Young users show wisdom beyond their years


At Trilogy Recovery Community, to quote poet Robert Frost, we “go to school the youth to learn the future.”

We sit in circles, where everyone is equal, and talk (but mostly listen) to young people who are struggling with alcohol and other drug problems.

As the weeks pass, they learn to trust us and they begin to open up to us. Trust is a process that can take weeks, months, even years.

But we are patient because we know that young people need time and compassion for trust to develop and take hold.

They are wise, these kids. They’ve experienced too much, too fast. Most of them wish they had never started drinking or using other drugs. They want to quit, but it’s a battle they often lose.

“I felt ripped in two,” a 16-year-old said when he relapsed after staying clean for three months. “I wanted to use and I didn’t want to use. I needed to use, and I hated myself for needing it so much.”

Telling their stories helps them put words to their pain and confusion. But even more important, it seems, is listening to other people’s stories. Because then they know they are not alone.

Recently we asked them this question: “What advice would you give to an 11- or 12-year-old who is just starting to use drugs?”

Here are their answers, offered freely and willingly with the hope that their words might make a difference in someone else’s life.

Stop now before it gets too hard to quit. Don’t do drugs, it messes up your whole life.

The drugs take friends and family, and you’ll end up dead, in prison or on the streets, and they waste your money.

If you stop now you’re going to look back 10 years from now and be glad you stopped and not regret it. It just ain’t worth it in the end.

I would tell them my life story and talk about how it has affected my life and hope it would change their mind on what they are doing.

I would say don’t do it, it ruins your life. You will do what you want but if I were you, I’d take my advice.

I would tell them to research what it’s doing to him/her because I can’t just tell them to not do it, that would be hypocritical.

I would tell them that it does feel good and all your friends do it, but after a while it’s gonna affect you in the long term because it will make your grades go down, you can get in trouble with the law, and drugs can kill you. So don’t use any drugs.

I would highly recommend to the child to stop using. I’d really try my best to convince them that there’s no happy outcome when you choose that kind of a lifestyle.

You’re not old enough to do drugs because you can hurt your still-developing brain and other organs.

If you get caught, you’ll deal with the law and have to go to recovery. Also, drugs will give you more struggle in school than a kid who doesn’t do any kind of drugs. They are still little kids who can do lots of other activities and enjoy their life better without drugs.

I would tell them to quit now because it will be hard to quit later. Also they could get in trouble with the law. And their grades will be bad because their brains won’t function right.

Don’t try drugs because they mess with your life. They can change the type of person you are. If you think you can get away with it, think again, the chances are 50/50.

I would tell them about some of the negative things using has done to me and all the struggles and trouble using has caused me. And I would tell them to not use and be a kid as long as possible and just play and have fun. Because once you start using, you always have to worry about getting caught by parents or police and that it’s not as fun as everyone makes it out to be and you don’t always have a good experience each time you use. You will have bad experiences using.

I’d ask, “Why are you really doing drugs?” If it is to gain some friends, you should stop NOW! You don’t know how this will affect you and how you may lose your friends, hurt your family, lose respect for others and yourself, damage your health and reduce your brain function. You will be as stupid as a bag of rocks.

Strong words from kids who speak with the wisdom of experience.

Kathy Ketcham is the co-author of 14 books and co-founder of Trilogy Recovery Community. Email her at For more information, go to


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