When he was 15, Eric started to smoke marijuana and drink alcohol, making sure not to let his parents catch him.
But Eric's parents noticed that he was changing, and they suspected that he might be getting into trouble. They constantly asked him what he was doing.
"I always lied," Eric says. Addiction and lying go hand in hand.
When Eric graduated from high school, he got a construction job and moved into a place of his own. One night, a group of guys were partying and snorting crystal methamphetamine at Eric's apartment. "They gave me a line," Eric says, "and that was the beginning. It was a very intense high. I felt bulletproof."
But he was far from bulletproof. Within a few weeks, Eric was addicted. "All my thoughts and actions centered around getting drugs," he says. "Things started to go wrong, almost immediately."
He lost one job after another. He enrolled in college and dropped out. Without a steady source of income, but with a desperate craving for crystal meth, Eric turned to drug dealing. "I had a friend whose father helped us buy and sell drugs," he says.
Eric lost 20 pounds and couldn't sleep or hold a conversation.
"These are some of the side effects of crystal meth," says Dr. Brian Johnson, Assistant Clinical Psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School. "This drug affects the brain and the heart. It can also make the heart beat irregularly and increase blood pressure, causing sudden death. It can cause brain cells to die, and affect intelligence."
Eric's mother would try to talk to him, and he'd blow up.
When Eric's friends heard that he was into drugs, they told his parents. Eric was confronted at a family meeting. His parents told him they knew what was going on, and asked Eric to get professional help.
Their words had an impact on Eric. "I thought about what it would be like if I never saw them again," he says. "I agreed to a 30-day rehab program."
For a few months, Eric stayed clean. But when he went back to his drug-using friends, he also returned to his old ways of using.
Then one of Eric's roommates was arrested on drug charges, and the investigation led to Eric. The cops showed up one night with a search warrant. They found a stash of drugs and arrested Eric.
"It was very scary," Eric says.
But before Eric's family could get to the jail, a drug-using friend bailed Eric out. Eric's family held another meeting. They reminded him of the pending legal case. They told him that he was slowly killing himself.
Eric went back into rehab. "I started to think about what I was going to do with my life," Eric says. "I wanted to get married, have a family, get a real job. It was the first time I'd really thought about it."
The program was long and intense. Gradually, Eric started to feel good about being clean. "I was there long enough to change the way I was thinking, and see the damage I'd caused so many people," Eric says.
Selling drugs is one of Eric's many regrets. "I'm not aware that anyone ever overdosed because I gave them drugs," he says, "but it's a possibility. I'll never know. And I'll live with that forever."
Now Eric is married and has two children. Still, he never forgets that he lost a lot of time to addiction. "I have a beautiful family," he says, "but it's taken almost a decade to catch up in life."
Eric has turned his regret into action. He is a trained addiction specialist, helping others get clean.
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