The recent tragedy involving six kids from Jefferson County that left one fatally shot and put another two in jail left me heartsick.

Being from a small town, I have connections to each of those kids in one way or another. Two were brothers from a family I’ve known for years, and nothing surprised me more than to learn they were dealing marijuana and carrying guns. These kids appeared as wholesome as they come: good athletes, decent students, and polite. They were, when I thought about it, my kid—or your kid. Or me at their age.

As a former addict, I’ve seen plenty of good kids head down these roads. No one sets out to become an addict. It all starts innocently enough with one joint, one line, one pill, or one beer. Despite all the anti-drug warnings provided by well-meaning parents, teachers, or law enforcement, we do it anyway. One leads to another, and pretty soon, we’re trying other drugs and different booze.

For some, the idea of dealing drugs becomes tempting. You’ll no longer have to pay for your own stash, and if you’re really smart, you’ll also make some money off your friends and the other poor suckers who used to be in your shoes. But you’re also in a new kind of danger, the one where you need to protect yourself and your investment. Because you know who’s unstable? Your customers.

Drugs—and our need for more—tend to make us irrational, needy, and desperate. And because they are expensive, not everyone can cough up the cash when they’re craving them. It’s a bad combination.

I spent plenty of time around both drug dealers and frantic addicts. I had some dicey moments myself during those years. Not bad enough for me to become violent, but bad enough where I stole some money, did some other things I never would have otherwise, and in the worst moments, considered suicide—anything to get through that horrific jones for more. I also had times where I wasn’t sure I’d make it through the night—my heart pounding so fast, it sounded deafening through my chest. I’m lucky—and grateful—to be alive.

The point is, no one intends to travel this road. No one sees it may end with jails, institutions, or death. It starts with one seemingly harmless puff, snort, or swallow—and ends where it ends.

These tragedies making headline news have one upside if they are used as teachable moments for others on (or before they get to) this path to nowhere. I pray they do not happen in vain.

 

— Katherine is a freelance writer and novelist—and recovering addict. She can be found online here.

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