out of poor decision-making, like his choice to drink and drive, and his friends' choices to allow him to do so.

"You have to understand that peer pressure can force you to make the wrong choices and you can pay for the rest of your life," he said.

Sarah Kaiser, a 17-year-old junior, said she teared up during the presentation. Molly Barfuss, a 16-year-old junior, said Silvera's story opened her eyes to the impact of poor decision making on parents, family and friends. "I thought it was good timing, right before junior prom, to hear this," she said.

Kathryn Sawabini, also a junior, said that seeing the physical effects of Silvera's high school miscalculation hit home. "A lot of people say, `Don't drink and drive,' but this gives a real example," she said.