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Former drug users share their stories with students at DeKalb High School

DeKALB – Jessica White was 13 when drugs entered her life.

The 26-year-old DeKalb woman said she found herself living an unstable life with her family. Both of her parents were addicted to drugs, and her father eventually committed suicide, she said.

She grew up with drugs and alcohol, and she thought it was normal. She found the lifestyle of the people who did drugs glamorous since they did whatever they wanted.

“I just remember high school, and it being a very hard time for me, and not having any guidance or direction as to where to go,” White said. “And I turned to drugs and alcohol as an outlet.”

That lifestyle almost killed her, she said. She spent more than two years with the DeKalb County Drug Court program to overcome her addiction. White will graduate in June and resolve her pending criminal court cases. But first she wants to help others as a way of thanking the program for giving her a chance after several relapses.

White and four other members of Choosing Life and Ending Abuse Now Slate Alumni Association shared their stories with students Friday at DeKalb High School. Drug Court coordinator Marilyn Stromborg was excited to talk to the students at a time when drug busts are happening in DeKalb County, she said.

Joshua Walker, 31, an officer for the alumni association, spoke to the students about his own life with drugs and crime. He said he came from a fairly decent home but that didn’t prevent his life from taking a downturn.

“So don’t discriminate on anybody out there,” Walker said. “This could happen to anybody out there.”

Walker said drugs and alcohol only affected him when he consumed them. The real problems that led to his addiction were internal. Students in high school face many pressures that could lead to drugs, like the pressure for success or popularity, he said.

After going through the drug court program, Walker achieved sobriety and maintained it for the past two years. This was the longest time he’s been sober since he was 15, he said. A student asked him if he was afraid of relapsing into addiction again.

“It’s a scary thing,” Walker said. “I’m afraid of it, but I have no desire to go back.”

Tamra Ropeter, DeKalb High School principal, said the alumni have a lot of courage to talk about their past with the students.

White said she wonders how her life would have ended up if she had someone to visit her in high school to warn about using drugs to cope with persona problems.

“I can’t say for sure but I would have thought about it a little differently,” White said.

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