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Students Hear Real Life Stories of Substance Abuse

“You could hear a pin drop”

…this morning during school assemblies at Oakridge Middle School and Oakridge High School.  Students were practically silent as they listened with undivided attention to stories from former drug addicts and rehabilitated inmates.  The Alliance for Marijuana Prevention Coalition (AMP), a subcommittee of the Coalition for a Drug-Free Muskegon (DFC), hosted their ninth forum called “Shattering the Myths”.  Students were joined by Fresh Coast Alliance and members of AMP in the auditorium to hear real-life stories of individuals that made negative choices, which led them down a road of substance use addiction and eventually incarceration. Click here to read about the speakers.

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Nate Johnson (pictured above in black and white), Re-entry and Outreach Director at Fresh Coast Alliance, stated, “The biggest myth of all is that the negative choices we make today will not affect us later on in life. At this forum, we can attest to that. We are the result of the choices we made when we were younger, and how those choices have affected us today. In my experience, dabbling with drugs and then selling drugs up until the time I went to prison, I have never met a crack addict, heroin addict, meth addict–whatever addict–that didn’t first start smoking marijuana,” stated Johnson.


The Shattering the Myths forums have taken place in schools across the county.  Oakridge Superintendent Tom Livezey said, “When Muskegon County Prosecutor DJ Hilson called me to ask if Oakridge would be interested in hosting this event, I immediately accepted the opportunity.  These are relevant stories that have a dramatic impact on students who, too often, are put in situations to make life-altering decisions.”


Lt. Brandon Poel of Norton Shores Police Department and Chair of AMP stated, “Choices, good or bad, we still have to deal with the consequences.  These speakers have all made negative choices and continue having to deal with these consequences. Their stories are real, they are “edge-of-your-seat” riveting. Now, they are on a mission to give back to their community in a positive way. Help us teach our children to make positive life choices.”

AMP is encouraging parents to talk to their kids about substance use. “The sooner parents talk to their kids about drug use, the better,” said Lt Poel,  “Parents who don’t know how to start the conversation can visit talksooner.org, or download the free app filled with tips and resources,” he added.

Meanwhile, in the 2018 MiPHY survey of Muskegon County teens, only 41% think marijuana use is risky; 48% report it would be easy or very easy to get marijuana, and 16% say they have used marijuana in the past 30 days. Alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana remain to be the highest used substances among youth, and 12 to 13 years old are when students say they are trying or experimenting with substances. MiPHY is short for the Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth survey issued by the Michigan Department of Education.

For answers to questions about this event, please contact the Health Project, Community Benefit Ministry of Mercy Health, at 231-672-3201. For help with a substance abuse problem, please contact HealthWest at 231-720-3200.

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