This June marks fifteen years since I graduated high school. Fifteen years. I recently flipped through my yearbooks, trying to remember the names that went to the faces of kids who had not yet become the people they were meant to be.
I stopped on a page from my junior year. The picture staring back at me was of my friends, Kim, Melissa, Jamie, and Jen. I’m in the back. There we are, maybe all of 17 years old and seemingly happy. Who knew that two out of five wouldn’t make it to the possibility of a 15 year reunion?
Kim, Jamie and I are the lucky ones. We are the ones who have made it this far, able to watch our children as they grow up in a world full of possibilities. Unfortunately, those possibilities are what got Jen and Melissa into trouble. Drugs were the main culprit and the inability to stop the devious hold they had on their lives.
Seven years ago, Jen and her older brother Jeremy were murdered on the same September night by her drug dealer boyfriend. It may have been domestic in nature but it was due to drug abuse. Her father believed drugs were the reason she stayed in the volatile relationship, why she kept going back to him.
Just this year Melissa overdosed. She had been estranged from her family and friends for years, living out of state and away from prying eyes. They tried over and over to reach out to her, to get her the help she desperately needed but she was in too deep. She wasn’t the same sweet girl she had once been.
In the town we all grew up in, population 6,700, drugs are readily available. Just like any town or city, they find their way in and they wreak havoc. Children are far more likely to try drugs if their parents or older siblings do them. It may even start as a legitimate and legal situation. An accident occurs and you are prescribed a pain killer by your doctor. Maybe you start taking more than prescribed and it escalates from there, you might even think you have it under control.
Drugs and alcohol aren’t discriminatory. They don’t care if you’re rich or poor, happy or sad, strong or weak willed, educated or not. Sometimes all it takes is being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Whether it’s because of curiosity or peer pressure, the problem with experimenting is that you just don’t know the outcome. Will you be one of those people that get hooked right away? Will you be able to put it down?
Drug and alcohol abuse breed all kinds of unsavory behaviors and can get you into shocking situations. As someone who grew up in a household where drugs and alcohol were abused, I was a victim of that environment in more ways than one. Fortunately everything worked out for me but my life could have been very different.
If you know someone who is in trouble, please don’t give up on them. If you are the one who is in trouble, seek help. For the sake of your family, your children or your parents; for your own sake and for that of your future self, take back your life. It’s never too late.