Substance abuse seminar plays to empty house

They looked like any other high school students, but the four teenagers scheduled to speak at Douglas High School Wednesday night were there to recount their journey into - and out of - substance abuse.

The young speakers, who had all abused methamphetamine, alcohol, cocaine and other drugs, freely volunteered advice to parents on how to detect the warning signs of a child slipping into a life of abuse.

Unfortunately, no parents were there to hear it.

Douglas High School presented "Signs and Symptoms of Substance Abuse," Wednesday night.

The teens, now in recovery, took turns telling their personal stories on what it took to get clear of drugs. They wanted to let adults know why children start using drugs and give suggestions on deterrents so they never start.

Douglas counselor Dori Draper said that parents have to open their eyes to what their children are doing.

"Parents don't want to believe their kids are using," she said.

Samantha Calvillo, 16, said she was there to help people who don't believe. She said parents need to be nosy.

"Parents have to be willing to see the real deal of what's going on," Calvillo said. "This is the real deal."

"My mom was oblivious," said Jamie Bitetto, a junior at Douglas. "I don't know why a parent wouldn't know. That's why I'm here."

Investigator Rory Planeta from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office was on hand to give parents information. Draper organized the group.

Even with just the investigator, counselor, Douglas Vice Principal Becky Rugger, Drug Use Is Life Abuse founder Harold Willard and two members of the press in attendance, the youth panel found the positive side of speaking out about drugs.

"Everything happens for a reason," said Kat Rempt, 17. "I'm here to help people who haven't used yet. There's hope. It was easier for me to get off drugs knowing my friends did."

Douglas High School junior Jamie Bitetto started with marijuana and within a year was drinking and using methamphetamine. She is one of the few people who have stopped using drugs without going through rehabilitation.

"(Doing drugs) was the fun thing to do," said Bitetto. "But I overdosed the second time I shot up. The doctors told my parents I shouldn't have been alive. It became clear to me then. I'm done (with drugs) because I lived through it and became a Christian and moved away from my friends - I had to get away from the familiar."

The young people suggested that giving students information on the ingredients of methamphetamine - propane, battery acid and other dangerous chemicals - is not a deterrent.

"It's a prevention tool to know, but if you try it and get high, you don't care what's in it," said Cheyne Davidson, 19.

"I knew it but it didn't stop me," said Rempt. "I only cared about getting high."

Rempt suggested that a harsher first punishment might have kept her from getting deeper into drugs.

"Catch them the first time and give a harsh punishment," she said. "I used X (Ecstasy) everyday for a week, but the first time I got caught, I got slapped on the wrist."

"The first time I got caught, I had run away," said Bitetto. "When I came home, the cops yelled at me for an hour. I was so high but they just left."

Both Rempt and Davidson had several trips to rehab but it took jail to wake them up about the paths their lives were taking.

"While I was in rehab, about 75 percent of the time I was thinking, 'I'm getting out and I'm getting high,'" Rempt said. "But while I was sitting in jail because I wouldn't rat on my friends, I started thinking that I could have died and where were my 'friends' now?"

"I got sent to rehab and I got out," said Davidson. "I finally got arrested for sitting on someone's car. Then they found my stash.

"In jail, I had no freedom. In jail, all my money was nothing. There was no hope, no purpose. I was bawling my eyes out and I called out and I realized God existed," he said.

Harold Willard said he was impressed by the young peoples' attitudes.

"My first impression was that these are great kids, nice personalities," said Willard. "I thought you were student leaders. I'm surprised you're all recovering."

"You should have seen me seven months ago," said Rempt.


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