Each day over 2,000 teens abuse a prescription drug for the first time. Many try it for fun thinking they're safe, others are prescribed painkillers by doctors, often to treat sports-related injuries. For some, that decision will change their lives forever. Here are just a few of their stories:
My daughter, also known as my beauty queen, is the golden child in our family. She is an only child and an only grandchild on both sides for a good 12 years. Love is not something she is missing. She has always been very driven, and things are always done her and only her way. I was raised by the best parents a kid could ever have; they were very involved in our lives and still my brother became a drug addict. He was in his first rehab at 13 years old after my parents tried everything to help him. Eventually he spent seven years in prison and two more in a halfway house. My beauty queen and I visited him twice a month for years and never did I sugar coat the truth: THIS IS WHAT DRUGS DO TO YOU. I figured she was safe. I talked to her about drugs a lot; she even has a heart condition that will result in heartache if drugs are used. Still, when she was a teenager, all she wanted was to fit in, and drinking with friends seemed normal. Because she is 5'1'' and weighs about 95 pounds, when she drank she was a mess almost instantly. The problem solver that she is, she had to figure out a way to still party with her friends without alcohol, so pills became the solution. She could take them without being hung over or getting caught. Because you can appear totally normal on pills, there was no stumbling in the door or smelling of pot, so I never suspected a thing. The only sign I truly missed was when we went on vacation when she was 17, and she came down with the worst flu I'd ever seen. Oddly enough, none else got it; the flu is contagious, withdrawals are not. After high school, she went on to college, lived on her own, had a job, and seamed crabby all the time. She was always only with her boyfriend; I never saw her friends, nor heard her talk about them. She looked skinnier than ever and was always tired, which seemed normal for someone working and going to college full-time. Someone eventually told me she and her boyfriend were on heroin. I was in complete shock because I'd had no idea at all. I did an intervention of sorts, she admitted, and went straight to Sacred Heart Rehab Center on October 15, 2010. Both she and her boyfriend have been sober since that day - the worst and best day of my life. It probably saved her life, while going to Families Anonymous and Nar-Anon saved mine.
On October 17, 2012 she celebrated 2 years clean.
I grew up in a middle-class home residing with my mother and younger sister. My mother was very family-oriented, so I was quite close with her side of the family. Growing up I didn't go without much, but as soon as my wants were fulfilled, I again experienced the feeling of constant dissatisfaction. As a child or teenager, wanting for nothing, being surrounded by family and friends seems like not so bad of a life. For me, love, acceptance and material things were never enough. I had this void inside, a feeling of never being whole. No matter what, the void could not be fulfilled until I filled it with drugs and alcohol. For once I felt complete; an escape from reality.
I was manipulative, self-serving, and a thief at a very young age. Pre-teen was the very first time I fed my body any mood- or mind-altering substance. Having a drink during holidays was accepted by my family. Around the age of 12, I started to experiment with marijuana and tried my very first narcotic. Shortly after starting high school, I began going to parties, hung out with an older crowd, and at this time my drinking and drug use escalated extensively. During my teens, I couldn't see the negativity. I held a job, I paid the few bills that I had, people still wanted to be around me at this point. In my mind, I was just living life and having a good time. Late teens and early twenties I started using narcotic painkillers extremely heavily. I was in such denial because I thought I could stop on my own at any time, I just didn't have the desire to. Keeping up with my pill habit became quite expensive; this is when I thought heroin would be a better option to continue this delusional "party" I thought I was having. Heroin took me down a long, morbid, dark road. I experienced many firsts, hurt many people, harmed myself and caused disaster wherever I was. My mental state was focused on my fueled addiction and nothing was going to stand in my way. In 2011, I was beyond desperate, completely hopeless; my thought at that time was that I was going to die a heroin addict. I didn't know what else to do, I didn't know how to live. It was me and heroin against the world. At the end of 2011 I ended up in a jail cell facing 3 felonies and 2 misdemeanors. I spent a few months in jail, was sentenced to inpatient treatment, and Macomb County Adult Drug Court. I fell down a little bit when I got home in February 2012; I tested positive for suboxone. As soon as I blinked my eyes, I was back in a jail cell for a weekend sanction per Drug Court, plus increased random weekly testing. Reality set in hard, I knew I had to do something different and I could no longer do this on my own. I was digging my own grave trying to conquer addiction on my own will.
March 3, 2013 I will proudly have 1 year of sobriety. I'm an active member of a 12 step program and I have worked extremely hard to be where I am today. Today I can say I'm a good daughter, friend and member of society. At times it still amazes me the person I am today. To be trusted, loyal, looked up to by othersâ€¦there's no greater feeling in the world. Others helped me get to where I am today and that's my goal, to share what I haveâ€¦spiritually fit mind and body, with the obsession of using lifted. I look forward to the life ahead of me; my options are endless. With the loving, forgiving and caring God I have in my life today I can overcome life's twists and turns and face my fears. I am forever grateful for this second chance at life that I have!
I started using drugs around 16 years old - smoking weed and taking pills. I did it because I wanted to fit in; I felt like I never belonged, and I hated my life. Before using I showed horses, and in middle school and ninth grade I was a cheerleader until I was kicked off the team. I was also involved in soccer, the drama club, and was in 3 plays in middle school. After freshman year, I struggled with my grades and didn't participate in any sports or extra activities. I started using party drugs at 17 and at 18, hard drugs. I never even thought about going to college. I went to three different high schools and barely graduated.
I went to jail for the last time and decided I couldn't live that way anymore. When I got out of jail, I joined a 12-step recovery program and started bettering my life. I have found God and live every day to better myself and lives around me. Life couldn't be better and I am so happy to be recovering.
I have been clean since October 9, 2008.
I grew up in a very caring and loving household. I never wanted or needed anything growing up. It was an all-American childhood. But in high school, I veered from that path. I started using for several reasons when I was 15. My dad had passed away recently, and I wanted to fit in with everybody. I just thought it was fun. It started when I had knee surgery and was prescribed Vicodin for the pain. In high school I played baseball, basketball and football, and was in honors and AP classes. I graduated with a 3.7 from Fraser and had an opportunity to play football at Ferris State University, but I passed up that chance to stay closer to home and went to Eastern Michigan instead. At college was when I started using heavily. I was on my third knee surgery and fifth surgery altogether when I started doctor shopping. After my fourth knee surgery, the doctors caught on and stopped prescribing me so I quit for a short period. I moved back home due to a great job opportunity, was making more money and started buying OxyContin. I used that every day for almost two years, and within those two years I lost my great job, totaled my car, lost my girlfriend, and was stealing from anyone and anywhere I could to support my habit. When my brother committed suicide, I just continued using more and more. I didn't care about anything and thought that was my excuse to use as much as I wanted. A couple months after, I decided I didn't want to live like that anymore and checked into rehab.
After rehab I relapsed for a short period of time. I realized I needed more help so I moved into a sober living house. The support I receive there, as well as daily 12-step meetings, provides me with something to fill the void I used to fill with drugs and alcohol. I work daily to better myself so I don't fall back into old patterns.
How can a parent describe what it's like to lose a child? My son - a normal kid, from a normal family, living a normal life - like so many addicts, made a life-changing decision to try drugs. He didn't choose to be an addict, but it happened, and in a matter of 12 to 18 months he changed in unimaginable ways. From the son who was my friend and fishing buddy, to one who pawned my power toolsâ€¦from a son with whom I shared a secret handshake, to one who threatened me with physical violence.
Before drugs Ryan loved to fish, play video games and surf the Internet, and he dreamed of becoming a pilot. Around age 13, Ryan was rewarded for his efforts at school with airtime in a Cessna. We repeated the reward and once flew over our house - I couldn't have been more proud watching him fulfill a dream.
As a graduation present Ryan and I went on a much anticipated Canadian Fly-In fishing trip - a trip we talked about and planned for several years. Even while fishing on the "middle of nowhere" Canadian lake, I knew I was losing him as drugs continued to take control of his life.
Ryan's eyes became lifeless and empty and he withdrew into his own world. Only occasionally would he show flashes of his former self. Despite all his families' efforts and love, we were losing him.
On October 20, 2007, Ryan was released from jail one day before his court ordered 14-month rehabilitation was set to begin. He never made it to rehab...he died that night from a heroin overdose.
I miss and love him more every day and will continue to fulfill my promise to him - to help others make more informed decisions about today's drugs and the insanity of drug use. I've created a Web site in his honor - promise2ryan.com.
Love ya Bud,
When word resonated throughout our family, friends and community, on Oct. 27, 2006, that Denny was gone--dead from an accidental heroin overdose--the words we heard over and over again were, "Oh my Godâ€¦.if it could happen to you, it could happen to anyone! How could this be true?" It didn't make sense. We were a good family! Denny was a great kid! But life had turned into a nightmare.
Denny, the oldest of my three sons, was a watchful, caring and loving big brother, energetic and full of life. He had a deep booming voice, a huge throaty laugh, an enormous sense of humor with an infectious smile, and he was never quiet! When Denny was in the room, you knew he was there, and he never left without giving you one of his famous bear hugs. An honor student at Cousino High School, he was identified early as academically talented. Biology and history were his favorite subjects. His dream was to study and do animal research in the wild. Steve Irwin and Diane Fossey were his heroes. He never outgrew his love of animals and of nature. He loved hockey and fishing, football and fishing, hunting and fishing. Fishing was where Denny found his peace.
But drugs entered the picture, beginning with marijuana. The changes were subtle at first.. He became withdrawn, quieter, slept more, lost the sparkle in his eyes. I questioned him about the changes, unsure but never suspecting drugs. He was my first born. Teens are moody, they sleep a lotâ€¦.was this a stage? Then the grades started to slip, friends were changing. I went to the school, teachers and counselors for help. I received blank stares. "Denny's a great kid, no trouble."
It happened so fast; in a matter of two to three months, he went from happy and healthy to moody, secretive and angry. What was going on?! I stood outside his bedroom door and prayed, "God, if there is something I need to find in this room, .help me find it." My eyes fell on Denny's "treasure box." I opened it to find a bag of marijuana. Gone were all his boyhood treasures. He was 16 years old. I knew then, deep in my gut, this was serious. We were past experimenting. He was smoking alone, all the time, any chance he could.
Confrontations, unconditional love, grounding, heartfelt conversations about the dangers of drug use, tough love, rewards for positive changes, more prayers and always love. Nothing worked! We sought outside professional help. He improved for a while, grades were better, his old personality was back. Thank you, Lord! Was this over? Then he relapsed. Things got ugly. The typical drug behavior returned: changed personality, raging, staying out all night. Who was this young man? We were on the rollercoaster ride of addiction.
The summer before his senior year, when Denny was 17and failed to complete an intensive outpatient program (IOP), we made the decision to send him to a wilderness treatment program out west (keeping his love of the outdoors in mind). Gone were the dreams of seeing him walk across the stage with his graduating class. There was no senior picture. We were fighting for his life! College funds went to rehab.
After completing a 60-day rehab, Denny came home and completed high school that same year.
Then we entered a two- year cycle through brief periods of sobriety, relapse and use, the use always progressing to more and harder drugs. This wasn't who he was and he knew it. "Why me, Mom?" he cried. "Most of the kids who experimented in high school are fine. They're in college doing great. Why did I become addicted?"
After using Vicodin and OxyContin, Denny was now dependant on opiates. Where were my spoons going? I searched his room and found needles. It's heroin! "Heroin is cheaper than pills," Denny explained. He now knew he had a problem, the denial was gone, but he still thought he could do it himself. He had quit, gone through withdrawals, survived only to relapse. As a family, that very day, we started to plan an immediate intervention. Denny was 5'11", 230 lbs., athletic build. He never lost weight or had sunken eyes. But his pupils would get tiny and he'd develop a red blush band across his cheeks and nose. He'd nod off, sleep all day and roam the house at night. Always out of money. He lost all ambition. Life was about the drugs. We were losing him again.
We did the intervention. More of the rollercoaster ride, ending with a court ordered Boot Camp. We were so hopeful that he would finally get the treatment he so desperately needed again. After successfully completing Boot Camp, he came home on a 120-day tether. "What about treatment?" I pleaded with probation. "Not at this time," I was told. "Wait until he fails a drug test, then we will move him to treatment." I pleaded, "It's too risky This is heroin addiction. Dennis is still on our medical insurance."
We picked him up from Boot Camp. He was beautiful, so proud, 195 lbs. of solid muscle, bright-eyed, and clean! But most importantly he was doneâ€¦.DONE with drugs and scared to death. More than once he told me he wanted to go back to camp, to be under lock and key. He was afraid, afraid of relapsing. "Mom, all I want to do is to go fishing and play hockey again." He was working full time, spending his extra funds on his pets. We discussed future college plansâ€¦Zoology. His dreams were back.
Then after 8-1/2 months of sobriety, with only 11 days left on his tether, Denny walked out the back door at 9:30 on a Friday morning. He said, "I'm going to take my drug test (4 x week) and then I'm going to the mall. I have to be back by noon.' I LOVE YOU, MOM." He never returned. He passed his drug test, went to a drug store and bought needles (the receipt was in my car). He was found dead on the bathroom floor of Farmer Jack's. Whoever was with him ran when things went bad. How could they leave him? Why didn't they scream for 911 as they ran out the door? It was too late.
Denny was only 20 years old. He never failed a drug test. He never went fishing or played hockey again. We will never know why he relapsed that day.
His last three months back home with us was a gift. I was again able to see this wonderful young man for who he was--full of hope and promise, and a sincere desire to turn his life around. The light was back in his eyes and the smile was back on his face. One morning about a week before he died, I was reading my morning scripture meditation. He came and sat next to me. "Mom, what is your favorite book in the Bible?" I said, "Luke."
"No Mom, it's Romans. I love the book of Romans. Go to Romans 6:23." Then he read out loud to me, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. That says it all doesn't it, Mom. I said, "Yes. It does, Denny."
I choose to come forward with Denny's story hoping to effect some change or awareness in society. These addicts are not "bad" kids, but good kids with a deadly disease. They deserve the proper long-term treatment. When we lose them we all lose.
I started using drugs when I was 13. I was smoking pot and drinking on occasion. I thought that was how you fit in and became popular. I had always had hopes of becoming a doctor or a lawyer; my life revolved around school, community service, and club involvement. I wanted to do everything right to get into an Ivy League school. In high school I was the president of the outdoors club, had 280 hours of community service tutoring middle school students, and a 3.8 GPA including honors and AP classes. I continued to use drugs and alcohol recreationally. I never felt like I fit in and I constantly changed groups of friends, and some of my friends started using harder drugs.
I looked like I had such a bright future. I was smart. I was involved with school and I had a lot of friends. But I threw that all away when I tried heroin. I was 16 and my life quickly spun out of control. I dropped out of school, I became pregnant, I lost my son because of neglect, I lost my friends, and my family didn't trust me. All of that stuff I worked so hard for was gone and all I had left was the drugs.
I came to a point in my life where I knew I needed to change. I was so unhappy. I had been to rehab a few times so I knew about recovery. I checked myself into a detox center, then got involved with a recovery group when I came home. I quit talking to all of my old friends and I found a new way to live.
Today, I am a proud mom, a pre-med student, and I have a huge support system. Today, I am happy and clean.