A real story from a kid not so different from you who have struggled with drug addictions. Read about how this teen life changed because of his involvement with drugs of abuse and the challenges he faced turning his life around.

The Lows of Getting High: Alby’s Story

By Cate Baily Adapted from Heads Up: Real News About Drugs and Your Body, Scholastic, Inc., 2003.

At 18, Alby was living a nightmare behind bars. He felt he was in constant physical danger. “I saw people get stabbed,” he told Scholastic. And he experienced daily indignities. “I couldn’t eat the food they served. The potatoes were like blocks and the meat didn’t taste like meat,” he says.

Believe it or not, getting arrested was probably the best thing that could have happened to Alby. It got him into treatment for his drug problem.

When we spoke to Alby, he was one month into his recovery at a drug rehabilitation center in Westchester, New York.

Grudge Against the World

It all started one summer day on a street corner in Yonkers, New York, when Alby was 13. “You need to get your mind right. Hit this blunt,” a friend said.

Alby didn’t have the strength to say no. He felt he had to smoke the blunt (a cigar hollowed out and refilled with marijuana or a mix of cocaine and marijuana) to fit in. He desperately wanted to belong.

His parents had never been there for him. They were drug addicts themselves and couldn’t handle the demands of parenting. So, Alby bounced from a foster home to his grandmother’s to a group home. When he was about 14, his mother died.

“I wasn’t supposed to go through this,” Alby says. “I had a grudge against the world.”

After trying marijuana (also called weed, grass, pot, herb, boom, Mary Jane, and chronic) to fit in, Alby kept abusing the drug because he enjoyed the intoxicated feeling marijuana creates. “It had me in another state of mind,” he says. “I was relaxed. All my problems seemed like they were disappearing.”

The Price

Alby’s problems weren’t disappearing. They were getting worse. The good feelings he sought from marijuana came at a price.

Over the next five years, Alby smoked marijuana every day, several times a day. He went to school high and eventually dropped out. “I was losing focus. My attention went from 100 to 0. I was depressed,” he says.

Despite the consequences, Alby kept smoking marijuana. In fact, he was willing to do anything to get high.

Eventually, he started dealing drugs to support his habit. That’s what landed him in Valhalla Correctional Facility, a maximum-security jail in Westchester County.

New Friends, Lingering Effects

Now, at a rehab center, Alby has been able to address the real problems in his life by talking them out with counselors and making new friends he describes as “positive.”

But he still feels some of the effects of his drug use. “Sometimes I want to say things, and I can’t get them out. I can’t find the words,” Alby says. “I never had that problem before I started smoking.”

Alby’s memory problems may improve with time. But for now, they are enormously frustrating. “I used to know things,” says Alby, “but now, it’s rusty. I forgot how to do division.”

Frustrations aside, he is looking ahead and hoping to create a future for himself. Alby wants to pursue a career as a mechanic.

On his mother:

“My mother was into drugs. After a point, my mother, she couldn’t take care of us-me, my sister, and my brother-no more… She died of AIDS… I wish she was here. I used to blame her for the problems she put me through… I don’t blame her now because I know when you use drugs you’re not the same person… I just miss her now.”

On why he started smoking marijuana with friends:

“How it seemed was, if you weren’t down with it, they’ll look at you funny. At that point, I was like, ‘I want to be down.’ Truthfully, I did any means necessary to be down with the program… I needed more guidance. How to turn the whole peer pressure thing off-I didn’t know how to deal with that… I was more vulnerable to the negative influence. I didn’t know what that was doing to me. I just fell into the negativity…”

On how he felt when he was smoking marijuana:

“I was lazy a lot. I didn’t want to do things… I was depressed. I felt like I was always in a rut. I was always feeling bad about myself, where I was standing in life.”

On being in treatment at a Rehabilitation Center:

“I love it at Daytop because it’s giving me the tools I need for my foundation in life. School is going great. I’m taking courses for my GED.”

On getting off of drugs:

“I was smoking for a long time, and it was like an everyday thing to me. It was a part of me, and now that part of me isn’t there. How can I cope with that? I need something there. It was hard, but I take it one day at a time. If I get tempted to relapse, I tend to go somewhere positive or find someone positive, so that thought doesn’t come back… I feel a lot better about myself. I feel a lot sharper. I don’t feel lazy anymore.”

From Scholastic, Inc and the Scientists of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services