I've lived in Virginia Beach my entire life in a family where my parents were always together. I didn't have a lot of responsibilities or do many chores or anything, and we were always financially stable, but I was always asked to perform well in school. Up to middle school I hung out with the guys in my neighborhood whom I had grown up with. I went to church maybe a couple of times when I was younger, but I have no knowledge as to why we went. I was always fidgety on the hard, wooden benches, and I hated it. I remember vaguely saying that I was a Christian, but I wasn't in any sense of the word.
When I hit high school, my parents kind of checked out. Both my sisters had gone to college, and they were a bit wilder, so I think my parents took it as an opportunity to rest and relax because they were gone. My best friend Eric got involved with the soccer team, and one of the other people I used to hang out with a lot transferred to another school, so I found myself in this new world of really trying to figure out who I was. And that freshman year of high school was rough.
My dad pushed a decent amount of money my way as his form of being able to relax his duties as a parent. So with some extra money and a lot of free time - I could stay out whenever I wanted, do whatever I wanted - I took advantage.
I settled on this group of kids who were much more crazy than I wanted to be, so to fit in I started drinking with them. But as time wore on, I didn't really feel like I was part of that group, and so later on in the year they talked about wanting to talk about smoking pot, so I thought, "Well, you know, if I could get it for them, then I could be included among the group," so I ended up finding a guy and started, in a very, very minor, low-key setting, dealing to them.
At first it was cool. But there was still this inherent disconnect among us. My new "friends" didn't care what was going on with me or how I thought about things. As time wore on, my parents had checked out - my dad got involved in a pool league and my mom went with him, and they stopped coming to my diving events. I maintained good grades, and that was all they really needed. So at the end of the year, the emptiness I felt had magnified over hurt relationships, parents who weren't really around, and this increasing problem of dependence on drugs and drinking. It turned from something that was fun at first to something that was needed for me to check out of reality.
Thankfully, at the same time a group of guys involved in Young Life (a Christian high school ministry) got involved in my life. There were roughly 40 or 50 people from my high school who went to their meetings, and I started going originally because I could get high and just hang out. As the time progressed, I started to pay a little more attention to what they were talking about. Still, everything was surface-level. My depression was growing. Toward the end of my freshman year, my parents found out I had been dealing a little bit, and of course I lied to them, and only several years later did I come clean about it. I got drug tested and somehow I passed, but the rift remained. No one knew what was going on in my life. I was popping Adderall. I took a lot of Advil. I took Benadryl to sleep. I started cutting my wrists, never really deep enough to do major damage, but enough to create another high.