Last week at Bath County High School, students listened to two men from this area, who had made choices from which they may not recover. Bath County Sherriff Robert Plecker introduced David, and Ryan, because he knows hearing testimony about drug use, abuse, and addiction is a powerful way to make youth think about decisions they face. Sherriff Plecker:
“They are going to give you their version of what they’ve been through, where they’ve been, what they were on, and if you do not leave here today with a better understanding of some of this stuff, then you guys got a problem. This is not make believe; this is real.” One thing was clear: no addict ever wants to become an addict.
Ryan suffered a broken leg in high school from a football accident, and began to take painkillers. Ryan said he:
“Eventually weaned off of pain killers, and uh, graduated ninth in my class, student council president, and I don’t know if you all do it up here; I was in model general assembly, MGA. In Richmond I was the youth attorney general for the whole state of Virginia, I had my own office in the capital building my senior year in high school.”
He had every reason to believe his future would be bright. He even hoped to go to law school. But choices he made changed all that.
“You name it, I was involved in it in school. Went to college; I was a Legacy Scholar for that year. You know, I was still doing, dabbling in pills, and uh, eventually graduated to heroin. In my eyes, it’s one of the worst drugs out here to get involved in. You know I started off just using it casually, and then it becomes a necessity.”
With addiction came all of the legal, financial and family problems that go with it. Students at Bath County High school heard too from the Drug Enforcement Agent who was begged by Ryan’s father, also in law enforcement, to arrest him in order to save his life.
David, who spoke to the students too, graduated from Bath County High School. He was an excellent football player, and was being seriously considered by Virginia Tech football staff. But he got high- a lot. After high school David made up to eight hundred dollars or more a week. By this time cocaine was his drug of choice. He said he easily spent all the money he made in a week on his habit, except for what he needed for gas to drive to different cities to find it. Both Ryan and David described the lying, and stealing it took, frequently involving their own family members, to get the drugs they wanted. David said there was no explanation for why he had never been involved in a fatal car crash.
“If you’re not thinking right, which is what marijuana does, it puts you in a cloud, it’s going to make you not be able to think clearly, think straight, or it’s gonna make you goofy, and think everything’s funny, but there’s nothing funny about the responsibility when you’re on the road.”
One thing that amazes young people hearing these recovering addicts’ stories, was how extreme and fast their decline was into chaos and despair.
Ryan brought the point home.
“In two thousand fourteen, I had probably twenty felonies. I had felonies for writing checks; you get two felonies per bad check that you write, and I wrote five checks, so that’s ten felonies. I had distribution felonies; I had a simple possession felony. I had a burglary, grand larceny.”
All of these crimes, which were about to land Ryan in jail, were results of his trying to feed his heroin addiction.
In the second piece of this group of news stories, David and Ryan share more of their losses, what it took for them to quit, and how their struggle continues every day.