Sam, an athlete and musician, began by drinking "to feel cool." He said was an easy way to be relaxed. He started with alcohol and ended up taking a downward spiral. He states: "I watched space grow in between me and my family."
Ed's parents divorced and he lost his dad to drug overdose. He was an athlete and a stellar student. He stated "I was socially awkward and drugs and alcohol made me feel great. I could escape everything with alcohol."
Both Ed and Sam were quick to point out that they never forgot the way that alcohol and drugs made them feel at the beginning of their addiction. Sam said that drinking and taking drugs quickly went from "something I wanted to do to something I had to do. "
Ed said that when he initially started doing drugs, he still did sports and was a good student. That was in 6th grade. By the time he was in his sophomore year, everything had slipped: his grades, his performance. By the time he was 15, he was a full blown heroin addict.
Both boys became sober after longterm residential therapy. They consider themselves lucky. They each talked about a friend who died as a result of addiction. Patrick Barrasso also talked about having had to speak at 2 funerals of "beautiful young people" right here in Tucson, who died as a result of addiction. All three talked of the tragedies surrounding these lost lives and of the gaping holes that the passing of these young people left in their families.
The message was very clear. Some people who use drugs and alcohol will become addicted. Patrick stated that research shows drinking and using drugs in middle school (ages 11-14) can affect the brain in permanent ways. Students that abuse substances in middle school can become full blown addicts by high school, much earlier than in previous generations.
Both Ms. Castro and I have lost precious students in alcohol-related incidents during our many years in the classroom. We talked afterward in the office about how wonderful these students had been and how dearly they are missed.
Many thanks to Patrick, Ed, and Sam. It takes courage to share one's story of recovery. But they are recovering and helping others to avoid this dark and tragic path.
Tomorrow, we'll talk about more specific facts about substance abuse. Knowledge is power and we want to empower our students to make good choices.