The following articles describe the life of a fictitious person named Medication Mike. Unfortunately Med Mike is all too real to the specialists in their fields who collaborated to tell his story from a compilation of actual events.
My name is Mike and this is my story. Everyone is the sum total of the choices they make but I didn’t always understand that. My choices have caused me and my family unbelievable pain but that sure didn’t occur to me back in the 7th grade. No sir, it was all fun and games then because I was invincible and if anyone could beat the system I could. I had finally made it to Jr. High with its new campus, new teachers, and new classmates. And there were girls I had never met before and more guys to compete with for their attention. At my old school I was popular and well known, but in Jr. High I was just another face in the crowd.
I was happy to have some of my old friends in my classes, but I also started to get to know some of the new guys. They seemed cool. Sometimes I had a hard time knowing if the stories they told me were true or not. They told me about parties where they pooled the alcohol they took from their parents. They just drank whatever they had and they told about the crazy things they did. Some of it sounded just like what I saw guys do on T.V. and in the movies. It sounded kind of scary, but I wanted to be liked; I wanted to be one of the “cool kids again.”
Then one weekend there was a party over at Jeff’s house. We played football together and everyone liked him. His dad let us all sleep in his travel trailer which was awesome and allowed for some unsupervised fun. I remember that night starting out pretty boring. We just played basketball in the driveway after eating pizza for dinner. I noticed his dad had a refrigerator in the garage with a keg of beer inside of it. It actually had a handle on the outside just like a bar at a restaurant. Jeff promised the real party would start later.
After spending what seemed like hours just sitting around, finally the cool part was about to begin. It was my first real drinking experience and I thought I was ready. Big glasses were passed out and we were warned to be quiet and to not wake his parents who were asleep in the house. We followed Jeff into the garage where he lined us up in front of his dad’s beer refrigerator and began to fill everyone’s mugs. The beer was really cold and it was cold on my hand as my mug filled. I had heard people talk about this, but now I was standing there with a flash light and a full glass of beer.
About then I began to get scared, but I couldn’t let them know that. I would never live it down at school and I thought for sure I would never be invited anywhere again. I knew my parents would have been mad if they knew what I was about to do. But Jeff said, “Cheers!” and everyone downed their glasses. I paused for just a moment but then followed the rest. The beer was cold and didn’t really taste good but I kept drinking till it was gone. I felt a kind of relief that I had done it, we had all done it. But wait! They all lined up again and I remember thinking for just a moment, “What have I gotten myself into?”
That night was only the beginning and I am still asking myself that question. That choice seemed to change everything. I had survived and I was cool…or so it seemed at the time.
Jimmy Vaughn, Pastor of Authentic Life Fellowship, serves on the DFG Public Education Committee.
I will admit that night is still a little hazy, but I’m pretty sure I was alert when my car ran off the road and hit the tree. Sure, I had a few drinks that evening but what high school student doesn’t have a few drinks to get them through all the junk in their lives. Besides, I really am able to hold my liquor. I know people like to say that but, compared to my friends, I can still drink, drive, and speak rationally even after a few drinks.
Still, what happened that night is a mystery to me. The cops say I lost control, my car left the road, and I hit the tree. I think a small animal must have run across the road and I swerved to miss it. Whatever happened, I ended up in the hospital with some injuries. The injuries weren’t too bad but the pain was intense. The doctor prescribed Lortab and I have been self-medicating with it ever since. It’s not anything bad, mind you, just a little here and there to get me through the day.
It’s pretty tough being a high school student. Teachers expect a lot out of you and the administrators never let up. My parents nagged me constantly about helping out at home. Hey what did they expect, I worked summers. The one thing that got me through the week was the weekend pharm parties. Without those parties I wouldn’t have been able to put up with the constant barrage of garbage to which I was subjected. Don’t adults know constant talk, talk, talk can really get on a guy’s nerves?
After the injuries I received in the car crash I continued to use Lortab. I still attended pharm parties but I really didn’t need them as much. I found that alcohol really relaxed me and when the stress got out of hand, I had my new friend Lortab. If I had only known that . . . well, to be honest if I had only known lots of things, but life was always a little hazy and just keeping it together to make it through the day was pretty hard.
Even though that last year in high school was kind of a blur, I was smart enough to get into college to follow my goal to become a doctor like the ones that helped me after my wreck. However, my parents kept on me all the time about my late hours and partying. They nagged about pulling the plug if I couldn’t keep up my grades. Even my grandparents wouldn’t help me out anymore. They had figured out that their medicine cabinet was an excellent source for my pharm party contributions.
No one got it! My life was cool! I was cool! What did they want from me anyway? I would show them I could have it all. They were just old fashioned stupid jerks. Heck it was my life and I had everything under control…or so I thought.
Linda Folden, Success Counselor at Greenville High School, serves on the DFG Public Education Committee
I couldn’t wait to get to college and be on my own. I’m not sure how I downsized to a small dorm room while convincing Mom and Dad to buy me necessities… new computer, microwave, TV, fridge, etc. I looked around my new space and breathed a sigh of relief. No more parents looking over my shoulder. No curfew. I can make my own decisions. My biggest decision was to start over with good study habits. No way I’ll get into med school without them. If I had only known….
I hadn’t been moved in more than a couple of hours when someone knocked on my door and invited me to my first frat party. It was radical. I later pledged and was accepted. After I moved into the frat house, it was hard to keep up with the partying. It got harder and harder to get to class. I turned into a real bag monster and slept the day away. One of my frat brothers told me about energy drinks. I could party half the night then slam down a couple of energy drinks. It took more and more of them to keep me going during the day. I found myself using the pain pills or alcohol to level out and go to sleep after all the energy drinks during the day.
When I couldn’t get any more scripts from our family doctor, I went to the infirmary on campus. I knew what to say and how to act to get a new script. That worked for a couple of times, but they cut me off too. I holed up for a few days and told my frat brothers I had the flu. It was worse than the flu. I hurt all over. After a hundred trips to the bathroom, sweating for hours and generally feeling as if I had been run over by a semi, I crawled out of my room and someone found me a bottle. The first drink didn’t stay down, but I remember the warm relief of whiskey flowing through my body after the second. I love that feeling.
A few weeks later, I hooked up with some athletes who had scripts from injuries they were willing to sell. Costs more, but with the right connections, I got by. I barely squeaked by that first year and ended up on academic probation. My parents started riding me about the frat, money and grades. I convinced them to let me go to summer school to bring my grades up. A few no-brains-needed classes got me off probation.
Then I discovered Ritalin.
My second year I had a roommate who had ADHD. He gave me a Ritalin so I could focus on a major exam. I was brilliant. After a while, he cut me off. I researched ADHD and tried to get a script from the infirmary. That was a bust. Spring Break and a road trip to Mexico provided me with a three month supply. No one even asked me for a script. Sold some… used some… went back in May. I was able to get my pain pills, too.
I sometimes crushed the Ritalin and snorted it. What a rush! This all led to a cycle getting up with pills and energy drinks and using pain meds and alcohol to come down. My academic career ended with three cases of the clap, two wrecks, one minor in possession and a GPA that barely got me a degree. Most of my friends didn’t want to be around me much unless we were partying. I ran through girlfriends like socks. Finally, I met the love of my life. She’s the best thing that happened to me in college. I hope it works out. I want to marry her.
Even before I graduated college, I saw the writing on the wall; there was no way I was going to get into medical school. I figured I could however be a pharmaceutical sales rep; what these folks didn’t know would only help me in the business.
I got a pretty good part time job on a local route and started making a bit of money. I was still with my girlfriend and I was so in love with her. Two paychecks later and I asked her to marry me. I vowed to let go of some of my college partying and work on finding a balance with work and play.
I really wanted to make our relationship work and stay mostly clean. This was a no brainer or so I thought…..
I started working and made friends with the doctors I was marketing the company’s medication to; and this worked to my advantage. I had prescription medication literally at my fingertips. I never took from my sample supply, because I had to keep strict inventory of what was given to me. But the Zoloft, Ambien, and Adderall were so tempting.
When I felt like I needed some help or just a stash of pain meds for a rainy day, I would talk to one of the doctors, say I hurt my knee playing softball and it was as easy as that. I was cautious not to overdo it with any doctor and keep a healthy balance. I only used when the girl and I went out to a party or on the weekend. I encouraged my girl to try some pills, but she would not; afraid she might flunk a drug test at her job.
The relationship ended shortly after this; she said she just couldn’t deal with how unpredictable I’d become. I was crushed but continued using to make myself feel better. I met another girl shortly after. Although we were engaged, our relationship ended badly. She said I was a different person than who she met a few months ago; and could not see herself marrying a man like me. I wanted someone to love me, but to tell the truth, I am not sure anyone could.
The first time I didn’t meet my quarterly sales goal I was worried, but it took two more times to get me fired. I took some time off and got away from it all; literally and figuratively.
I started using all the pills I had saved up; this didn’t take long. When those ran out, I went to the doctors I gone to before on my sales route. They saw me coming and cut me off. I went to my old college friends with connections and I paid a high price. I had lost my job by now, so I had to sell some of what I was buying.
I had been dating another girl and was actually engaged to her. She finally got fed up and called off our engagement. I became out of control. I didn’t care, and became less careful in my buying and selling transactions. Three arrests later and I was actually looking at the possibility of prison time.
I ask myself everyday….how did I get here. I have lost everything, failed relationships, my family, my job. Am I too lost to find my way back to a life that seems like only a dream?
I simply had to land another job and soon! I had just blown a dream job and my student loan repayment would begin soon. I wasn’t happy to be back at home with my parents although it did provide room and board. I thought I would scream if I had heard again, “what did you go to college for if all you plan to do is lie around the house and stay out with your old college buddies all night?”
Getting another job was harder than I thought it would be. Everyone wanted a person with work experience which I had just blown by losing my first job. My experience was living the college life. If I wasn’t in class I had been playing intramural sports or hanging at the Frat house. But the lack of work experience is not the only challenge I dealt with. There were also those moments of indiscretion. I was always unsure if I should check the yes box when it asked if I had been convicted of a felony, I mean would they really know whether or not I told them the truth? And when they asked me what social networking sites I used, I had no idea the impact it would have on me.
I finally did it though. It wasn’t my dream job, but was a job and at the end of my ninety-day probation I would get a good raise and my benefits would kick in. Till then I just needed to keep my head down and figure out how to best climb this corporate ladder as high and as fast as possible.
The day of my ninety-day evaluation I met with the Human Recourses Department just before I clocked out for the day. I had worked really hard and hoped to get a nice little raise that would let me finally get my own place and meet my bills.
I must admit, I was a little nervous when my boss walked through the waiting room and I didn’t know he would be in the meeting too. When they finally called me back we were seated at a round table with my boss and Jeff, the Human Resources Director. Jeff started a tape recorder and told me this is was standard for accountability. He told me that my work had been exceptionable. I had been on time, my boss and co-workers liked me, and when it come to the work, I was, “good to go”. But then he went on to say that when I was hired I gave them permission to investigate me and that the results of that investigation would be taken into account at my evaluation. I swallowed hard because I knew there were things that I did not want them to find out.
He said that through my social networking site they discovered that I had participated in things that were not acceptable to the company in keeping with its personal conduct expectations and that a criminal background check revealed my record and that I did not answer truthfully on the original application which was a violation of the companies personal integrity policy and that these would disqualify me from working for them any longer. They asked me for my I.D badge and had security escort me to my cubical to collect my personal belongings before being walked to my car. My high hopes had become depths of despair.
My cellmate has court tomorrow. He said that he is planning on using the O.P.P. defense. That stands for ‘Other People’s Problem’. He read it in a book somewhere and he really likes it. He’s always reading some Si-Fi or Fantasy book, but hey, what else is there to do in here? Anyway, O.P.P. is a lot like my personal favorite N.M.F. (Not My Fault) only it means, “What I did wouldn’t have been wrong if you didn’t have a problem with it.” I told him to let me know how that worked out for him.
My own day in court didn’t go well at all. My folks came but Mom spent the whole time crying which got depressing after awhile. Worse than Mom though was Becky’s parents, they just sat there and stared at the floor. They didn’t even look at me. I wish I could have told them how bad I feel but my attorney wouldn’t let me speak with them. He said we needed to “avoid a display of guilt” so as not to prejudice the jury. I kid you not. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing I can do at this point that will prejudice them more than killing my own wife and child.
The problem is, I’ve spent my entire life ‘avoiding a display of guilt’. Every failure, every setback, every bump in the road was not my fault; high school, college, work… the pits. The only good thing that ever happened to me was marrying Becky. She knew I took the pain killers because of my old car accident – she just didn’t know how much I needed just to get me through the day.
I feel like my life is frozen in time, locked onto one day that I have to live over and over. I was going to work, same as always, day in day out. I just wanted to go, get it over with, so I could come back home. I didn’t know Mimi followed me outside. She’s two for god’s sake, how can she move so fast? But she was behind the car when I backed out of the drive. I didn’t know. Becky was screaming, one horrible long scream that seemed to go on forever, then she hit the ground. The doctor’s said she had a stroke but I knew her heart was broken. Same as mine.
Intoxication Manslaughter. That’s what they charged me with. Fancy words but dead is dead. I got 20 years. So much for not prejudicing the jury… I keep thinking about how many ways my life could have been different without the pills, alcohol and partying. Strange how clear your mind is when you just sit and stare at a blank wall. Then again, maybe it’s just that I’m sober for the first time since the 8th grade. How ironic is it that I finally get clean and sober right when I have nothing left to live for?
My attorney said Becky’s parents are discontinuing the life support on Tuesday. I won’t get to go to the funeral… I missed Mimi’s too.
Sgt C. J. Crawford, Greenville Police Department serves as Secretary for the DFG Board of Directors.
If you’ve been following along with the story about Med Mike you see that it came to a very tragic end. Please don’t kid yourself. Anyone who makes alcohol and drug use a part of their life, and does so for any length of time, comes to a tragic end. You may not end up in prison, you may not lose your job and you may not cause the loss of life, but trust me their life is tragic.
Alcohol and drugs leave behind a path of destruction -- Loss of relationships, loss of self esteem, loss of opportunities, loss of physical health, loss of respect, loss of trust and the list goes on and on.
It’s not unlike a river. As I understand where rivers start they flow swiftly, and the current is so strong that boulders can actually be rolled along the river bed due to the force of the water.
Med Mike’s life could have taken a different course.
The really sad thing is that all of these devastations could have been
avoided. Anywhere along your life’s passage you can change courses.
You can choose a different path.
Stacy Foley is Administrative Assistant for DrugFree Greenville
4207 Wesley Street
Greenville, Texas 75401
Copyright © 2001-