I started smoking weed when I was about 14, mostly because all my friends were doing it. At first I just smoked every now and then, but then I got into it really heavily. Next, I started doing harder drugs; I moved on to codeine, ecstasy, mushrooms, and that whole path eventually led me to heroin. My friends weren’t doing heroin—that was one drug I picked up all by myself. I was using it for about a year before I overdosed.
When that happened I just went crazy. I threatened to kill myself, and I got sent to Timberlawn, the psychiatric hospital. I was there when a counselor from the Phoenix House Feinberg Academy of Dallas came to talk about the program, which I entered thinking I’d just stay for 30 days. I ended up staying six months.
I hated the program at first; I just didn’t want to do it at all. But those six months were really great, and I became enthusiastic about treatment and about my own recovery. For the first time, I actually wanted to turn my life around. I know now that you have to be ready if you want to get clean—you have to commit and you absolutely can’t give up.
But when I left treatment I went back downhill. I started using K2, synthetic marijuana. I didn’t completely commit to staying clean until I got sent to jail for a long time for a violation of my probation. The thing is, I had previously been involved with a gang, and I didn’t want to have anything to do with them any more, so I tried to run by leaving the state. That was it—I got caught and sent back to jail. That was when I changed my mind for good; after only getting to see my mom through a pane of glass, every day for a year, I knew I had to really change. So when I finally got out, I went back to treatment and this time it stuck.
Today, I can’t believe I’m the same person who was once willing to put a gun to somebody’s head just to get 20 bucks for my next fix. I’m 18 now, I’ve graduated high school, I have a job, and I’m enrolled in college. I’m coming up on my one-year sobriety anniversary. I want to join the Peace Corps after college and go to Africa; I’ve already talked to a recruiter about it, and I’m really excited. I’m back at home for now, living with my little brother and my mom. That’s the best part of recovery right there—being able to see the happiness in my mom’s eyes every single time she looks at me and sees how far I’ve come.