I can’t stop thinking about 17 year old Josh Anderson, the West Virginia high school student who killed himself a couple of weeks ago, on the eve of his high school discipline hearing after being caught with marijuana on campus. Whenever I hear about a death surrounding drug use, it hits me in my very core. In his suicide note, Josh wrote, “Why does it have to be like this?” I wish I could tell him that it doesn’t. I have met countless addicts, myself included, who at the bottom of their addiction have asked that same question. No one will ever know exactly why Josh did what he did, but I know that suicide had crossed my mind a million times when I was struggling in my addiction. I didn’t think I could be anything but an addict. I didn’t think I would feel anything but misery. I didn’t know that another way of life was even possible for me. I remember asking myself, “Why does it have to be like this?” every single day.
Obviously it’s not uncommon for a teenager to feel misunderstood, but there is a profound sense of isolation, depression and desperation that comes from being a teen struggling with addiction. When drugs were once the only solution, they too began to fail me and I felt absolute hopelessness. I felt like a loser so I did drugs, and then I felt like a loser because I couldn’t stop doing drugs. There were times that I thought that I would have to kill myself because I couldn’t stand what my life had become. People think that teenagers are overly dramatic, (and often we are) but teenage drug abuse is a serious issue, and teens feel hopelessness like everyone else. In treatment, I began to see that a new way of life was possible for me. I didn’t always have to believe it. All I had to believe was, “maybe I can.” With the power of, “maybe I can,” I was able to sit back and listen in treatment, and to start to talk about what was going on, and became willing to make some changes. I am so glad that I got this second chance. I wish I could answer Josh Anderson and tell him, “It doesn’t have to be like this,” but I can’t. The thing I can do though, is tell my story to other teens, so that there will be more of us who made it through the dark times than those who didn’t.
Click here if you are a teen struggling with addiction or depression, or a parent of a struggling teen- It doesn’t have to be like this; help exists