Photo credit: Raven Brown

Raven Brown, a senior in the Cal State Dominguez Hills, was able to end her drug addiction and pursue her college dreams.

Photo credit: Raven Brown

Raven Brown, a senior in the Cal State Dominguez Hills, was able to end her drug addiction and pursue her college dreams.

November 2, 2020

This is my story about drug addiction: three years ago, I crawled out of a hole that I had dug deep within myself. I stopped using the drugs that were killing me and took up an education I never thought was deserved.

I’m not unique, college students are twice as likely to be drug abused as people who never go to college. Fortunately, I was someone who faced my mortality and decided to make a change. I wanted to share my experience with the hope that it would help someone like me before, a drug addict student.

From a young age, I saw the world differently than everyone else around me. I always felt like an outsider, wondering if something was wrong with me or something in my family line that was cruelly bothering me?

My parents divorced before I turned five because of my father’s drug addiction. But I didn’t know why they were divorcing until many years later. I suppose my mother tried to protect me from what I could become.

When I was 11 years old, my father was arrested for selling drugs and sentenced to 10 years in prison. I ignored the anger and confusion I felt at the time because I didn’t know what else to do. I was a kid facing adult problems that I wasn’t prepared for.

Over the years, my father’s abandonment left a void in me. I was depressed and incredibly anxious, but I didn’t have the vocabulary to express what I was feeling.

As a teenager, you would think I would be repulsed by the idea of ​​drugs because they steal my father and break up my family. I once swore I would never touch that stuff, but the urge to adjust to the crowd was too strong for my undeveloped willpower. I wanted to belong to something, even if it only belonged to a group of drug dealers and users.

I was 14 when I first came up. I immediately felt a paralyzing change in me. My relationship with drugs has ranged from smoking weeds to drinking alcohol at parties to trying other drugs. I loved the out-of-body sensations and how much I felt disconnected from my problems. There was some guilt about indulging in the same vices that ruined my parents’ marriage, but the euphoria quickly drowned out my lonely inner voice screaming to stop.

That unique voice told me that I was an idiot for wasting my talents and that I could achieve anything I set out to do. But it kept getting lost in the chorus of other voices inside of me telling me I was a loser and I would never mean anything.

When I was 18, I miraculously graduated from high school and enrolled at El Camino College in Southern California. I was among the majors for several years, studying nursing, kinesiology, nutrition, and psychology. I loved school and wanted to help people, but I couldn’t help myself. I was still abusing drugs, but I also had an insatiable urge to do well in school.

Every day I found a way to satisfy both cravings; Drugs and school.

From the outside, nobody knew I was having problems. I worked full time and went to school but it was all a front. I became a professional liar and was ashamed of how weak I had become. I couldn’t shake the drugs or the hold they had on me.

When I turned 25, I was introduced to crystalline methamphetamine by someone I wish I had never met. I told myself I just wanted to try it just to see how it felt. I really wanted to be happy, even if it was artificial. Instead, this stone gripped my soul in a way that no other substance ever had. I was completely powerless against it. With that first hit, I got totally addicted.

After that, my whole life has revolved around drugs. I shut out all of my friends and isolated myself in my room for almost 24 hours a day to get up. I lied to myself and believed that the energy meth gave me helped me get through school. I had more time to study from not sleeping and had a laser-like focus. Every student’s dream, I thought.

My addiction to drugs and school were closely related and I couldn’t see anything else. I was dying to get a college degree. The obsession weighed heavily on me because I knew that I would be the only one in my family to do it. I wanted to be proud of myself for having achieved something in my life.

After almost two years of methamphetamine use, I weighed 85 pounds. I became progressively mentally ill and had symptoms similar to schizophrenia. I was paranoid, completely delusional and hallucinating shadow people around me. I was afraid that I would end up badly brain damaged or dead.

Eventually the drugs stopped working. No matter how much I used, I stopped getting high and couldn’t keep up with my increasing tolerance. Instead of getting high, I became physically ill with a throbbing headache and gross nausea. It was exhausting keeping up with my addiction so I took a close look at my life and faced my demons.

I quit the cold turkey at 27 and the next two weeks of my life have been living hell. Since my dopamine reserves were completely depleted, I could barely stand up and it felt like every cell in my body was being torn apart.

I struggled to cope with my sanity and keep my schoolwork under control for the next year, but the fog finally lifted and I felt the real me come back – the girl I was before I was tried drugs for the first time in years.

When I was 28, I moved to California State University at Dominguez Hills, switched from psychology to journalism, and found a peace I had never felt. I developed a sense of belonging among my colleagues and realized that I might not be here today if I hadn’t completed an apprenticeship.

Now in my senior year, I’ve been drug free for over three years. I take pride in all of the obstacles I have overcome and I realize that continuing my education saved me from a life of addiction – or worse.

Once you realize that there is more to life than escaping your problems, the light at the end of the tunnel is much closer to you.

If you are a student struggling with substance abuse, please contact the National Substance Abuse and Mental Health Authority at 800-622-4357 for information on treatment and restoring your life.

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Raven Brown is a senior journalist at California State University at Dominguez Hills and a member of EdSource’s California Student Journalism Corps.

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