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America's Drug Wars
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A Teenager's Story

I am a 19-year-old recovering drug addict from south Minneapolis. I sobered up nearly 3 years ago, and today I am living a life I couldn't possibly imagine. I remember saying back in my using days "It will be cold day in hell when I get sober." Furthermore, when I was in treatment everybody said I was not going to get sober. I proved myself and others around me wrong, and here is my story.

I started my drug career at, more or less, the age of 13 years old. It was all just petty stuff, smoking cigarettes, or stealing a bottle of beer from the refrigerator. I also changed my peers. I grew up hanging out with regular kids, not bad, but at the same not total "goodie-goodie" either. I soon found that it was a lot more exciting to hang out the "bad" kids. They stole from stores, smoked cigarettes, drank a little, played hooky, and snuck out at night. I had an attitude similar to Henry Hill (A character in the film Goodfellas). I felt like it was cool to go against the rules of everyday life, and it gave me a false feeling of responsibility and maturity.

I remember the first time I smoked pot and got high. I was 13 years old. Me and a couple of friends went to play basketball at the local park. When we started playing, a couple older fellows stopped at the park to join in. I showed my friends a pack of cigars I stole from the local gas station. One of the older fellows yelled "Hey man, let me put some stuff in it." I strolled over and handed a cigar to him. He cut open the cigar and emptied all the tobacco. He then emptied a bag of pot onto the cigar wrapper, and rolled it into a "blunt." He lit the blunt and said to me "Wanna hit this a little?" I grabbed the smoking blunt, and smoked on it for a couple of minutes. At first I did not feel anything, but a couple of minutes later I was in paradise. I remember being high and watching my friends play ball. It felt like I was watching the most exciting basketball game ever. I was completely relaxed, I had no anxiety, and I felt like I escaped normal life. It was the best feeling in the world, and I wanted to feel this way all the time.

By the age of 14 years old, I wasn't just hanging out with small-time hoodlums. I was involved with people comparable to gang-bangers. These guys sold drugs, stole cars, carried guns, and burglarized houses. I wasn't really into carrying guns or stealing cars—my thing was getting high as much as I possibly could. That was all I wanted, and I didn't care about anything else. I wanted that bliss, and I wanted the same feeling from my first high.

As I got older things really started changing. I started stealing money from my friends and family to get pot. Through this I found out two things about myself. (1) I needed more pot to get adequately high (hence more money), and (2) stealing from family was not providing an income for my habit. So I got a job, and started experimenting with other ways to get high. I remember taking whipped-cream cans and sucking the nitrous out of them to give me a high equal to smoking 10 joints. By this time I was also getting high for school, and my friends introduced me to LSD and 'shrooms. I soon developed a daily schedule which looked like this:

Weekdays
6:30 am: Wake up
Smoke a joint walking to school
7:15-11:00 am: school
Lunch: sneak off campus and get high
Skip a couple of classes
Work

Weekends
Day: Work
Night: drop LSD or do 'shrooms, and smoke weed

I kept to this schedule for a very long time.

At this time my family life was nothing, my GPA was about 1.5, and I was physically and mentally out of shape. I hated being hassled by my parents about grades, curfew, and to what extent they knew of my drug use. I could never concentrate in school. Teachers used ask me "What's wrong with you?" Physically, I did nothing but walk around looking for drugs or finding places to get high. I did not participate in sports. I felt as if drugs gave me love.

I soon started selling drugs, and tried to make a living off it. I made a little extra cash, but soon I was caught. This was the first, and thankfully last time I faced real punishment. I was very lucky. I was selling at school and I managed to sell all I had on me in the morning. I was nabbed in the afternoon. Although they did not find anything on me, they did suspend me for paraphernalia. The only way I could get back into school was to go to treatment, and I did.

I hated treatment. It was boring, the counselors were mean, and I did not get much out of it other than the fact that it sobered me up. Sobering up automatically made me look at my life and where it was going. I began to realize, first-hand from others experiences, that my drug using was going to lead me to hell.

I decided to live sober at the age of 16. I never hit a very hard bottom like most recovering addicts, but I could've. People used to (and still) say to me "I could've saved myself a lot of pain if I sobered up at your age." I was blessed with the maturity to actually listen to them. I have replaced the feeling of getting high with the clear-minded feeling of sobriety. The hoodlums I used to hang out with are not attractive to me anymore, now I see them as low-lifes. My role models today are people who are truly successful. My activities when I was younger centered mainly on getting high. Today, I am getting educated (college student), becoming a professional kickboxer (a replacement for getting high), and living a successful, fulfilling life. I can't believe where I am today, and the fact I actually wrote this.

James B.
Minneapolis
, MN

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