Powerful Drug Seminar Shows Stiles’ Students the Importance of Sobriety
by Marisa Flores
On Wednesday, January 24, Lori Stiles’ honors biology class was visited by a wonderful group of recovering drug addicts. Pam Knight, Shelly Tribett, Brooke Janelle, Ali Biehl, and Ryann Rust shared their powerful stories with the students, and showed them how serious addiction really is.
Biehl, a recovering heroin addict, told the students her journey of homelessness, drugs, rehab, and recovery. She admitted that she was even stealing things from her family in order to afford the habit she had adapted to. She remarked that shortly after she returned from treatment she received the news that her boyfriend had died from an overdose.
Biehl also added the fact that recently a person a day, people she knew, have died from overdoses. She also stressed the importance of getting help. “Reaching out is important, and prevention is important. This is not a joke,” quoted Biehl. Biehl also talked about the power of loss.
Rust, also a recovering heroin addict, detailed his story from being an honor student and athlete to an addict who was doing anything for more drugs. He shared how his addiction started with a little bit of weed, then pills, and then alcohol, eventually leading to heroin. He talked about his struggle with recovery and his pride in his life today.
Rust has found happiness in himself and a general gratitude for life. “I’m coming up on two years clean. I wish I never started on this path, to a certain degree, but it led to who I am today. I’m happy with who I am today. It’s a blessing just to be able to live my life. I still have a lot of flaws, but I’m working on them,” presented Rust. Rust, who is now a father, also talked about how amazing it is to be able to go from bad arguments with his parents, to now peace with his family, and the opportunity to raise his very own family.
The students were also able to hear from a mother of an addict. This point of view came from Tribett. Her daughter struggled with heroin addiction. Tribett’s daughter was in and out of jail for theft charges; charges that were based on a need for drug money. Tribett commented about how she and her husband had to care for their grandchild and how big of a toll that addiction takes on an entire family.
Tribett’s son was seven when his older sister’s addiction started. He is 14 today, and still lives with the trauma, but Tribett never gave up on her child. In the end, Tribett was a mother and was not willing to give that up because of a disease that was trying to get in the way. One of the most important points that Tribett truly agreed with was that addiction is a family disease; it may be physically happening to one person, but it affects everyone close to them.
Tribett cited, “For a parent, the best thing you can do is admit your child is an addict and support them. [An addict] should always ask for help. If you fall down five times, as long as you get back up six; that’s what is important.”
Janelle also spoke briefly during an open discussion among the speakers and the students. She commented on her addiction with heroin, and how difficult it was to have to become sober while in jail. “I know when I picked up my first cigarette, I wasn’t thinking it was going to lead me to shooting up heroin in my veins,” quoted Janelle.
After class, I also managed to ask some very powerful questions to Janelle, Rust, Biehl, and Tribett.
WHSLionsPride: People take drugs like percocets all the time for surgeries and recoveries, but a lot of them don’t understand how you can get addicted to a simple prescription. Is there any way that you could explain as to why you got addicted in the first place?
Janelle: “A lot of us have mental trauma, and [drugs] tend to ease our pain. Some people don’t have that compulsive impulse.”
Tribett: “It’s like numbing yourself to not feel something that hurts you.”
WHSLP: How would you define addiction? Like, if you could only use one sentence to describe addiction.
Janelle: “A compulsive obsession.”
WHSLP: What do you want people to know regarding addiction, recovery, or just your message in general?
Rust: “There’s always help. Break the stigma.”
Janelle: “It is a family disease. Drug addiction has no boundaries.”
WHSLP: And lastly, what does it feel like comparing being in an active addiction and being sober?
Janelle: “Being sober, you have to learn a whole new way to deal with everything. They say the age you start using drugs is the age you stop developing. I would technically be 13 years old.”
Ali: “It’s messed up, everything is backwards. You’re doing things you never thought you would do; it’s cunning. It’s like being dead inside. Being sober is like being rebirthed, [it’s] good and bad. You have to learn your way again. [Becoming sober], you start in a bad place again. It’s hard to come out [of], but in the end, it’s freedom.”
Rust: “Addiction is like a prison in your own mind. And recovery is like a freedom you can choose.”
Stiles’ students not only learned about addiction, but they also learned how to deal with it. The speakers’ messages educated the students and showed them new sides of the world that they didn’t even know about.
Sophomore Alex Rice quoted, “I thought it was important to learn about what goes on, how to deal with it, and what addicts think.”
“I found it insightful. I saw into the world of a drug addict. As someone who has had people addicted to heroin involved in my life, I could understand partially why they did the things they did. Though I feel like tough love is more the way to treat drug addicts, I saw that they need some compassion. They’re humans, and humans can make mistakes. Some mistakes cannot be solved, but only healed. I could see that there was hurt and pain behind their stories, and it showed me that their paths are something I do not want to go down. Their story has not only made me wiser in the choices I make, but it taught me that you need to lend a hand to those who really need it; especially someone battling drug addiction. It’s serious and it can kill, and with more of an understanding we can prevent the development of future drug addicts and increasing drug overdoses,” added sophomore Megan Kuzniewski.
Sophomore Tessa Newton also quoted, “I really enjoyed it! It was a very good experience, I love to hear stories and what they shared was incredible. It was definitely one of my favorite days that we have had in that class.”
“I really enjoyed it, some of the things hit close to home and it was kind of emotional, but I felt like it was a very good learning experience. [It] is a really important part of the school system. Their point of view was different for every person, and their experiences were incredibly interesting in my opinion,” said sophomore Madison Lancaster.
The speeches given gave students a completely new point of view to see life through and touched the hearts of many students. Drug addiction is an extremely serious issue and it needs to be talked about; awareness is the first step. If you need help with drugs, or you know someone who does, please call 1-800-273-8255, and never forget that life is the best gift given.