Last year five young people died of heroin overdoses in the Santa Clarita Valley, according to stats from the SCV Sheriff's Station. But heroin isn't the community's only challenge when it comes to illegal or illicit drugs. KHTS News reporter Stephen K. Peeples is on special assignment, going behind the scenes, talking to SCV kids, parents and the front-line professionals, to investigate what’s really going on, why it’s happening, and what we as a community are doing about it. This interview transcript is part of the third story in a series. Click here  for links to all the stories.
In Part 3 of "It Takes a Village,"  subtitled "The Kids Aren't All Right, But They're Working on It," three young recovering addicts from the Santa Clarita Valley shared their experiences with drugs, addiction and rehab.
Veronica J., Mindy M. and Tyler G. (pictured from left, with this reporter at lower right) are all Santa Clarita Valley residents who have participated in programs through the local Action Family Counseling rehab centers.
They came forward with the hope that other local kids will use this information to help make better decisions than they made when they started abusing, and that their stories will illuminate the situation for parents who still may be in the dark about drug abuse by their own kids, and the kids around them.
The following is the complete transcript of the conversation on Saturday, March 3; you can also [link] listen to the podcast.
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Stephen K. Peeples: We’re here at the KHTS AM-1220 studios with three local young people who are going to talk with us about drugs in the Santa Clarita Valley, and their experiences. We have Mindy M., Veronica J. and Tyler G. Thanks for joining us.
Mindy, why don't you start off my telling us a little bit about yourself – where you're from, how old you are, what school you go to.
Mindy: I'm 27 years old. I grew up here in the Santa Clarita Valley; it was in the Newhall area. I'm a student right now in Burbank at a school called InterCoast, studying to be a drug and alcohol rehabilitation counselor. I went to Hart High School and graduated in 2002.
Peeples: Very good. Veronica, what's your brief story?
Veronica: I'm 24 years old. I'm from Pasadena. I just moved out here to get sober.
Peeples: And you've lived in the Santa Clarita Valley for how long?
Veronica: About a month.
Peeples: Just a new kid in town, then.
Veronica: Yeah, I'm the new kid in town.
Peeples: And Tyler?
Tyler: I'm 17 years old, I go to Bowman High School and I've lived in Canyon Country my whole life.
Peeples: In Part 1 of our series called “It Takes a Village,” we talked with local community leaders to get a reading on the kinds of drugs and other stuff young people are using. In Part 2 (and Part 3), we’re exploring the reasons why kids start using drugs in the first place.
Veronica, let's start with you. Can you tell me what was the trigger, the spark, the first thing that you did, when you felt or knew you crossed the line?
Veronica: I didn't really have that moment. I'd just been using for so long that it never really actually crossed my mind that I had a problem, until I got arrested, actually, I guess. Yeah.
Peeples: How old were you when you started taking drugs, and what was it?
Veronica: Well, I got drunk my first time when I was 10.
Peeples: OK. And so, the alcohol – how did you get that, where did you find it?
Veronica: I grew up in an alcoholic family, so my grandfather drank, my mother drank, everyone around me drank. So, beer was easily accessible. I could ask them for a drink and they would give it to me at (age) five.
Peeples: Wow. And then what happened after that?
Veronica: I got drunk at my aunt's wedding. I puked everywhere and I wanted more. I'm an alcoholic.
Peeples: What happened after that? Did you get into other stuff, other than alcohol? Or was alcohol your primary…?
Veronica: No. I mean, all drugs are my primary. I started using marijuana and smoking cigarettes when I was about 12, experimenting with cocaine and prescription pills, and then from there it escalated every year, like the types of drugs I used increased.
Peeples: And why was that? Were you looking for something different? What led you from one thing to the next?
Veronica: I guess, for me, I liked the escape from myself. Just being out of self, and it kind of made me feel free.
Peeples: What was it you wanted to get away from?
Veronica: I'm a very shy, reserved person when I'm not using, and so (drugs) kind of took that away, like my inhibitions, and I liked that I was able to socialize easier. I wasn't so worried about what other people thought.
Peeples: Right. And what was the event that happened that got you to stop that behavior, or at least realize that you had a problem and you needed to do something about it?
Veronica: Well, I've been in rehab a couple of times, and the first time was when I was 18 years old.
It actually started off as a bribe – if I go to rehab, my mom would pay for my apartment for the month. So, I went. I guess you could say I knew I had a problem, but I really didn't want to believe it. I was in denial, and my thoughts are kind of what started the journey after that. I'm 24 years old, so from 18 to 24, I tried to quit multiple times. Maybe not drugs altogether, but, like, heroin – just heroin, or just speed, or just hallucinogens. I tried to function, and so I guess that thought shows I had a problem.
Peeples: You mentioned you'd gotten arrested. When and what was the charge? What happened?
Veronica: I've been getting arrested since I was about 17 years old for drug charges, possession. I have a court case right now.
Peeples: OK, and you're in rehab right now?
Veronica: No. I actually just got out of rehab.
Peeples: Very good, very good. And you're staying clean and sober so far?
Peeples: Very good, very good. Well, congratulations.
Veronica: Thank you.
Peeples: Now, getting back to why you started, you were so young you may not even have been thinking about, “Is this wrong or is this going to take me on a path that I really am not going to be happy with later on?” That must have been really bizarre, to be that young and have that kind of accessibility and that kind of lack of parental guidance. What would you say to other kids who might be in the same situation? How would you suggest that other kids in the same situation deal with their problem without turning to alcohol or drugs?
Veronica: For me, I know growing up in that environment, it seems normal. It doesn't seem odd at all. So, to recognize that there is a problem, I think, is a little bit more difficult. But if you do recognize there is a problem, or you feel like what you're doing isn't right or you want your life to be led in another direction, apart from the people that you're living or who are examples to you, then I'd say, aside from Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, find a passion – something else to put your energy into, like music, or art or sports. Find a network of people who don't use and drink that you can socialize with and connect with, and reach out.
Peeples: That's really good advice. What do you do now?
Veronica: I am a very involved member of Alcoholics Anonymous. I work a 12-step program. I keep myself busy; I surround myself with clean and sober people, supportive family members, and I stay away from areas where people are using or getting high or where it's accessible to me. I'm in early recovery, so for me, I can't be around bars or restaurants where they serve alcohol at this point. Maybe sometime in the future, but right now, no.
Peeples: Well, looks like you're on the right track. Wish you all of the luck – but it’s really not about luck, it's about your choices.
Veronica: Yeah, definitely.
Peeples: Super. Mindy, let's talk with you for a moment. You're a Santa Clarita Valley resident and went to school here. What was your first experience with alcohol and or drugs?
Mindy: The first time I smoked pot, I was probably about 12. I had been around drinking my whole life; my dad's mother was an alcoholic. My family drank, but it wasn't something where they drank alcoholically. It was more of a social thing for them. I just remember my whole life feeling like I was different from everybody else, and I was always looking for something — I don't even know what I was looking for. I just knew I was looking for something that was an answer to — I don't even know what the question was. I remember the first time I got high and feeling this intense sensation of relief, because I felt like I didn't have to look anymore.
At that point, at that age, it still was just something that I did every now and then. It wasn't something I did all the time.
In high school, you go to the parties and you drink a little bit and you get drunk and you throw up and you're like, “Oh my God, why did I do that to myself?”
Then, when I was about 15, I had to have surgery — I had my appendix out — and they gave me a prescription for Vicodin. And I remember taking the Vicodin and feeling a sensation that I had never felt anything like it in my whole life. My whole life, there was this noise in my head, and all of a sudden it was gone.
After that, I had to have several surgeries throughout high school and through my early 20s. I was in and out of the hospital a lot, emergency rooms, surgeries, doctors, doctors, doctors, and I was on painkillers a lot.
I moved away to college in Fresno. I got sick while I was there again; I had to move home. I started working at Oak Tree Gun Club with some of my friends, and I got really hooked into the gun industry.
I was doing that for a long time. I met my ex-husband there, I got married while working in the gun industry, I was working in a gun store with the LAPD Academy down in Elysian Park. I had this life going on — this marriage, and the home, and the job, and the cars, and the whole thing, but nobody knew that I was taking 30-40 Vicodin a day.
My ex-husband — at the time, he was a Marine Corps reservist, so he was gone in Iraq. My best friend, my next door neighbor, had died of a drug overdose. There was a lot of stuff going on, and it was my only solution. I had no way out of it.
I got sent to rehab the first time. When I came out, I tried to stay sober for a while, with Sober Living’s help in the San Fernando Valley. I was doing my thing, and my husband and I decided to split up. Some of the people I had met through rehab and Sober Living had gone back out, and they were heroin addicts. As soon as I got out of rehab, I knew that I was going to do heroin. There wasn't a question in my mind about whether or not I was going to try it.
Peeples: But you hadn't done heroin up until this point.
Mindy: I hadn't done heroin up until that point. I was doing the OxyContin and the Vicodin and all the other stuff that goes along with that, taking Xanax and drinking with it and just acting stupid. Because I had been in and out of the hospital so much, and they give you so much (intravenous) medication, morphine and Dilaudid and stuff like that, the first time I did heroin I shot it up. It was very rare from that point on, when I kept using, that I didn't shoot up heroin. That was how I did it, that was how I liked it, and it was never just the heroin. There was a lot of crack involved in my story, there was a lot of meth use, a lot of drinking... but heroin was always the one thing I felt like I had to have. Everything else was just 'cause I liked it — it felt fun, and it felt great. But the heroin was the one thing that I felt sort of “fixed” me from whatever I didn't even know what was wrong.
Peeples: The availability of heroin (in the SCV) — depending on who you talk to, it's all over the place or there’s none up here. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, I would imagine. But as far as your accessibility, your getting heroin, how easy was it?
Mindy: Well, I was living in the San Fernando Valley at the time, because once my parents found out I was using again, I was out of the house. See, the thing is, with that kind of stuff, it's all about who you know. And if you know the right people, you can get it all the time. It didn't matter the time of day, the time of night, how early or late in the morning it was, where they were, where you were – you had a will, they had a way, and you were going to get it. And that was all that mattered, was getting and finding and doing, and that there's even a rush to...
Veronica: The search.
Mindy: Yeah, the search — you find it, finally, and you're like, “Yes!” And you get this rush and you're like, “I'm gonna go get my fix, it's gonna be great, I can't wait!” And you get excited about it, and it becomes this intense way of life. You don't know anything else.
Veronica and I were talking earlier about how normal people who don't have drug and alcohol addiction issues, they do things for people without having ulterior motives. For someone like her and me, we don't understand that, because we're always thinking, “OK, if you're doing this for me, what is it that you want from me?” There's always something behind somebody's actions for that world, and you get so sucked into it – you get so used to it, it's hard to get out of that thinking, that mindset.
Peeples: That's a very cynical way to live, isn't it?
Mindy: Oh, it's very cynical. (A) very pessimistic, half-empty kind of life. It wasn't that I was intentionally trying to go out and kill myself, but it just seemed like, if I died, it would be better for everybody. It would be better for my family; they wouldn't have to worry about me. It would be better for me; I wouldn't have to hurt the way I did anymore. My friends wouldn't have to do whatever they did to take care of me on the days when I was sick. The situation would just be gone for everybody. That's a very hard way to live with yourself, and I think that's part of the reason we seek out drugs so much — it's because we feel everything so intensely and so much more severely than normal people, that we have to find something to numb that, because we don't know how to handle it.
Peeples: The self-esteem issue, or lack thereof, seems to be a huge problem. From what I can understand from what you're saying and what other people have told me, it's kind of a double-edged sword in that it works for you and it works against you at the same time, so you don't know which way is up half the time.
Mindy: When I was in school, I had really curly hair, so I always got made fun of in school. Everybody would always tell me how much they loved my hair, but then the kids in school would make fun of it. And it was kind of the same thing in the drug world, where it was like, when I was getting high, I hated myself every time I stuck a needle in my arm. But at the same time, after I stuck that needle in my arm, nothing else mattered — and I thought I was the coolest person in the world. I could do anything, I could get away with anything, I could accomplish anything. And in reality, I wasn't even doing anything except getting loaded, day in and day out. That was my whole life.
Peeples: So you got out of rehab, started doing heroin. At what point did you decide enough is enough? Or, did somebody decide that for you?
Mindy: I've been bouncing in and out of rehab for the last two years. At that point was finally out on my own, I had no communication with my family except for my mom, [who] would basically call to make sure I wasn't dead. I had nowhere to live; I was living out of my truck, and the only stuff I had was the truck full of clothes and whatever other possessions I had. I was going from friend's house to friend's house, staying with them, sick every day because I couldn't get enough heroin.
I was doing so much heroin — and it's weird, because I've actually never heard anybody else talk about this — my body couldn't process it anymore and it was coming out of my skin. So, I would have these big, bun-sized blotches of heroin coming out of my skin on my chest, on my legs, places like that. And I saw... I knew I was going to die.
And I didn't want to hurt anymore. I knew there was a solution, and that it worked for other people, but because of the way my mind works, I like to over-complicate things and over-think things. It really took something just clicking, and I can't even tell you what that was. It just... it clicked, and I said, “I can't do this anymore.” And I put myself into a detox, and after I got out of the detox, I put myself into an outpatient program. I've been sober eight months now.
Peeples: Excellent. That's a hell of a story. OK, Tyler, thank you for being so patient as the young ladies told their stories. I'd like to find out why you got started taking drugs.
Tyler: I grew up in a — I can't say dysfunctional family, but my dad was a meth user, and he just never was really home. He would always be out cheating on my mom and not really home at all. And any time he was home, he was either throwing us around, beating us, or — it's just not a really good household to grow up in.
My mom divorced him and he moved in with some other lady. She was my step-mom, he married her, and they were meth users together and they'd always beat the crap out of each other. I stayed at their house for about three or four years, but going back and forth because it was... how do you say it... like, 50-50, like I'd stay with my mom and then I'd stay with my dad.
Peeples: Shared custody.
Tyler: Yeah, shared custody. And then it finally got to the point where it got so bad, my dad wasn't waking up to take me to school. He didn't really care about what I had to do, or if I was even there. So, my mom got full custody and she took me away from my dad.
At first, I thought it was wrong. I loved my dad and everything, and then I started growing up. I always told myself, “No, I'll never do that, I'll never do that. I'll never smoke cigarettes, I'll never smoke weed. I'll never do any drugs. I'll never grow up like my dad.”
When I moved in with my mom and was staying there all the time, I started growing up. I realized my dad was the drug addict and he was the one doing everything wrong, 'cause my dad was placing stuff in my head, like, “No, your mom's the bad one, she's doing all this stuff to me,” blah blah blah.
When I was 15 or 16, I was playing football for Outlaws. Going into high school, we were on a break 'cause we were going to go play for Canyon. I was with my buddy, and his cousin was with us, and we went to Six Flags and scored some weed. And we went back to his house later that night and we smoked the weed, and it was the first time I'd ever smoked weed. A lot of people say they don't get high on (marijuana) their first time, but I couldn't stop laughing. I was just on the couch with my head in the pillow, and I loved the feeling.
I didn't do it for another month, and then I just went on a rampage with weed. I just became the biggest stoner there was. I couldn't get enough of it.
My brother wasn't really in the picture yet, about smoking weed, 'cause all his friends did it and I grew up with my brother's friends...
Peeples: He’s older or younger?
Tyler: Older. And my brother didn't like smoking weed. He didn't like doing anything. All his friends did, though, so I'd always hang out with his older friends and smoke weed with them. Before school, I'd always smoke weed and then go into school, and then after school, his friends would pick me up and we'd go get high.
And then it got to a point where my brother's friends weren't doing weed anymore. One of my brother's buddies got a prescription for OxyContin, and I found out what OxyContin was, and I was like, “Wow, I love this. Screw weed, I don't need weed anymore. I love OxyContin.” And I started doing OxyContin all the time. And then I got introduced to roxies (Roxicodone), which is pretty much like OxyContin.
I was getting them for free at first, and then I had to start paying for them, and then it was like, $5 a pill, and then it got to $10 a pill, and then I started paying $15 for a pill. I was like, “Wow, I'm not going to be doing this anymore.” It just got ridiculous 'cause I was spending all my money on pills, and I was telling myself, “I'll never be a drug addict. I'll never do any of that stuff.”
Then I took a break, 'cause I didn't think I was addicted or anything. I never knew what a real withdrawal was yet, but I got the stomach ache and just didn't feel right. Then I was like, “Ohh, I think I'm going to get some more so I don't feel bad.” So I went and got more, and then started paying way too much for them. So one of my buddy's friends was doing heroin at the time, and he was like, “Hey, why don't you just do this? It's cheaper and it gets you higher.” I was like, “OK, let me try it.”
I didn't shoot it up at first; I smoked it. I think I smoked it for about a year, and then one of my other brother's buddies showed me how to shoot it up, and I was like, “Wow, all right, I'll try it.” So, I did it and I loved it. It was the best thing in the world. The sensation of your body was just so amazing that I couldn't get enough of it. So, I was hiding it from my brother…as I started doing all this stuff. (But) I guess he was doing it before me, but I just didn't really know [because] he was hiding it from me. And then we found out that we were doing it, and he wasn't mad and I wasn't mad, so we started doing it together. So, it wasn't really that big of a deal.
He thought I was smoking it at the time, but I was really shooting it, so... I was just hiding shooting it from him. So every time we'd get a sack, I'd get a little on the side and I would hide it for later, and then I'd go shoot it up when he wasn't around. But I'd smoke with him just to play it off like I'm still smoking, I'm not shooting up.
And then it got down to the point where my brother started going through my room, and he found needles and stuff, and he flipped out. He just didn't know what to think. He didn't want to tell my mom 'cause he knew it'd break my mom's heart.
He couldn't really afford the heroin anymore, 'cause he was working but he wasn't getting paid that much Then he got fired, and when he got his last paycheck, he was like, “Wow, I don't know what I'm supposed to do for money anymore.” So, he took $400 and got 7½ grams and started selling heroin.
Then he got more. He got $700, got 12½ (grams), and he started selling a lot. I guess he got set up — I was with him one day, and we were driving to go sell someone some heroin, and he ran a red light. I guess there was a cop behind us and the cop started coming after us, so my brother started running. It was right at Sand Canyon and Soledad, and we went over Sand Canyon, we pulled into the Canyon Liquor store right there, and we jumped out of the car, went inside, and bought cigarettes. We went to go outside and we saw a cop's parked behind my car, 'cause it was my car he was driving, and we were like, “Oh, crap.” So, we just turned around and went into the liquor store. We were acting like we were reading magazines.
The cops couldn't find us, so they left, and then we came out of the liquor store. We were like, “Let's walk across the street to see if the cops are following us.”
So, we walked across the street and my brother got a good idea to call his buddy and say, “Hey, meet me over here at Vons,” 'cause it was right across the street. And the whole time, the kid was setting my brother up, so when he called the kid, the cops were right there with him, like “OK, he's at Vons.”
We went inside Vons. I went to the bathroom, and I guess when I was in the bathroom, the cops grabbed (my brother). I don't know how they knew I was in the bathroom, but they came and knocked on the bathroom door. They took me down and they put us in the back of the cop car and they were like, “Oh, is this all you have?” 'Cause he had two grams on him or something. And he was like, “Yeah, that's all I have.” And they were like, “Well, if you don't tell us where the rest of it is, we're going to impound the car.” So my brother's like, “OK, OK. You can go back to my house — it's at my house.” (laughs) Stupidest thing I ever heard.
They go back to the house and they search the house. They couldn't find it, so my brother takes them up to the room and shows them where it's at. And so, we got arrested. He got arrested for sales, and I got arrested for possession.
When I got out of the holding cell, since I'm underage they just let me go. Two days later I went straight to rehab. When he got out of jail like four days later, he went straight to rehab. So, we were in rehab at the same time. And we went into Action’s 30-day program, and now we're in outpatient.
Peeples: And that was how long ago, when you got into the program? And you've been sober for how long?
Tyler: It was 106 days ago. Well, actually, a couple days ago, I took a hit of weed, so I pretty much relapsed, so I only have four days now.
Tyler: Yeah. I slipped up a little bit, but I'm restarting and I'll have it back.
UPDATE: As of today, March 14, 11 days after this interview, Tyler is back in a reseidential rehab program after relapsing in his recovery.
Peeples: There's been a lot of discussion in the last 40 or more years about gateway drugs, and whether pot leads to heroin. One camp says “no” and another says “yes.” Listening to your experiences, I'm hearing that there's a bunch of stuff that happens before you get to heroin. You don't start with heroin. So, it appears that there is some truth to the gateway drug idea. What do you think about that, Tyler?
Tyler: Yeah, (pot) can be a gateway drug, if you make it. For me, it really wasn't the gateway drug. It was the gateway to the lifestyle. Because weed becomes not enough. Some people sit there and smoke weed for years and years and years and never do one other thing. But to me, weed wasn't enough. I had to go to the next step.
Peeples: What's so attractive about the lifestyle of getting loaded?
Tyler: I don't know. It's just really, like, the run. Just always trying to get something. Just the outlaw lifestyle, not really caring.
Peeples: Well, I suppose this is cliché, but there is the teenage rebellion factor.
Now, Veronica mentioned earlier, when I asked how kids can deal with their issues without drugs, she talked about hanging around with people who didn't use, getting involved in sports, getting involved in something you're passionate about. Mindy, what do you think about that?
Mindy: Any time that somebody's not hanging out with people who are doing drugs, I think, is a good idea. In my experience, just from my story, I don't think it would've mattered if I had or hadn't done that. I think it was going to happen no matter what I did.
And you were asking Tyler…I don't even think it's so much that you can say, like, this kid's smoking pot and he's going to turn into a drug addict. There's no way to know that. It's just the fact that when you find that relief that we get, it's so intense, there's no other way to describe it.
Veronica: And nothing compares to it.
Mindy: Nothing compares to it, and nothing else can give you that sense of relief that you get from getting high or drinking, whether it be pot or OxyContin or heroin or crack or meth or whatever it is. There's something about it that changes the way you feel, and that's all you've been looking for your whole life.
Peeples: So, what's the solution? Mindy has been out of rehab for eight months, Veronica for a month, Tyler about three and a half months, and you’re all working at various points on your recovery. Do you feel any sense of accomplishment at turning your life around that you can build on, that will increase your self-esteem? Do you feel better about yourselves that you've taken a proactive approach to deal with your problem?
Mindy: Yeah. For me, it's something I'm never going to stop working on. I have to continue to do this for the rest of my life, because as soon as I start to get relaxed with working the program and working on myself, my disease is still hanging out in the back of my head, and it wants to kill me. It doesn't care, and I need to stay fit, in that mental, spiritual sort of way. Otherwise, it's going to take me back out of there.
Peeples: Do you have a passion?
Mindy: I'm in school right now, and I hated school when I was in high school. Now, I absolutely love it. I'm also very involved in my 12-step program in the community. I stay active with people that are living their lives sober today, because that is my choice, and I'm choosing to change my life in the people that I hang out with. I've had to change everything. Even people that I used to get loaded with that are sober today, it's hard for me to associate with them because all it does is bring back memories of when we used to get really loaded together. I still hang out with my friends on the weekends and do stuff, and we have tons of fun and we do great things, and I have a very fulfilled life. But it just happens to not involve drugs or alcohol.
Peeples: Veronica, what's your passion now? What makes you want to get up and get into the day and have a good day?
Veronica: Honestly, music. Making music's my passion.
Peeples: Are you a musician, songwriter...?
Veronica: I rap.
Peeples: You rap? Have you recorded anything, do you have any...?
Veronica: I've recorded one song. I just started, like, six months ago, when I was in rehab. It's like a newly discovered talent that I never knew I had. (laughs) That's what sobriety does for you.
Peeples: Awesome. All of these latent talents that were in the fog somewhere are now becoming clearer, huh?
Veronica: Yeah. (laughs)
Peeples: Very good. Tyler, what are you passionate about?
Tyler: Well, I want to go to school to become a music engineer, and I'm just trying to take it day by day with my sobriety. I really need to focus on my recovery right now, because it's an everyday struggle – it's really hard. But now that I'm sober, it's just nice to wake up and not having to feel sick, not having to go out and search for my drugs. So, I don't know... Everyday is just a good day, just to be able to wake up and not be sick anymore. My recovery is really my passion right now.
Peeples: Very good. Veronica, you wanted to add something?
Veronica: And for me, also, what I've found to be really beneficial is having some sort of spiritual basis. Something that you can believe in, that you can have faith in that'll help guide you through a lot of the struggle that you're going to go through, trying to overcome the addiction and alcoholism. I think it's very important. And not like religion or anything, just some sort of spirituality.
Peeples: That's good. A higher energy than yourself, maybe.
Veronica: Yeah, definitely.
Peeples: Sounds good. And your parents. I know all of your folks love you very much, and want nothing but the best for you. I'm a parent, I understand that. I'm sure your parents, to varying degrees, have been either supportive or not, and so I wanted to hear about your relationship with your parents as you go through recovery. Tyler, let's start with you.
Tyler: It's only really my mom — my dad lives in Oregon now, and he's working on his recovery, but it's not really recovery. He still smokes weed and everything. So it’s me and my mom and her boyfriend. He's been in the picture for about three years now. But my mom is really supportive of the whole thing. When she found out, she was heartbroken. She didn't really know what to do, but she was really proactive and got me into rehab and stuff, and wanted my recovery. She didn't want to see us die, she didn't want us to be the next kids (you) read in the newspaper (that have died). And I'm glad I have my life today, 'cause I could've been in that spot. It’s hard to think about that, but it's the truth. It's either jail or death, so there's really nothing in drugs.
Peeples: Veronica, how about your folks? Where do they stand as you deal with your issue?
Veronica: Well, for me, I don't know my father, but my mother — we have a lot of strain in our relationship over the past 24 years, basically. She was drinking for a lot of my early years and after she stopped, I tended to need to carry that on. And then I did a lot of destructive things in my addiction and my alcoholism that damaged our relationship, her property, a whole bunch of other stuff. And I have a strong resentment against her...it was really selfish because she wouldn't help support my drug habit.
Recently from getting sober and working a program, I started to develop a relationship with her again. We've been able to talk more openly and form a bond of some sort and she's really supportive of my program. We're very open, we're very honest with each other, very expressive. We really don't hide anything from one another. I'm very open about my situation and about my past, so my mom pretty much knows all of my dirt.
She just honestly lets me have my faith, also, and regardless of whether I use or not, I'm still her daughter and she continues to love me. She won't enable me, she won't support my drug use or my drinking, but if that's what I'm going into, she's not the type of person to try to stop me. She just kind of lives and lets live.
I think that's the best way to go about it, because you can't control another person. You want to protect your child, and you want what's best for them, but if they make the decision to do drugs, there's nothing that's going to change their mind or stop them. They have to come to it on their own terms.
Peeples: Yeah, the decision-making, I think, is pretty key. The younger a kid learns how to make decisions that are going to be good for them, the easier it's going to be to deal with the temptations that come later on. Now Mindy, how about your folks? They kind of did the tough love thing with you... they threw you out.
Mindy: They had to, but that's the only way to truly love someone through this — you can't enable them, because as much good as you think you're doing by letting them live in your house or giving them money or being allowed to use around you, all you're doing is allowing them to kill themselves every day. Probably just a little bit slower than they would if they were out on their own. Them doing that was the best thing for me, because they got me there that much quicker, where I could go and try to get sober for myself instead of for everybody else.
Peeples: That's really it. You have to do it for yourself. That's when you decide that “I'm going to get sober.” Somebody can stick you in rehab 500 times — if you don't want...
Mindy: If you don't want to be there, you're not going to get anything out of it. You're only going to get out of it what you put into it. I love my parents; I have the greatest parents. They support me through everything, and today I'm actually able to have a relationship with my mom and dad and my sister and the rest of my family that I never had before.
I couldn't come to them or talk to them. Everything got blown out of proportion, it was huge, and the smallest little thing would send me over the edge. They were always kind of walking on eggshells around me.
These days, if I'm having a rough day, you know what? “Hey, I'm a having a bad day, just give me a little space.” And I can talk to them about that stuff, and I can be open with them. Just because I get sober, life doesn't stop happening. Over the last eight months, I've lost a couple friends, and that's been really hard. But my family's there for me, and I know I can depend on them when I need them to.
Peeples: Great. I'd like to wrap it up there, but I'd like to give you the opportunity to say anything further that you wanted to say. Any message that you might want to get across to other kids, particularly to younger kids who might be on the fence, thinking, “Is this a cool lifestyle or is this not a cool lifestyle,” to get high?
Mindy: It seems so... what's the word... appealing or cool the way they make it in movies or something, and it's all a lie. It's empty, empty, empty promises. And there is nothing good that comes out of it, except for scars and wounds...
Veronica: Lots of scars. (laughs)
Mindy: ...and I'm not even talking about physical scars, but like, emotional and mental and spiritual scarring that takes years to heal, and it's not worth paying the consequences. Not at all. I have done things to myself that... I'll recover from them, but that will never truly heal.
Veronica: Yeah, that's true. I think she put it into perfect words – I don't think you could say it better than that. That's the truth.
Peeples: Tyler, any final comments?
Tyler: No one's really going to listen to us, even though we have the experience and we've been through it. People are going to make their own decisions. We can sit here and tell them it's wrong, it's bad, you're not going to get anything out of it, but if they're really going to take that road, they're going to have to live with it.
Peeples: We're not here to judge, we're just here to provide information to parents and other kids in the community in the hopes that it will shed a little bit more light on some of the reasons why kids get started with drugs. The three of you, all different stories — it's pretty remarkable you're all here today, and you've got smiles on your faces. Thanks again for being with us.
Mindy: Thank you for having us.