Addicted at Age 12

Max, the pre-teen, was bitter about life.

Introverted and sensitive, he buried his emotions in a mountain of drugs.

He tells The Social Eyes about the plight of pre-teens trapped in an imaginary world of their own construction.

At age 12 Max lived for one thing and one thing only – his favorite sport, speed skating. The fastest skater on his team, he practiced long and hard for the big-time competitions that lay in his future.

Gabriel-Alexandre Gosselin | File: Drug addiction

But problems within the team forced him to leave the sport he so loved.

It was the end of a dream, and the start of a very difficult period in his life.

Losing his favorite pastime left a void. Max’s morale hit rock bottom. He’d never had much self esteem to begin with, and had always had trouble making friends.

An acquaintance introduced Max to cannabis.

“I’d always promised myself I’d never smoke weed,” he says. “But 30 seconds after my first smoke, I knew I was hooked.” That’s all it took for this painfully shy youngster to get dragged into the world of drugs.

Daily Addiction

What started out as an occasional toke became a daily addiction. By age 14, Max would sneak out at night to find a dealer. He smoked marijuana 6 to 8 times a day.

He couldn’t get to sleep without a joint, and would show up to school the next morning fried. Despite this heavy ganja habit, his grades remained high – so he didn’t feel as if he was letting down his teachers or his parents.

At this point, he came to realize he had a problem. He’d become an addict. So he took a break from his habit. Max set no timetable on how long he’d remain clean. “After 2 weeks of not smoking, a friend told me I looked a whole lot better,” he recalls. “I started right back smoking that instant. I took that comment from my friend to mean that I’d solved my problem!”

At age 15, his lifestyle was such that it was no great leap to start on another stronger drug: PCP. “That first time, I did a line, then I did another line because the first one didn’t have any effect. A half-hour later, I found myself on the school bus completely stoned.”

Max’s classmates noticed his state, and warned him of the dangers involved. He ignored their pleadings. The next day he bought some more PCP, took it right to school and, as soon as he got there, did lines on a table in the school cafeteria.

School Lunch Lines

PCP became his new drug of choice: “I was constantly fried. Sometimes I had to grab the walls just to walk. I’d have blackouts.” He mixed PCP with codeine, an opium derivative. “When you take PCP it just fucks you up,” he explains. “But codeine isn’t the same. It’s pleasant. That drug would have been my death warrant if it had been more easily available.”

At 15 Max had a rough year at school. His marks suffered – a first for this intelligent young teen. He was frequently late for class, and talked back to his teachers. “Sometimes I was too fried to even write,” he says, admitting that today he has no idea what motivated him to get stoned at school.

His enormous PCP consumption led him to consider suicide – a known symptom. “When you’re down on that drug, you don’t want to live. I even had plans to sniff enough PCP to die of an overdose.” He never actually followed through on his suicide fantasies. But he never considered kicking his drug habit. “It became too tough to think about getting through the day without it.”

In a strange twist of fate, Max was doing lines with a woman suffering a relapse when she convinced him that he should take a test to see if he was an addict. “She described her rehab program to me,” Max recalls. “Her words really moved me.”

A week after taking the test, the school’s social worker gave him the results. Max was stunned: “I needed an 8-week therapy program in a rehab. I couldn’t believe it!”

Hard Nights

All told, Max ended up undertaking 3 closed-door therapy programs. The first 2 constituted serious trials for the young man. He had to stop cold turkey, and was forced to take stock of the magnitude of his problem. “I couldn’t stand it. Nights were the worst time. I got the feeling that the walls and the ceiling were going to swallow me whole,” he says, his voice betraying the pain brought back by these memories.

After these first 2 rehab stints, he enrolled in CEGEP. And panicked.

Max wasn’t yet ready for the sober life. Of his own will, he entered rehab for a third time. It was during this stint that he finally came to grips with his addictive personality. “I am a very anxious sort of person, a dreamer, a perfectionist. Drugs let me avoid looking at who I really am. I lived only to consume,” he says.

“In rehab, they tell us that to stop using, you have to put a much effort into it as you used to find drugs in the first place. If every addict did that, the world would be a better place!”

Max decided to pour his energies into his university studies. Over time, he discovered that happiness can be found outside of the drug world.

“In the end,” he smiles, “I saw that it wasn’t me that was doing anything and everything for drugs. It was the drugs that were making me do anything and everything for them.”

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