Alex Carter is 26 years old. He’s brilliant, funny, and “tall, dark, and handsome.” Alex Carter has also been clean for one year today. Of course, as you would imagine, it’s not been an easy road getting here but then, it never is, is it?
Today, Alex graciously sat down with me and let me ask him some very personal questions simply so that I could share his story with you. Mostly, I found myself wanting to understand why: Why did he take his first drug? Why did he take his last drug? And why did he take all the drugs in between the two?
“It seems like a lot of people that I know just kind of grew up with drugs around the house, and they knew that at some point they would be users like the rest of the family. That was never the situation with me. There were no drugs in my house, and I was never around those kinds of people when I was young.
So, why? Why would a young man with so much going for him try any substance…and yet, as I shared with Alex, I would have chosen him to have a drug problem. Not because he was a bad kid, not at all. No, I would have chosen him because he possesses an extreme intellect. Even as a very young teen, Alex was head and shoulders intellectually above most of his peers, and his is the kind of intellect that seems to almost always fall prey to substance abuse. He nodded as I explained myself.
“Of course, my first drug was pot, and I first tried it between my sophomore and junior years of high school. It was really just experimentation, or I don’t know. Maybe it was peer pressure. My friends were smoking it, and they offered it a lot. One day they offered, and I agreed. I guess I wanted to see what the deal was since they were so interested in it.
“I didn’t get high the first time like a lot of people. It was probably the third time before I experienced a high, and I won’t lie to you. I loved being high.”
Now, you have to understand here that the word high is actually a misnomer because using the word high to describe a marijuana experience would really mean a low to most of us.
“Take the highest epitome of the word relaxation that you can and put it in your brain. It is a physical and mental relaxation that I can’t even describe.”
However, when I questioned a little further, Alex agreed with me that weed is without a doubt a motivation killer.
“When I was just smoking a little, I didn’t see that, but then as I smoked more and more and it built up in my body, it was a killer of my getting anything done. Weed definitely turns on the procrastination switch.”
Within a few months, Alex Carter was smoking heavily, and he was still in high school.
“My parents didn’t know for about six months. When they realized what was going on, they grounded me and did all of the right parent things, but none of that worked. I continued to smoke; I just had to be more sneaky. I suppose it was my cure for boredom, and I was often quite bored.”
Remember, I told you that I would have pegged Alex to have the struggle. Boredom is one of the reasons. He was basically in a league of his own, and he was in a public school, and public schools spend most of their time and their resources on middle of the road. That is not a criticism, just a fact for all kinds of reasons…not that I am excusing Alex’s behavior…not even sort of!
Of course, I asked Alex how in the world a high school kid could afford to buy drugs, even marijuana. His answer was simple: He got a weekend job to support his habit. Then, as is often the norm, Alex Carter made the decision to try Meth.
“I’m not sure exactly when this was, but I was in high school. Meth is the exact opposite of pot. It’s like all of a sudden you have your motivation times 10 back. It’s like you are Superman. Of course, it’s a false high only in your head.
“And after that first time, your body will start to get used to it, and that initial intensity wears off; however, it does start to take over your body. You’ll do more and more, trying to reach that same first peak, but it doesn’t work so you do more and more and more…”
“Do you not mind being out of control?” I questioned.
“You know, it’s funny. I’m actually a control freak, but maybe I didn’t want to be one. It’s a stupid way of thinking, but maybe I wanted to lose control. I’m not even sure as I say it now, but with a lot of responsibility, even if it’s all in my head, came a lot of stress. Being out of control gave me a temporary sort of relief.”
“So give me a timeframe. Can you look back and give me a certain day, a certain time when you know now that you were hooked?”
“2006,” Alex answered without hesitation. “I have a very large, very close family, and in 2006, my aunt died. Her death threw a huge kink into our family. She was in her late 30s, and her death was traumatic.
“With her death, my drug use became out of control. I suppose I could use that as a crutch. For example, the night before her funeral, I found a bunch of pain killers and took them to the point where even the next day I couldn’t hold my head up at her funeral, not one of my proudest of moments.”
“From there, I just thought, ‘Screw it.’ I think I was telling myself that it was a phase, that I would come out of it at some point. Living in Comanche was hard. I only knew people who were on drugs and people who weren’t on drugs…” Alex trailed off as I quickly interrupted him with a question.
“So you’re telling me that you couldn’t find anyone to run with because everyone was either on or off of drugs?” I asked. “Doesn’t that sound a little strange to you? You’re telling me that you needed a crowd that was only a little bit bad, not completely clean or completely wasted!”
The grin that I remember from a much younger Alex immediately found its way out as he actually thought about what he had said.
“Hmmm…I guess I never really thought about it like that, but yes, that’s what I mean. I didn’t find that so I chose wasted. It was probably an unconscious choice, but that is exactly the choice I made.”
Alex graduated in May of 2006, and he moved to Abilene where he worked for almost two years. He continued his drug use there; however, it was not as heavy as it had been in Comanche.
“I wasn’t stupid enough to let it cost me my job,” he explained. I occasionally did Coke if it were around. I also tried mushrooms and LSD, which was the most mind opening experience I have ever had.”
“But,” I broke in, “Was it real, or was it only perceived as mind opening?”
“That’s a good question, but it was very real to me, and I still can’t say that it wasn’t true. At this point, I was only using occasionally because I couldn’t let it interfere with my work.”
Then, in ’08 Alex’s best friend was killed and like his aunt’s death had done, this one pushed him over the edge once again.
“I was still in Abilene, and my drug use started spiraling out of control. I began to do every drug I could when I could…
“I moved back to Comanche where I didn’t have a job or any responsibilities so it was like, ‘Let’s go for it!’
“I reasoned with myself that I wouldn’t do anything at my parents’ house, but I would use when I could. Is there such a thing as a controlled drugging?
“Eventually, I moved out of my parents’ place and into an apartment where I did maintenance. I could finally afford my habit, and I got pretty bad. In fact, a year ago today I was in jail!”
Having been down this road with so many people, my heart fell when Alex made the announcement; however, in retrospect, it was that arrest, which was actually the second arrest, that was the beginning of a new life for Alex Carter.
It all started in 2012 when Alex was arrested for possession of a controlled substance. He was in jail for about a week before making bond. Then, he made a mistake…or maybe he made the best decision of his life…Alex Carter asked for a court-appointed attorney.
By doing that, Alex gave the court the right to demand a drug test, which he promptly failed. This rendered his bond insufficient, and back to jail he went. This time he was there for three weeks.
“While I was there, I had a lot of time to talk to myself. I made up my mind that I was 25 and that it was time to quit screwing around. I found will power I didn’t know I had because it was not easy, not easy at all!
“Three weeks later my mom paid my bail so that I could get a job and hire an attorney. I had always believed that if I ever really had to quit using that I would, and this time I had to. To stay out on bond, I had to submit to a drug test every week…and I couldn’t see a reason to go back to jail,” he smiled.
“Then it became a mental thing, and by this time I had a lawyer. He told me that I had to have a job, not dare fail a drug test, and that basically if I could keep it together, I’d have a better chance of not going to state jail. It worked, and I was given five years probation!
“Today, April 2, 2014, I’ve been clean exactly one year!”
One year off of drugs since he was 16, amazing!
“It’s weird. I understand that plenty of people go to work every day without being on drugs, but it is new to me. It’s like I’m finally growing up. I’ve had a job for a year.
“Believe it or not, there are some side effects that go with being sober. I didn’t realize how much pot contributed to my sleep. It controls dreaming and the things that interrupt sleep. Without the pot, I do struggle. I never seem to go into REM sleep and when I do, I have disturbing dreams.
“BUT…I’ve adjusted pretty well except for that. Of course, a bad day or a bad week, and I really want something to ease the stress, but that’s when I pull out the will power. Plus, I never know when I will have to take a drug test. I was given deferred adjudication, and I don’t want to mess that up!
“I really want to go to school when I am off of probation, CNS (computer networking systems). I can’t afford it now with the probation costs. Plus, I need to keep my focus, and I don’t need the stress of school right now.
“Most of the time, our worst enemy is ourselves, and the best tool the devil has against us is ourselves. The voice does come back, and I have to fight it aside. I’ve learned to adapt just knowing that the feeling is going to come back so I work to develop a tolerance against the feeling and against the voice…
“I feel like there are two really powerful mentalities that it comes down to: will power and hope, neither of which will stand on its own. When you fuel will power with hope so much can come; the supply won’t run out. Of course, this makes me wonder about how people can have a hard time believing in God. You can have all the will power in the world and without hope to go with it, it is nothing,” the brilliant young man explained to me.
And then he closed by leaving me with a quote, “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.” -Samuel Johnson
Eric Akin has also kicked his addiction. Read his story on Texansunited.com