Stories about kids

young troubled boy

How to Save a Life

Sandy is 22 and six years sober. With his wide boyish grin, he could be the boy next door, your brother, or your best friend.

Sandy describes his childhood as perfectly average. He had loving parents and a younger sister. His family struggled to afford private school and sent him through middle school, until the cost became prohibitive.

He was a quiet boy, smart and reasonably popular. He fit in well in private school; everyone knew each other and most people in his grade were friends. He graduated with 21 other students. Then he went to public high school.

From his first day in the high school cafeteria, amidst a roar of several thousand kids, all with their own agendas, rules, and seating arrangements, Sandy felt left out. He tried to find a place among the 900 incoming freshman and struggled. He became an introvert. He hid his confusion and frustration behind alcohol and drugs.

“I had an instant physical response with alcohol. My extrovert came out—and I felt like I’d come into my natural self, free of all self-criticism and fear,” he says.

Both Sandy’s parents were recovering alcoholics who worked in the drug and alcohol treatment profession. They waited and watched.

Sandy made only two friends his freshman year, theater kids who also operated on the fringes of the school. He followed them to a magnet program for performing arts at another high school. The artsy creative kids were into drugs, and he suddenly had access to cocaine, ecstasy, tranquillizers, and more.

The first time Sandy came home high, his family went to a counselor and made him take random drug tests. He failed one test but was given more chances because his grades were still good.

One day, a dark car with a uniformed driver and highly polished chrome came to the door. He took him to the Wilderness Treatment Center in a remote part of Wyoming. Sandy was installed in a cabin 30 miles south of Canada for a couple of days and told to think about what he was doing.

“I hated it and got into conflicts with the staff,” Sandy remembers. “But I came home five months later and haven’t had a drink or taken a drug since.”

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