An excerpt from The Cathedral Crusader published February 28, 1979.
Author’s Note: This article was published nine-months after I got clean and sober. My high school newspaper asked me to write a story about going through treatment. I was glad to do so. The published story set off alarm bells with the school administrators and it led to changes in school policy toward drug and alcohol use.
I started using mood altering chemicals about seven years ago. I had a couple of experiences with drinking from my parents, like sips of beer and wine, but I started using drugs for the effect in the summer between third and fourth grade.
My older brother and sisters turned me onto pot when I was nine years old and I liked it very much. I feel that from then on, I was chemically dependent because I had this kind of obsession to get high more and more. I used with my brother and sisters for about three years up to sixth grade. All my other friends did not like the idea of drug use, so I had to hide it from them.
At a very young age, I can remember stealing money from my parents for stuff like candy and pop, but in sixth grade, I started stealing about $15 a month to support my new vice.
My friends were now getting into some use of dope and I enjoyed the false pride I got from having it and turning them on.
After going through sixth grade, I started getting into some stronger drugs like L.S.D., hashish, and mixing pot and alcohol. I was stealing about $20-30 a month to support my habit.
In seventh grade at South Junior High, I started using before school. Frequently I had pot in seventh grade and started getting a reputation as being a user. My use interfered with my family life, my friends, and my schoolwork. I was even getting high now during school and after. All my social events were slowly centering around drug use.
Just about at the end of seventh grade, I had some pot and a kit for smoking it. The kit had papers for rolling joints, a pipe, and some other paraphernalia. It made a very obvious jingle when I walked. So, one day after I had gotten high several times, I left it in my coat and my mother found it. She became hysterical about it, but instead of telling her the truth, I told her I didn’t know who it belonged to. This was a major sign of my dependency. I had to start justifying my use. I had been doing this before with lines like, “I only smoked a joint” or “I didn’t get that loose!” These were part, or half-truths, but this time I had to justify it by using a point-blank lie. The situation soon blew over and I went back to getting high.
The summer brought daily use of about four joints a day. I was smoking about an ounce a month of high-grade marijuana which cost $40. So, the summer of ’76 found me stealing $50-60 per month to support my addiction.
In eighth grade I was now getting high regularly and making sure I wouldn’t run out of dope. If by chance I might run out, I would sell some of my pot for a profit to get some more. By now I had centered my life around people who used as much as I did so that I would feel comfortable with myself. It just so happened that one of these people attended Cathedral and one night that person gave me some of the most potent L.S.D. I had ever taken. This person said he purchased it at Cathedral. It was called perforated acid. So, I did one half of the small piece of paper at 9:00 p.m. I didn’t come down until 16 hours later. This was in the spring of my eighth-grade year and summer came very fast.
At this point I started getting my drugs in large quantities so I could make money by selling them while I was using. My whole life became centered around my addiction. I wouldn’t let anything keep me from getting high.
In the summer of eighth grade, I was using five to six times a day. My drug list now included speed, pot, barbs, hash, alcohol, L.S.D. and P.C.P.
Soon fall came and I was going to Tech High School. Right away I had to figure out a way to get high during school. So, I faked a note that I was going home for lunch, but I was really getting high just two blocks away.
Then there came a day when I wanted to score a half ounce in school. Well, somehow the bouncers were watching me because they knew I had a lot of money. They saw a friend of mine and I go into the bathroom to make a deal. A bouncer followed us in, and he grabbed my pot. Shortly after, I was booked for my first criminal offense, possession of marijuana. I was suspended from school for a month, but while I was grounded at home, I still managed to get high. I even stole $100 and scored an ounce of hash with a friend of mine from Cathedral. We had sold most of it when I got back into Tech. I was in for a half-day when I spread the word that I had hash. The next morning, I sold my last gram.
Everything was going fine until I was pulled down to the office to await a felony charge of possession and dealing of a controlled substance. This time I went to court and was given probation and was ordered to go to the Mental Health Center for drug counseling. I was also told that I had to work off a debt to society, so I worked at the Humane Society.
I was also expelled from Tech and had to go to the Area Learning Center. Not a thing was accomplished for me over there except that I had a place to go during the day. Yet, while I was in the Area Learning Center my father worked very hard at getting me back into school – this time at Cathedral.
Cathedral agreed to accept me on these conditions: that I continue to go to the Mental Health Center, and that my parents participate in the meetings. Frankly, I don’t know why Cathedral did accept me. If I would have been the principal, and saw this kid with a track record like mine, I would have never let me in there. Yet, they did let me in.
I soon found out how lax Cathedral was in monitoring students’ activities. In fact, the school was so lax that at 3:15 p.m. on my first day in school I was getting high in the Pep Club room. I was still getting high every day, yet now it was seven and eight times a day.
When spring rolled around, I was skipping classes and going out to the parking lot to get high. I remember many mornings holding a pipe or a joint and seeing teachers pass by on their way to school. Some even greeted me. Another time, I was so ripped during a class that the teacher even asked me if I was high. It was so obvious. Yet, nobody did anything.
On the last day of school, which was my birthday, I did 3 hits of L.S.D., skipped every class and walked around in oblivion. After school there was a party with an eight-gallon and four-gallon beer kegs to which all the school was invited.
The summer of my ninth-grade year was very strange. The family situation was like hell. I had even knocked over my mother because she stood in the way of a little drug land weekend I was planning at a friend’s lake.
After my weekend, I came back home and settled into the daily routine. Things were not the same though. I began questioning my drug use more often. I had even gone so far as to promise God I would never do L.S.D. again, but being as powerless over drugs as I was, I was doomed to take it again. Shortly after the promise was given, I dropped some again. Along with my growing concern and guilt complex about the huge amount of money I was stealing, I all of a sudden didn’t get the highs I wanted.
One day in June, an old acquaintance from Cathedral showed up. I had some pot and beer and he had wheels. So, together with a few friends, we went down to the dam. There, something I never experienced before happened. I had a spiritual awakening. I snorted $5 worth of P.C.P. and really got high. Yet during my high, my Higher Power grabbed ahold of me and told me I was going nowhere fast.
With a new strength to turn over my past, I started making amends to some friends from whom I had stolen. Yet, while I was trying to start on a new way of life, the drug I had taken took affect and got me so high I couldn’t walk or talk. So, I bummed a ride home and crashed.
The next morning, I told my parents everything about my past and with a new heart made a firm conviction to go straight. I also let my probation officer know and my counselor at the Mental Health Center. With their advice and guidance, I was steered towards self-help meetings.
I enjoyed meetings from the start and found I could begin being myself. It was at the meetings that I found out about the drug and alcohol treatment at the St. Cloud Hospital. Though I slipped a few times between meetings, I began to believe I needed the program very much. I also decided I needed hospitalization for my sickness.
In the hospital, I found a lot of character defects. I also found that I am powerless over drugs, but that there was One who had all power, and He alone could keep me straight. I was glad to find Him.
I got out of treatment three days before school started. I was very scared about going into school. I was afraid for a very good reason. Even though most of my old using buddies know I’m straight, I’ve been asked to get high on the average of once a week.
I’ve been sober now for nine-months. Yet I just ask God to help me stay straight today, because if I had to stay straight for the rest of my life, I would probably start feeling sorry for myself and go down the hill and use right now. I’m taking one day at a time.
JD (February 1979)
Maj. Donovan, U.S. Army, Ret. is a person in long-term recovery with over 42 years of sobriety. He lectures frequently on recovery and co-hosts a monthly radio show called “Recovery Radio”. He volunteers at The Retreat as a workshop facilitator on the topics of “The 12 Steps” and “Sponsorship”.
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