their stories


My name is Jason and I'm 25 years old.

I come from a real small town. I grew up in a good family. My dad was a sheriff, so, I couldn't get away with much. When I was 12, my friend and I were alone in his house. We went thrashing through his parents' room and we came across his parents' stash of crystal meth. At twelve years old, we tried meth for the first time.

Ever since then, I was just straight addicted to it. Through high school was a fast time. I don't really remember much of it. All I remember was playing sports and just doing the drug. The more I found myself wanting to do it, the more I lost myself. I became a person I just didn't know.

I became a person I just didn't know.

The reason I started using drugs was I didn't' like the person that I was in the spotlight of sports. Everywhere I'd go, everybody knew me as the jock, the starting center of the basketball team and the top high jumper of my high school. I was getting sick of all that. I wanted something different, an adrenaline rush. I wanted to get out of control. So, I started rebelling.

At the age of 16, I was hanging around with a white supremist group. I got used to hanging around gang members and causing trouble. By 18, I was using more and more drugs. I was riding dirt bikes, motorcycles and street racing, hanging around with organized crime gangs and doing work for them. I found myself robbing liquor stores, stealing cars, doing home invasions and we even kidnapped a few people. I also took a few beatings from rival gangs.

My life started spiraling downhill. The older I got, the more I wanted the drug. I found myself addicted, lost and getting into more trouble as a gang member.

I found myself addicted, lost and getting into more trouble...

When you're a gang member, you're told what to do, when to do it, how to do it, how to live and who to hate. I grew up a very hateful child. I was the center of attention because of sports. I couldn't get out of the spotlight and be my own person. Gangs gave me the opportunity to do that and gave me a sense of belonging. But, it showed me the wrong way to do it.

When I was 16, I watched my friend get his head blown off. A rival gang picked us up. They sat my buddy and I down execution style out in the middle of nowhere. They told us if we didn't get off their turf, they would take every single one of us out. They blew my friend's head off right in front of me. I had his blood all down my side. One thing after another kept happening. I couldn't go to my folks because I'd be labeled a rat. With my dad being a sheriff, I had to keep proving myself.

When I was 16, I watched my friend get his head blown off.

I always swore to myself that I would never use needles. By the time I was 21, I used a needle for the first time shooting up heroin, crystal and doing speedballs. By the time I was 24, I OD'd on speed and heroin. My friend took care of me. If it hadn't been for her, I would've been dead.

That was a very frightening day for me. I had done so much meth and heroine in less than an hour that when I went to confront a friend about stealing my stuff, I started having hot flashes and I couldn't breathe. I was very clammy and my face was white.

My friend took me inside. She had me sit down and within two seconds I was out for six hours. I don't remember anything. They said I died and that they had to revive me. They threw me in a bathtub of ice water to cool me off. My body was so hot it could have boiled my brain. I was so hooked on heroin and speed that if I didn't have it my body would contort and twist. If I didn't get it, it felt like my bones were gonna break.

By the time I was 24, I OD'd on speed and heroin.

That was probably the scariest time of my life was when I realized this is it. This is my life. I'm gonna die an addict. The lie that they tell you about drugs is how fun it is, that it's the only way to live. It's the only way to live if you want to die fast. It controls you and it tells you what you're gonna do and when you're gonna do it.

They said I died and that they had to revive me.

By the time I was 24, I found myself locked up facing a long time in prison. I called my grandma when I was in booking and explained to her that I was done. There's no way for me to get out of this one. I was facing a series of charges, about 12 felonies. The F.B.I. was looking for me. The judge was ready to throw the book at me.

Three days later, I went to court. My grandma had gotten a hold of Teen Challenge and they visited me in jail. I was asked a series of questions. I looked at him and said, "You came at the wrong time. I'm about to go away forever. There's no way I'm getting out of this mess."

Thirty minutes later, I walked into the courtroom and the judge says, "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't throw the book at you for what you've been doing? Your dad's a sheriff and a respected member of the community. You're throwing his name in the gutter because you decided to live this way." I said, "My dad's his own person and I'm my own person. I have nothing to do with it."

they tell you how fun it is, that it's the only way to live. ...the only way to live, if you want to die fast

The judge said, "We can tell that this isn't you and you're detoxing. We know you have a long history of crime and drug use. If you're willing to take one year out of your life and go to Teen Challenge, we'll give it to you. We have all the paperwork here showing that you want it, that you're willing to change." I've been here at Teen Challenge ever since. Four days after I got out of court, I was here.

They reprimanded and probated me here. They said, "You've got one year. If you leave you're going to prison." That's how I ended up in Teen Challenge. I've been here 15 months now. Teen Challenge to me is hope.

Teen Challenge to me is hope.

If I were to talk to someone that was about to start using drugs, I would ask them, "Haven't you heard the stories I've been telling you that drugs and gangs are not the road to go down?" Drugs are not the answer. Drugs may seem fun at the start. It's just like candy. You try candy the first time and it tastes so sweet that you have to have it. Once you get used to it, it's gonna control you and you're gonna want it every day. It's gonna ruin your life. It's gonna control you to the point of death.