The (wording) in the Tidings shocked me: 'West Linn 18-year-old arrested with 'candy store of drugs.'' I was that 18-year-old.

I started smoking weed at 15, during my freshman year. I thought I'd just try it. As a sophomore, the doors blew wide open. I wanted to experiment with everything.

My behavior at home raised suspicions, especially with my stepdad. He had been a high school teacher and knew exactly what was going on.

My mom was in denial. She didn't want to believe it about her baby - the outstanding student with such potential. Besides, these things just didn't happen in an upscale community.

That conflict caused a lot of fights at home. Even when they found out and grounded me for four months, I went straight back to smoking just as much as before and doing mushrooms.

I started doing more drugs my junior year - acid and DMT, a powerful psychedelic. I also dealt marijuana for a while, priding myself on having the best stuff at the lowest prices. I stopped dealing before my senior year, but that didn't stop my own usage from skyrocketing. I honestly don't remember much of my senior year.

My tolerance had grown so much that I had to do more to get the same effect.

When the police busted me on Dec.1, 2010, I had such an incredible amount of drugs and paraphernalia with me, it's no wonder they said I had a 'candy store of drugs.'

I had an epiphany in jail. This is what drugs led to. This is what my life was going to be like if I continued. I knew I had to do a complete 180 and do something I was proud of. I embraced rehab, choosing back-to-back 28-day treatments. I have been clean and sober for nine months.

I think marijuana is a gateway drug - for that matter, anything is a gateway drug. Because once you've tried one, you're prone to try another.

In recovery, I challenged those who are still smoking weed to question why they're doing it. What benefit does it give them? I think marijuana is addictive - maybe not physically, but mentally. Some may say, 'Oh, it's not addictive.' Then why are they smoking it? They just can't stop.

In West Linn it's easier to get drugs than alcohol, and it's pretty easy to get alcohol. I know many West Linn kids have either tried marijuana or drinking. That doesn't mean they're continually using, but they've at least tried it.

I want kids to know they can be happy without substances. They'll be liked for who they are. Nothing bad is going to come from not using. In fact, it's going to make them better people (and) help them learn from mistakes. They'll be able to follow their dreams, without restrictions.

People like me who get treatment can go on to lead productive lives. I'm entering college this fall with a new perspective on life. I'm active on the West Linn Community Task Force and work closely with Oregon Partnership, a nonprofit that prevents substance abuse and suicide. I enjoy more open and honest communications with my folks.

It's important to me to reach out to those still struggling. They need to know that prevention works, treatment is effective and people recover.

Garrett Smith is a West Linn resident. (Editor's note: The original article titled 'West Linn High student arrested on drug possession charges' is from Dec. 2010).

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