Last week, I interviewed a 2008 SHS graduate about his experience with drinking, smoking marijuana, and partying during his adolescent years. He held this lifestyle from 2006 to 2012 until he was eventually able to get his life back on track. I asked him the following questions:
What got you into drugs?
He didn’t turn to alcohol and marijuana because he was depressed or had family problems, but he says, “It was for fun. Curiosity, youth, friends.” And although friends were a part of his substance abuse, he never felt forced.
How did it affect your grades?
By his senior year he didn’t care about grades. He wasn’t a failing student but he had average grades.
How did it affect your social status?
He answered by saying, “People didn’t stop hanging out with me. I wasn’t considered a druggie.” When he reflected back to his senior year he remembers that drinking wasn’t a big deal. “I was surprised by how many people did it. Even ‘good kids’ drank.”
How did it affect your athletics?
During high school, he participated in SHS Swimming and Diving for all four years and was able to avoid conflict by staying away from “the party life” during the season. He also swam for one year in college but that didn’t work out. ” I tried to swim, study, and party.” It was just too much.
How did you parents find out/ react?
He knew his parents always suspected something, especially when he got his driver’s license and came home. His parents tried their best to explain why his lifestyle was wrong, but it eventually “turned into a violent back and forth yelling match.”
Did you parents’ reaction help or hurt?
“It hurt. I didn’t really care what they were saying even though I knew right from wrong.”
What was your lowest point and can you give a story/example to explain?
” I overdosed a year after I came back from college. Looking back now it was a low point but then it wasn’t I didn’t care that I might have died. I just went to work the next day like nothing happened.” While his parents were away for the weekend, he threw a party. He remembers taking a pill that he now knows was codeine and waking up in the hospital. Two people came back after leaving the party because they knew something wasn’t right with him. They called the police and he is very grateful. There weren’t laws then to protect people who called in overdoses; they could have gotten into trouble. He was also arrested several times for underage drinking.
How did you turn your life around?
He didn’t go back to college after one year at UIndy. Instead, he stayed home and started working a job where he learned a lot about “business and how things works.” He realized college wasn’t the right environment for him and he had opportunities at his job. At the age of 24 he met his now wife and started making a commitment to college and finished up classes online. Partying wasn’t as important to him anymore. He wanted to have healthy relationships with his wife, parents, and siblings and he said, ” I didn’t want to lie to people anymore.”
What is something you would like to tell someone who is going through the same thing?
” I can’t say the cliche ‘your parents are always right’ because people that age don’t understand. I had to figure things out my own way. Make sure your friendships are good. Don’t make friends through drugs or vaping because when that is gone what do you have? If the only the thing you have in common is drugs then they aren’t your friends. It’s hard to have a relationship with those friends after, and going back to that person will drag you back in. I know people who are doing the same stuff they did in high school now, and I avoid them. Be yourself, and don’t develop friends around drugs and alcohol because when it is done they will be gone.”
After celebrating Red Ribbon week it’s important to recognize people who have been able to turn their life around after going through substance abuse.