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Rachel Pond, Fargo, Published January 12 2013

Letter: From all-star to addict

Now a college graduate, I look back and see how walking through the doors of high school my freshman year had changed me, as well as others around me. I can see the differences in our pictures from one year to the next. But emotionally, what path had the pressures of high school led us to?

Growing up, I had a best friend with whom I did everything. We both shared a passion for basketball and would play together every night. Some nights I remember, the ball would bounce until dark and we could no longer see the hoop. He taught me how to play defense as I helped him to improve his offensive game. As time flew by, we continued to increase our time spent on the court and his abilities seemed to skyrocket. He soon became the starting point-guard on his basketball team.

I, too, shared hopes in pursuing basketball. Coaches began to recognize his talent and work ethic while girls began noticing him as well for different reasons of course. Being a year younger, I soon realized he filled the shoes of the typical hot and older neighbor boy. He had a heart of gold and stole other hearts along the way. He was popular with a large group of friends through junior high, leading into high school. The red carpet was laid out before him; he was going to be somebody. Then his life took a spin for the worse.

Freshman year, he began opening up to the wrong crowds of people; they accepted him with open arms. Soon he entered an unhealthy relationship with a girl who would eventually tear his heart to pieces. Letting his basketball passions slip away, the influence of drugs and alcohol had become his new hobby. My best friend had entered a world I still do not understand to this day.

I often wonder if victims realize they are setting themselves up for failure – hurting loved ones who have ever cared about them along the way. Is it worth it?

Because of drugs, obstacles arose for my friend. Arguments among him and his family members became common, leading to more problematic situations and an unstable home life. He was kicked out of his house and forced to live with a friend. He accumulated court dates and probation periods. His grades fell, and he was left with no choice but to transfer to an alternative school to meet graduation requirements.

He struggles under the influence today, but he has set new goals for himself. He is stepping into a new future; albeit one with less promise. To this day I still hold him close in my heart; our relationship is strong despite difficult times.

Do the pressures of high school cause young adults to make bad decisions? I know I’ve been asked to try the substances that captured my best friend, and I’ve never wanted to hear the sound of the basketball bounce more, than I do each time I hear his name. How could such skill be washed away?

I wish all teenage users would see what consequences are ahead, and replace addictions with healthy habits. Basketball is one of many extracurricular activities, and perhaps if he would have held on longer, he might have occupied his time in a less harmful way.

My best friend was one of many curious high school students to subject themselves to these substances. Without doubt, I can resist influences that engulf his world today, but why are others not so lucky?