Redemption from teen addiction: Jeff’s story

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Chapter 6 – Authority of the Indomitable Human Spirit 

Jeff Mason’s Story

The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture - A Parent's Voice in the Cyber Wilderness

(This excerpt from The Authority In Me, a book by Joanna about  the power of family life in the network culture, addresses the challenge of parenting when our children have fallen into the traps of risky choices and buy the lies of the network culture – and how important the voice of parental wisdom is for our children at home and in our community. Based upon personal experience and conversations with parents, children and experts in law enforcement, faith, education and health care,  this book helps families address cyberbullying, sexting, pedophiles, drug and alcohol addicition and anxiety in order to  promote personal security and prosperity in a boundaryless Internet-powered world.)

“If God doesn’t exist, life is pointless” – Jeff Mason, 17 years old, Ft. Meyer’s FL, recovering drug addict

When Laura Mason of Fort Meyers, Florida (name was changed to maintain minor’s privacy) received calls from her 16-year-old son, Jeff, begging her to come and get him – it was torment. She could feel the anguish and suffering in her child’s desperate voice ripping her heart wide open. Laura and her husband made arrangements for their teenager to receive residential treatment for his drug addiction to oxycontin which had consumed him. He had been arrested for selling drugs (pharmaceuticals). The first week Jeff called his mother repeatedly begging to come home. “It was the most difficult thing I have ever had to do,” said Laura.

Jeff is in recovery of his addiction to Roxicodone (ocycontin). He admits that since about the seventh grade he had felt that his life has had no purpose. “I was raised very well,” said Jeff, “I grew up in a Christian family where we were taught to respect our elders. I never had any trauma causing me to use. There was no divorce. I wasn’t abused in any way”.

His mother, Laura, contacted me through the Banana Moments website to see about connecting with resources for parenting teens in recovery. Laura was sincerely grateful that her son had emerged from the addict lifestyle, a young man determined to reclaim his life. “It’s a very rough road,” said Laura, “and I am so hopeful for my son. I want to make sure we are doing everything we can to support his recovery.”

Laura will tell you that this was one of the most gut wrenching experiences in her life and that her son’s arrest for dealing drugs early in his junior year in high school was a blessing. The juvenile justice system saved his life.

In conversations with Laura about her desire to reach out and connect with other parents who are going through the dark and scary moments of a child surrendering to drug addiction, my heart was full of hope for not only her son Jeff, but also for their courage to share their story so that other families could have hope has they struggle to keep the connection of life alive for loved ones lost in the pit of despair, hopelessness and anxiety – driven to be high in order to feel okay.

When a loved one becomes addicted drugs or alcohol, it is one of the greatest heartaches, and yet as we can see in Jeff’s story it can also be a miracle ready to happen.

Today, Jeff is on track to complete his high school classes (on-line) and at a local college campus. He plans to enroll in a local junior college and study behavioral economics. Arriving at this point has been a very long, rough journey for Jeff and his family – that started as Jeff’s response to feelings of purposelessness, and self-medicating for depression.

“The problems with depression have always been there,” said Jeff, “the drug use really brought it out.” Jeff spent over two years chasing a high that could never be achieved. “Now when I come across the rough patches, I don’t try to fight it. I accept it and know that it will end. I surround myself with people to help me weather through it.” And he is on a suboxone treatment to help his brain feel normal without the oxycontin.

He started smoking pot regularly in the summer of 8th grade and in his high school sophomore year, he then moved on to prescription pills he could find in his parents medicine cabinet.

“Eventually my logic was that God didn’t really exist,” said Jeff. “And so if God’s not real, then there is no purpose. What’s the point?”

In the fall of his junior year, he was arrested for drug trafficking. The only reason why he was not arrested for the Schedule II drug Roxicodone was that he and the kids in the car with him swallowed the evidence.

Since the seventh grade Jeff felt like there was no purpose to his life. Grades were easy to achieve, he was bored. There were no challenges in his life.

He started smoking pot in the 8th grade with a lifelong friend. He spent a lot of time at his house. The summer before high school, this friend had some weed and they started smoking it a lot. And then his neighbors witnessed them smoking while his parents were out of town, and the grandparents were at home. The neighbors told his parents.

“I stopped for about a month, and then started up again,” said Jeff. Why? According to Jeff it was nothing more than the exposure, all his friends were doing it and it was enjoyable.

In his sophomore year, Jeff started using the drugs in his mother’s medicine cabinet (sleeping pills and pain killers). He would take them and use them at his friends’ house. Before long he had a girlfriend who was into alcohol, who wanted him to smoke pot with her.

“Around this time, I was experimenting with cocaine, but it seemed expensive for a high that did not last that long,” said Jeff. So he continued drinking alcohol to get drunk, and smoking three to four times a week – depending upon how much weed he had available.

“I never knew what I was escaping from for the longest while,” said Jeff, “I was in so deep with the addiction; I was trying to numb myself.” In March of his sophomore year, he had his wisdom teeth out, and he was prescribed a pain killer. “I would take more that I was supposed to get high. Then in May, I tried Roxicodone,” which Jeff described as an instant high, high impact, it targets the most sensitive receptors in the brain. Roxicodone is also known as “blues”.

However, it was expensive – $20 to $25 for each pill – so Jeff took them every now and again. He usually took them on the weekends, when he had money and access to supply.

And then one weekend completely changed his life. On the way to a party, he and some friends were doing “Hey Mister” (also known as “shoulder tap” where kids ask a stranger entering a liquor store to purchase alcohol for them with the money they provide). He met “this guy” who took them to another gas station asking them whether they were interested in doing anything else.

“He sold me the blues for $10-15 each,” said Jeff in a voice that is very matter of fact. Running down the sequence of events, he explained that he met a dealer who was really a wholesale supplier, and was giving him the same deal he would give his “dealers”.

Since Jeff was holding down a steady, part time job he had regular paychecks and started using “blues” one to two times a day, and then two to three times a day. Then in early July Jeff went on vacation with his family and was without supply – “cold turkey”, said Jeff.

“My girlfriend knew I was sick and she knew I had an issue with ‘Roxi’s’, – I was going through withdrawals,” said Jeff.

When he returned from vacation, he purchased four or five “blues”. “We had family come over for a cookout,” said Jeff, “and I broke up with my girlfriend. And then I didn’t have anyone else that I wanted to stay sober for…”

From July through October Jeff was using anything, but also had to have the “blues” – so he started selling the “blues” to sustain his habit. He held down his part time job, at a little bakery, and soon his regular paycheck was not enough to keep him in his “blues” habit. By mid-August he started to sell – weed, ecstasy, “shrooms” (mushrooms with hallucinogenic impact which he cultivated on his own, they grew in cow poop – and kids were paying $20 for a plastic bag.)

Jeff was selling to all kinds of kids – athletes, good students, stoners, beach kids –  pretty much focusing on the student body of his school. “I sold to everyone,” said Jeff but he only had three students who purchased “blues” every day, which were his most profitable customers and helped fund his habit. “If I bought a 20-pack of ‘blues’, I would do 5 and sell 15. If I was going to do more ‘blues’ I would take the profit from weed to do more blues.”

It became a full time job, all consuming for Jeff – who always in his car, driving to sell enough drugs to keep that unsustainable “blues” high.

On September 17 of his junior year in high school, Jeff was arrested for drug dealing. “I had just picked up ½ of a bag of weed to sell, then picked up a 10-pack of ‘blues’,” said Jeff who knew one of his customers was getting a paycheck and he knew he would buy.

“My friend gave me 50 ‘dime-bags’,” said Jeff, which he placed in his glove compartment and later helped convict him.

“So a kid calls me – he wanted to buy ‘X’(Ecstasy)  – so I told him to meet me at Wal-Mart parking lot.” As Jeff was preparing the drug purchase, he was driving slowly through the parking lot, and a cop in an SUV notice him swerving the car and doing something with the lighter (sealing the bag).

The cop pulled Evan over.

“The ‘blues’ was a huge charge,” said Jeff – and the kids in the car with him knew it. It was a Schedule II drug, which would mean serious jail time so the girl in the passenger seat swallowed seven or eight pills, and made the kids in the back take the rest of the pills.

The officer pulled Jeff out of the car, and searched the vehicle. They found only weed and the scale in the trunk of the car and the baggies so he was arrested for possession with intent to sell. “And because I wouldn’t tell that what the story was with the lighter, they also charged me with destruction of evidence,” said Jeff.

“I don’t remember much after being placed in the cop car,” said Jeff who was already on three “blues” pills. “My dad bailed me out, and I was surprised because my parents knew I was an addict. I felt relief that he came for me. I thought I would be locked upon until the court date.”

After Jeff was bailed out, he continued using “blues” and he was going through drug assessment and treatment ordered by the juvenile system. The assessment by SWFAS called for diversion treatment (in-patient) – and it was required to get his record expunged.  The following Thursday night after being bailed out, Jeff found out he was going to an inpatient treatment center, and he talked his Dad into letting him go out over the weekend and spend the night at a friend’s house. Jeff had scored 18 blues through a new contact selling them at $10 each. By this time, Jeff needed three “blues” to feel normal.

On that weekend, Saturday, he learned he would be going into rehab the following Tuesday.

Inpatient Treatment

The rehab center did focus on drug addiction, but also dealt with kids with behavioral issues for mental problems (such as autism).

“I didn’t like anything about it,’ said Jeff.” It was a horrible experience, even though I needed it. I was friends with the kids who got into trouble, and I tried to learn from it. The first week or so I had a head cold, and was going through withdrawal.”

Jeff wanted to stay in bed, but he was expected to participate in the program which included classes: science, math, English, history and one elective. He said the teachers he had were good, and he liked them. “They took a sincere interest in me. I made friends with staff, but the place seemed overkill – too much rules, confinement – and I know I needed it. My hope was to get out and go from there – this place wasn’t reality.”

When Jeff returned home, he used for three days and then again for two days. This relapse triggered Jeff and his parents to remove him from campus, although Jeff does not blame using again on the school campus environment. Ultimately, it was the need to establish a higher goal motivated Jeff to seek an alternative plan to complete high school, plan for college and pursue his recovery. “I couldn’t stand being on the high school campus. The things that mattered to students at high school, “what my mom will or will not let me do,” etc. It was all so stupid. I couldn’t believe that was all they cared about.”

Jeff finally stopped using “blues” and drugs though a suboxone program for opiate dependent people.

When asked why he stopped using drugs, Jeff declared, “It became too much – too much to do, wrecking everything – all my relationships, my life…everything. It got old and heavy to deal with it. I didn’t want to do it anymore.”

Jeff says he knows that he was trying to escape, from what he could not articulate. And his belief in God and religion is still something that has not been resolved for him. Since the 7th grade he did not feel he had a sense of purpose. And in conversations with him over the spring of 2010, his voice is clearly that of a young man who has made a decision to be a person of character and has started acting on the principles and values his parents instilled.

For Jeff, spirituality is a matter of character. “I believe I need to build a foundation in myself, of strong character. There is right and wrong, and I just simply need to do the right thing. And the basics include what is right for others, not just self.” He observes that kids do not operate this way, thinking of others. “Bullying seems so self-centered, and so is addiction,” said Jeff who elaborated the quest to feel good or numb driving all decisions and creating pain for others.

Jeff says he is definitely keeping an open mind about religion. “I don’t like organized religion.” He is mistrustful of the human element behind organized religion.

He has hope for the future, looking forward to going to college and getting a degree, and while he is not exactly sure what he will wind up doing after college, Jeff is looking forward to the process.

Jeff’s mom Laura offers the following guidance for parents:

“Privacy is something that is earned. Our big mistake was in believing his lies; these were the lies of the addict. He had logical reasons for everything. Get into your child’s business. Monitor your child’s mobile phone and Internet use.

It is harder to be a good parent than a permissive parent. Yet if you try to be your child’s friend or “pal”, they will not respect you and you cannot protect them with your authority. If my husband and I were Jeff’s “friends”, we would not have been able to set limits, and have him taken away to rehab where he was able to begin healing.”

Jeff’s story parallel’s Ryan’s in so many ways – and the most profound element is free will and a series of choices and decisions to surrender authority for their lives to the lies of the network culture:

“I don’t matter, I can become anonymous, and the law does not apply to me.”

By the same token, these young men made the decision to reclaim their authority for life, and are relying upon their experience to reinforce how self-respect comes when we first respect others, and apply our free will to consider the greater good impacted by our own actions.

There is a level of emotional intelligence that Jeff and Ryan developed in the process of making decisions for self and greater good that I believe will help sustain them in a life of recovery. They are making decisions to surround themselves with the people and circumstances that will support their sobriety.

This lesson of personal accountability is so vital…always has been, but never has so much been at risk at earlier ages. In the network culture – where we are presented with access to people, information and goods without limits – the benefits and the risks of our choices are intensified.

This is why discerning truth from things that seem real but are not really true is so critical to instill in the home.

***

The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture – A Parent’s Voice in the Cyber Wilderness

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna (jullien@surewest.net) and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.

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