By Kenneth Crenshaw Jr. / Sports Editor
Michael DeLeon presented a speech and PowerPoint discussing drugs, nicotine, alcohol, and the long-lasting effects that come from drug abuse as part of a Steered Straight event sponsored by Missouri Valley College’s Office of Student Activities on Tuesday.
In his presentation, DeLeon discussed his personal experiences battling multiple addictions and even shared the consequences that followed his actions. DeLeon detailed what led him to addiction and dispelled the glamor that social media paints when it comes to drugs.
DeLeon placed a particular emphasis on nicotine, marijuana, and alcohol. These three are often discussed passively and are regarded as harmless. College students express their feelings of depression and feel tremendous pressure from outside. Influences come from all over the world, our friends, our music, and all over our cell phones. I paid attention to his discoveries. Nicotine pods are close to smoking 3 full packs of cigarettes. These pods are full of concentrated nicotine and flavored to market our youth. Marijuana is labeled as harmless, however, studies have shown differently. The amount of THC has a tremendous jump in potency which has been linked to psychosis as well as triggering anxiousness in the mind. DeLeon shared his story to prove the true effects of what we do.
DeLeon began his story by discussing the conditions of his early childhood. He explained his home life was ideal and said he was the happiest kid in the world. He talked about growing up as one of the poorest kids in the neighborhood. DeLeon never missed a day of school. His perfect attendance was motivated by a guaranteed breakfast and lunch provided at school. Luxuries like fresh school clothes and shoes weren’t afforded to him.
Luckily he had friends of the family who passed down clothes and assisted him with things his family couldn’t provide. The first real pivotal moment in his life was when his parents had divorced due to unhappiness in their relationship. DeLeon was barely able to spend time with his father because he was away working for days. His father’s permanent departure really created a void in his heart.
DeLeon said he started to internalize these feelings as a young boy. At age 11, he began to isolate and suppress what he was feeling because he was not comfortable addressing this pain. DeLeon was finally able to open up to a counselor after a long time neglecting these feelings. Unfortunately, this counselor sexually assaulted DeLeon and 7 other kids who had gone to this counselor. This set him back even further. He no longer trusted the “professional” help he sought after.
DeLeon didn’t tell anyone about his issues except his childhood friend Jimmy. Jimmy was 6 years older than him and was in trouble with the law. Other kids in the neighborhood looked up to him because of his rebellious behavior and free spirit. Jimmy noticed DeLeon was always down and he finally opened up to Jimmy about the assault.
Jimmy did what he felt would work best: he offered Michael drugs and alcohol to help distract him from the pain he faced. Soon DeLeon would consistently drink and smoke with the older crowd of friends. He was completely unaware of how it would change his life.
By age 19, DeLeon was a full-blown heroin addict. He still carried the same issues that he had run from as a child. The new issues came from gang affiliation and the consistent use of hard drugs.
DeLeon shared a story about a drug deal gone bad that led to two of his gang affiliates being killed. One of them was the younger brother of one of the head powers of the gang. The guy in charge had sent out a message to kill DeLeon in order to get revenge for the death of his younger brother.
DeLeon was told ahead of time that people were looking for him and he safely fled town. He had returned home after the tension had gone down to find his 68-year-old mother killed. They were looking for him. DeLeon then went to prison and expressed finally having a sober mind. He was really excelling forward and improving himself. DeLeon was released from prison and reunited with his wife. He expressed his love and appreciation for her never turning her back on him.
DeLeon had gotten into a really bad car accident and his neck injury left him with tremendous pain. He had received medicine that took the pain away however he gained a dependence to drugs again and became an addict all over again. This led him to prison again!
This time around he had established himself on Beyond Scared Straight. The show was based in his prison that brought that troubled youth to jail to scare them back to productive lives. DeLeon said he grew to hate that job because he felt it never really did anything. Once he had served his total of 12 years he set out to achieve his promise of changing kids’ lives.
DeLeon interviewed and documented over 10,700 interviews with drug addicts all over the world. He used the film and data collected to produce several movies that explained the harmful effects of drug abuse. As he explained the details of his work, he would mention so many of the people he would encounter died soon after. He understood that there was far too much work to help the victim of addiction once it was too far.
DeLeon used the data to interpret where leading causes of addicts everywhere in the US. Michael found that 91% of the people he had interviewed were smoking and drinking by the age of 18. This led young adults to have altered brain development and a dependency on drugs to operate in their lives.