This is the story of Andy Zorn...
Andy was born in 1982 and had a joyful life easily making and keeping friends. It was his mission to make friends and family laugh and have a good time and he was GOOD at it. He was class clown. He made parties come alive. When he grew older he helped good friends with their mental health and substance abuse issues.
But it all began to get harder for him to do as he became a teen and thought he had to participate in drinking and drugs to fit in. He was good at hiding the extent to which he indulged in these activities and surprised everyone with his statements in a suicide note:
“My soul is already dead. Marijuana killed my soul + ruined my brain.”
It makes sense to start at the beginning, but in my story, the beginning is not easy to find. Though I cannot say with certainty the day or even the year when it began, I recall with uncanny precision when the torture ended. A drug addict’s life is a montage of freeze-frames. I remember the end; not the end of my addiction, not the moment I emerged, and not that instant of freedom and redemption you hear of so often from recovered drunks and junkies. My end began that night I slipped from the couch onto the floor and my cigarette fell to the carpet from cracked lips. My sober-at-the-time head that housed dead hope and scared eyes surrendered to the truth of addiction -- that it had me and would take me swiftly. “How did it come to this?” was a response to the reflection I imagined of myself mirrored on the ceiling.
On an October Saturday morning in 2008, my husband, Bush, and I drove 45 minutes to a substance abuse treatment facility at which our just-turned-21-year-old son, Ted, had been a patient for several weeks. We were joining Ted at a Friends and Family Program where we were to spend the day learning some of the things he was learning. We sat a third of the way back in the classroom-like setting where I was on one side of Ted, Bush on the other.
I am a mother of 3 children. When my youngest son was a freshman in high school, he was offered marijuana by a “friend,” which began his horrible journey deeper and deeper into addiction.
He worked for a time and even went to college, getting a degree from DeVry. But during these years, his addiction escalated and caused him to go to harder drugs such as cocaine and then prescription drugs, such as Vicodin, to get the same high as before.
Tragically, as superintendent of Zion-Benton Township High School, I have sat through over 75 very painful school board disciplinary/expulsion hearings during the past eight years because of students under the influence of or possessing marijuana during the school day or at a school sponsored activity. Eight years ago our Board of Education decided that every student involved with marijuana would have a Board of Education disciplinary hearing. There are no exceptions, or second chances. The hearings are held in closed session and involve the student, parents, other family members, school officials, and the Board of Education. Here is what we have learned:
Looking at my parent's wedding album, it is easy to understand why they were nicknamed "Barbie and Ken" by those who knew them. If there is any such thing as the perfect couple, it was them.
My Mom was a bride that every little girl dreamed of looking like on her wedding day. She was an honor student with porcelain skin, long silky hair and a talent for baton twirling that demanded the towns' attention each year at the annual parade.
Next to the beautiful bride stood my father, tall and handsome with a head of thick wavy hair and a smile that was almost too bright to look at. His charm and movie star good looks, made women of all ages blush in his presence.
This is a story of my experience with alcoholism and addiction. I was raised in a very loving home by my mother here in Naperville. It was in jr. high when I started to drink alcohol. It started out to be an occasional thing and then became something I thought about quite a bit. The summer before high school I started to experiment with marijuana. By the time high school started it had become a daily habit to smoke pot, drink or do both. It seemed that when I drank or used drugs the emptiness in my soul would temporarily leave. I didn't feel comfortable with myself and thought drugs and alcohol made it easier.
My son Jesse's drug and alcohol use began at around age fourteen, starting with marijuana. By fifteen he was smoking almost everyday. He lost all motivation and school was at the bottom of his "to-do" list. Jesse's drug use continued and he went on to try just about anything he could get his hands on. He was fifteen when we tried to get him help by going into treatment. Things would seem to be better for a while and then he would go back to the drugs.
My "love affair" with marijuana began two and a half years ago as a new and exciting way to spend an otherwise dull winter afternoon. I had been offered pot three times previously, and on the fourth I consented. I had been through DARE and knew all the dangers. But I also believed that one time couldn't possibly hurt me. In one sense, I was right; in another sense, I couldn't have been more wrong. The first time I smoked, I loved the high I got, so I smoked again. I found that it actually got better each time. At that point, I was nothing short of ecstatic. An entire world was opened to me. I was able to explore my thoughts in an exciting and simultaneously serene way, and it was great.
The perception that underage alcohol parties are just innocent gatherings of youth, an acceptable and appropriate right of passage, is debunked by the many unfortunate and sometimes lethal consequences that accompany these illegal parties.
The many significant consequences, or "fall out," from these gatherings emphasize the necessity for providing social opportunities for youth while eliminating the presence of alcohol, drugs and other illegal behaviors.