Road to Recovery: ‘One of my biggest mistakes I made was I thought I could control drugs and alcohol’

Published 3:19 pm Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Build a life that is worth protecting.

That is the message Stephen Hill, a renowned speaker on substance use prevention and mental health awareness and founder of Speak Sobriety, is bringing to Jeff Davis Parish students this week. He will also deliver his presentation during a community event, 6-8 p.m. Monday, March 4 athlete Grand Marais, 919 N. Lake Arthur Avenue, in Jennings.

“My goal is to inspire youth to live healthy, substance free lives and build a life worth protecting,” Hill said. “If you have goals and opportunities in life, you are less likely to put things like drugs and alcohol in it.”

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On Tuesday, Hill held an informal breakout session with more than 60 seniors at Welsh High School. The session comes a day after Hill spoke about addiction and his road to recovery during a general assembly of the school’s freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors.

“My primary goal as a speaker is definitely prevention, and secondary, early intervention,” he said. “I know when I go to a high school that there are some students that have never tried drugs or alcohol before and my hope is that they will continue to make that healthy choice. But I also know when I go to a high school that most students have probably tried alcohol and some students have tried other drugs or are currently using them. My hope is that they will rethink some of their choices and make some healthier choices for themselves.”

Hill said he wants students to see the choices they make today can and will affect them and those around them.

Hill, who spent more than 12 years as an addict, became sober just before his 25th birthday following years of what he refers to as the “darkest time of my life.” Today he is a recovery coach, defense attorney and an author, who shares his personal experience as an addict and recovering addict to motivate others to make smart choices and positive change.

“You cannot become dependent on a substance that you have never taken before,” Hill said. “It is impossible to become addicted to drugs and alcohol if you’ve never tried them, which means the reasons why people use substances at the beginning before they actually develop an addiction has nothing to do with that. It has to do with something else.”

Most people begin to use drugs and alcohol because of peer pressure, mental and emotional issues, depression, anxiety, trauma or they grew up around it, he said.

“There are so many different struggles that leads somebody to use drugs and alcohol in the beginning,” Hill said. “As a young person you need to know what the struggles are and be able to deal with them in a healthy way.”

Staying active, talking to somebody and making time for yourself are among the best ways to deal with those struggles and make you feel better, he said.

“The first step you have to admit there is actually a problem – whether it’s an addiction or mental health,” he said.

During the presentation, Hill shows how mental health struggles can lead to addiction, the consequences of substance use, and how stigma prevented him from asking for help and contributing to his inability to recover.

In sharing his own story, Hill said he was introduced to nicotine, alcohol and marijuana as a freshman in high school by older peers. It eventually led to him failing classes and becoming ineligible for sports, hanging out with the wrong people and eventually felony drug arrests and addiction to prescription painkillers and heroin.

“One of my biggest mistakes I made was I thought I could control drugs and alcohol,” he said. “It turns out they were the ones controlling me.”

Hill said if he could go back, he would change the collateral damage and how his actions hurt other people.

“But I can’t change the past,” he said. “I am who I am today because of my addiction, and now my recovery. I had to stop looking at what I went through as a negative experience and turn it into a life lesson for personal growth.”