Around age 13, I had just graduated from middle school, and I was terrified about freshman year. Despite the stories I had heard and the worries I had about going into high school, the transition wasn’t as bad as I expected. Looking back on my experience, the best thing that ever happened to me was finding an identity in sports. I was a three-sport athlete my freshman year, which helped me adjust to my new peers and gain relationships — not to mention it kept me busy and out of trouble for a while.
For some reason, however, even though I was an athlete and accepted by my peers, it wasn’t always enough. I found myself feeling anxious in social situations, and I was extremely uncomfortable around new people. The first time I remember feeling complete relief was the first time I tried marijuana. This was sometime in the beginning of freshman year, and it felt like I found the missing piece to my puzzle. The combination of sports and marijuana worked for me at first. I found myself experiencing a new level of confidence and comfort around new people, but it wasn’t without consequence. Although I managed to stay out of trouble with the police, I was beginning to have trouble at home. My parents grew more and more suspicious of my smoking habits and quickly caught on to the fact that I was a daily user. Despite my parents’ disapproval, I continued to smoke daily, while still excelling in sports and skimming by in academics. I felt like I had finally found the combination that worked for me, and high school flew by. I had very little consequences to my actions, and before I knew it I was choosing what college I would attend.
While all of my friends were picking schools for athletic or academic reasons, I selected my school based on its ‘party’ reputation. I signed up to play football, and I thought I had everything figured out. I would enter college the same way I entered high school, except this time I already knew what worked for me: playing sports and smoking marijuana. My plans quickly changed, however, when I tore my ACL the summer going into my freshman year of college. I knew I would not be able to play sports my freshman year. Shortly after my admission, I also realized the marijuana wasn’t working the way it used to. I felt like I had lost a big part of my identity, which was being an athlete, and I therefore turned to drugs more and more. At the time, I didn’t know it but I was experiencing high levels of anxiety and depression, which pushed me further and further towards drugs.
After the first two months of my freshman year, I earned a whopping 1.6 GPA, and I was experimenting with any drug I could get my hands on. I could no longer self-medicate effectively or hide my problems, so I came back home defeated. After explaining to my parents what had happened, we decided that I would come home for a semester and attend a local university. I was able to get things back on track and get my grades up enough for my parents to let me try living on campus again. This was the beginning of a two-year addiction to opiates that I never saw coming.
The same thing happened to me again — I began self medicating my anxiety, except this time it was with Oxycontin. After a year of being addicted to Oxycontin and barely passing my classes, I was completely beat down. I ran out of money entirely and resorted to pawning and stealing to obtain more drugs. I eventually moved on to heroin because of its affordability compared to prescription pills. The road I started going down was so far off from my original plan — I never saw it coming. I once again had gotten myself into a problem that I couldn’t fix. I asked my parents for help and told them the truth about my addiction. This was the beginning of my recovery.
I spent my 21st birthday in rehab and another 10 months after that in a sober living program. This is where I found 12-step programs and other young people like me who had beaten their addiction. Today I work in the mental health and addiction field, and I try to help other young people struggling with addiction. I want them to know that, like me, they can get sober and have an awesome life, too.