I’m pretty sure the first time I smoked weed I was 11. A close family member used to do heroin and crack, so I saw that as a kid, and I always thought, “My drug use isn’t serious, I’m only smoking weed.” But while I was doing that I got involved with the wrong crowd, and everybody smoked weed, and it started taking me away from the important things in life. I started stealing stuff and selling drugs on the streets. I actually got jumped a lot of times; people tried to rob me for the drugs I had. They were people I used to know as friends, but the drugs had turned them around. With all of that going on, it wasn’t long before I was facing gun charges and jail.
Luckily, the judge let me go to the Phoenix House Academy of Westchester instead. I spent nine months there. At first I didn’t know what to expect—I didn’t know if the Academy would be like jail or what. At first I didn’t want to change, but that’s normal, and eventually I got comfortable and started liking the program. I found good people to hang out with, and I ended up doing all right. I’m still in contact with some of the staff and clients to this day, and I know I’m not the only one who’s back home, sober, doing the right thing. We connect on Facebook, send each other messages, check in and see how each other are doing.
At the Academy, school is mandatory, but since I was 17 I didn’t want to go back to high school when I finished treatment—I wanted to get my GED. So Phoenix House helped me study for that and I scored really high. When I completed treatment and came home, all the things they taught me at Phoenix House made me realize that the way I was living life before was stupid. I mean, I could have been doing so many productive things instead of sitting around, waiting for somebody to call so we could smoke a blunt! So I finally had a chance to be productive.
Today I’m about to start college at City Tech, studying radiology. I’ll be honest, some of my friends still smoke, but they’re cool with my recovery. Some of my other friends from before are nothing but trouble, and I don’t hang out with them anymore. Now I spend most of my time in class, working, or at home helping my family. I was working for a delivery company but now I’m focusing on school, taking college prep classes so that when I start school in January I’m not rusty. I actually like school now!
I live with my mother, my stepfather, my little brother, and my little sister. My older comes to visit sometimes with her baby. I don’t know exactly what they all think about what I’ve been through, but I can tell my mom is more calm now. She knows she doesn’t have to worry—that if she gives me money for food I won’t spend it on weed. There’s more trust, and a huge sense of relief. I know I did the right thing in going to treatment, and that everything is working out for the best. Now I’m doing better than most of the people who used to look down on me.
So many people think marijuana can’t be an addiction, but it can. Because when you smoke weed like I did, and you feel like you can’t have fun without smoking, that’s you depending on weed to have fun. And dependence on a drug, that’s addiction. My advice to other kids in treatment is: stick to it, you can do it! It’s not easy because when you’re in a residential program you have to be away from the people you love. But treatment helps you realize how important those people are, and it brings you closer to them in the long run—and that’s what matters at the end of the day. I mean, yeah, you should definitely get clean for yourself. But if that’s not enough of a motivator, get clean for those who love you.
If you or a loved one needs help for a substance abuse issue, Phoenix House is here for you. Email us or call today at 1 888 671 9392.