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Using vs. sobriety

I am a recovering teen addict in the Roaring Fork Valley. I’ve been 27 months clean and sober and plan to stay that way. I humbly submit this article to hopefully help someone else, whether they are using narcotics and alcohol or not. I have experienced the good and bad of using and sobriety, and I want to share what I know to be true. Hopefully readers will be able to consider the effects of both lifestyles.It is true that when you are on drugs or alcohol, the effects give feelings of euphoria, a very high pain-tolerance, a “rush.” But people don’t think about withdrawal. There’s dizziness, sweating, weight gain (or a very unhealthy weight loss), insomnia, nausea, throwing up, diarrhea, loss of brain cells, blackouts, loss of muscle control, fear, irritability, depression, and in some cases abrupt or gradual death. These vary according to the drug being used.I have never heard of any of these side effects or painful withdrawal symptoms resulting from happiness, peace or love towards someone else or yourself. I don’t hear of people getting chronic illnesses from being grateful or joyful. On the contrary, there are more than 92,000 deaths a year from alcohol, and even more teens per year going to treatment centers for using marijuana, the “soft” drug.There are so many choices to make in this world, but it is a very naive choice to use drugs or alcohol. I know, because I was making that choice for a time in my life.The illusion that you are in control of your physical and mental well-being while using is a frame of mind that is very easy to fall into. But whether you like it or not, you are in absolutely no control of the side effects of the drugs. After a period of time you are not even in control of how much your body needs to feel stable. You become psychologically dependent, and it becomes harder and harder to stop.This definition of “narcotic” by Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia actually explains how it harms you: “Narcotic: originally applied to all compounds that produce insensibility to external stimuli through depression of the central nervous system.”It says in the same encyclopedia, “Withdrawal from amphetamines, particularly if the drug is injected, produces depression so unpleasant that the drug user has a powerful incentive to keep taking the drug until he or she collapses and normally dies.”There is so much unhappiness, violence and death involved in the use of drugs and alcohol that some people use them to blatantly commit suicide. However, when you use any form of a drug at all, you are committing a very slow suicide over time. Further, you are committing spiritual and psychological suicide, because you know in your heart the drugs are bad for you.You continue to use them, expecting a different result and thinking that you are “different” and “invincible” to bad things happening to you. The only way to stop that cycle is to become clean and sober and work to stay that way.It is true that the number one goal for treatment centers is abstinence, or sobriety, from the drug or alcohol. So what is the purpose in promoting and enforcing sobriety if there isn’t something good about it? For example, people don’t advertise happiness nearly as much because it is certainly not in a store to buy, and you don’t have to pay for it. It is right in front of your face and you get the opportunity to create it! Yes, they do promote cigarettes and alcohol, but for what reasons? They want money, right?When you take a drug, your body will become used to it. The drug then controls you. Well, the great thing about sobriety is that you can choose to be happy, and you do not have to do more and more to attain the same amount of happiness.I experienced happiness when I got rid of friends who I used with, and started to do things that I have always enjoyed (when I wasn’t using drugs). That means I can have fun without worrying about my next “fix” or what other people thought about me.When a friend of mine, Beth, went to rehab, her counselor, Cindy, told her, “Knowing what we know now, we could never get loaded (use) the same, because we now know a better way of life (sobriety).”I admit there are a lot of feelings that you cannot get except by using drugs. But in reality, those feelings are not something you need to experience, or want to rely on to have a fun time. I had to learn that myself. Now that I have those experiences, I am glad that it has brought me where I am today.Yet I wish I would have learned from someone else’s experience, because I don’t like some of the consequences I still face today. If you look at the underlying truth behind why someone would rely on substances, it is to cover up things that are emotionally painful to experience. These may be family problems, social pressures, or solely “finding out who you are.”Sobriety is such a better way of life and it is very simple way to live.When I was using, I experienced failing and dropping out of school, fighting with my parents constantly, making my friends a No. 1 priority, running away and physically abusing myself.I unconsciously persuaded my parents to want to get outside help, so I was sent to a treatment center for two years in a different state. There, I got clean and sober for good. I have recently graduated from that program. I am continually working on my relationships with my sister and parents. We get along very well compared to how we used to.My life has not become perfect now that I am sober, but it is much more how I’d like my life to be. I wake up every morning and tell myself that just for today I don’t ever have to use again. That is one thing that no one can take away from me.There is help in the valley for addicts. Support group meetings are listed in the classifieds section of the newspaper.Thank you for letting me share, and for reading something that is very important to me.Jesslyn Conners, 16, of Basalt is a student at Bridges High School.


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