A SOBERING STORY: Now sober, teen looks to rebuild his life
Mark’s habit began with a bit of marijuana. It progressed to heavy abuse of alcohol, party drugs and sleep aids.
And, as Mark (his name has been changed) figures, it probably would have ended with his death, had it not been for his family intervening.
“I’ve said that to many people before. I definitely would be dead by now. If not, by a few months from now,” said the 17-year-old.
But he is very much alive. And sober. And wanting to move past the nearly two years he lost to his substance abuse.
He’s determined to do so.
“A lot of people look at me, like, he’s not going anywhere. I want to prove them wrong and prove to myself I can do something with my life.”
Mark said his problem began with his introduction to marijuana through a friend. They would periodically smoke a blunt — marijuana stuffed into a cheap cigar.
It seemed harmless enough at first. But, as this sort of thing tends to go, his use increased. At first, a gram was enough to last for two to three weeks. Over time, though, his use progressed such that he was smoking 3.5 grams in a week.
And then, once every other day.
It got him into trouble with the law — an officer caught him in possession. On Mother’s Day.
Nevertheless, he didn’t stop, and by the spring and summer of 2012 he was partying frequently. It helped him cope with the ending of his parents’ marriage, which he blamed partly on himself, he said.
Mark said his use ratcheted up even more in September 2012. While at a party, someone gave him some MDMA, also known as Ecstasy, to try. He did.
“I loved it. I loved it and whenever I was on it, I loved everybody. I could love a wall. The wall was just the most amazing thing to me. After that, I started doing more and more.”
More and more, that is, of that drug and others. He used the psychedelic drug LSD. He also started drinking a liquid sleep aid, mixing it with soda. It was accessible, and legal to purchase, he said.
“I really didn’t know how to have fun without being consciously alert. I always had to be messed up to have fun. When I look back on it now, it really wasn’t fun.”
Inside, he felt sad, alone and isolated, he said. He became withdrawn and shirked responsibilities. And he didn’t care much what anyone else thought.
“Whenever you’re in that depressed state and you take drugs to cope with that, that’s all you know and pretty much you just don’t care.”
He said he would have continued using had it not been for his family, who had been noticing changes in his behavior and grew concerned.
Ultimately, they put him on a plane to California, to get him away from the people, places and things that were part and parcel to his substance abuse. While there he stayed with an uncle who had had his own past struggles.
He worked. He attended self-help meetings. He regained a clearer head through sobriety.
He’s home now, working at his recovery. It is hard sometimes, Mark said, some weeks more so than others.
He’s also working toward obtaining his diploma, toward making something of himself.
“Ten, 20 years from now, I don’t want to be at a high school reunion and have to be one of those people who have to make up a story about their life, like, ‘Yeah, I’m this big something’ that I’m not. I want to go there and be who I am and not have to lie about it.”
He also doesn’t want to make excuses for the past. It happened. And there’s nothing he can do to change that, he said.
“There’s nothing I can do at all,” he said. “The only thing I can change is the future, which is what I’m trying to do. I’m really trying hard.”
But one thought looms: “There’s no cure for this disease. That’s what worries me,” Mark said.
“I could go back at any minute,” he said.
So all he can do is to take it one day at a time — “just appreciate life,” he said.