‘Billboard’ for poor choices
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
When John Martin was a kid, his dad was an alcoholic and his older brother was a bad influence.
He was headed down the same road. Drugs and alcohol seems like the best choice to self-medicate his own emotional distress.
“I wanted to escape the pain,” Martin said.
Situated in the St. Louis region, Martin co-hosts a radio show, Reality Check Nation, with his friend, Sean Mulroney. Their program attempts to empower teens by talking about issues such as substance abuse and violence.
The two men perform at assemblies across the nation and appeared at Jefferson City High School on Tuesday.
They hope — by sharing the consequences that come with abusing drugs and alcohol — to persuade teens to live a clean life.
“We’re not here to preach ‘don’t, don’t, don’t.’ But if you do use, you better figure out what the consequences might be,” Martin told the student body.
Mulroney was only 6 years old when he became a virtual “test pilot” for what kinds of drugs a person could ingest and still survive. Today, his health is poor, a fact he contributes to bad decisions he made as a younger person. Obese, it’s a struggle for Mulroney to walk even a few feet.
“If you want to drink, do drugs, drink and drive, that’s your choice,” Mulroney said. “You already know it’s bad.”
Only 43 years old, Mulroney said he hopes his life will be a cautionary tale for how not to live. “I’m a billboard,” he said.
Mulroney tried to make the case that not only do the people who abuse drugs and alcohol face negative consequences — prison, poverty, poor health and even death — they also harm other people.
Mulroney brought a high school classmate, Vern Pflugh, with him to further illustrate the disastrous consequences of unchecked partying.
Pflugh admitted his life became a cycle of drinking, drugging and partying before it all fell apart. When he skipped a court hearing and failed to pay child support for a son born out of wedlock, he was sent to jail.
“When you have to smuggle a piece of bread so your life could be better … it’s something to think about,” he said. “My bad decisions caught up with me. I made a mess of my life.”
The men also attempted to appeal to the consciences of the teen audience by sharing the tragic story of Jacqui Saburido, a burn victim horribly disfigured in a head-on collision with a drunken driver.
“The choice is yours, but not the consequences,” Mulroney said.
Tre’von Johnson, a 17-year-old sophomore at Jefferson City High School, said the message resonated with him.
“I saw me in what they were saying,” he said.
Johnson was 13 when he tried marijuana for the first time while living with his dad in St. Louis. Soon he was smoking it before and after school and on weekends. He was hanging out with older step siblings who were no good for him. He was drinking, too. And he tried pills.
“My grades were terrible,” he said.
Lucky for Johnson, his older sister and her husband took him into their household in Jefferson City. They served as his mentors and helped him care about his grades.
Today, he’s not only trying to improve his own life, he wants to be a role model for his sisters.
Johnson said his life has improved since his decision not to do drugs and alcohol. He hopes to serve in the U.S. Marines and be a police officer someday.
“Maybe I will even start my own security company,” he said.
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