Joe – P.E.A.S.E. Academy Senior

Joe was 9-years-old when he started smoking marijuana, cigarettes and drinking alcohol, driven by a desire to ease the pain and sadness of his life. “I wanted to feel the joy I felt when I was four or five years old. I felt truly happy on weed, and alcohol numbed my trauma and made me feel nothing.”

Growing up with an alcoholic mom wasn’t easy. She repeatedly mixed drinking with driving, while Joe and his half-siblings were in the car and Joe remembers that she was always drunk. She was also in and out of prison. The first time his mother was sentenced, the kids went to live with Joe’s dad, who was overwhelmed by caring for three children in a small apartment and he became verbally and physically abusive. Joe’s mom was released from prison and took Joe and his brother and sister back part-time, but the drinking continued. She was sentenced again, and this time she took her children to live with their grandmother in South Dakota, without Joe’s dad’s knowledge.

On the reservation where his grandma lived in South Dakota, Joe was introduced to more drugs by his brother and sister’s biological dad, who was an addict. He eventually moved back to Minnesota with his dad, which was safer, but sad, driving him to the liquor cabinet and more drinking. Joe says, “I had lost my entire childhood and my brother and sister.”

By the time Joe entered 7th grade, he had pretty much given up. He was getting D’s and F’s in school, had bad personal hygiene, and was bullied by students. He hadn’t seen his mom in years and was feeling down. His dad pushed him to improve, and his relationship with his dad was better, so he stopped drinking and smoking weed. Joe said, “I knew it was wrong and didn’t want my family to be disappointed in me.” At this point, he redirected his addition from marijuana and alcohol to video games and food.

When Joe got to high school, he didn’t care about anything. He had gained weight, and he missed drugs, so he started drinking again, bought weed and got high before and after school. He cut himself off from friends who didn’t want to do drugs. “I was a stoner in 10th and 11th grade and finally got caught smoking weed in school and was referred for a chemical assessment at Hazelden, said Joe. “I lied through it and was recommended to outpatient care. I was never willing to get sober, but I was forced into treatment and relapsed. The worst thing was, I was drinking and driving, like my mom.” That was the turning point. Feeling miserable and ashamed, Joe began his road to recovery. Knowing how hard it was to go back to regular high school, he entered P.E.A.S.E. Academy, where he found support. “I love P.E.A.S.E. because I can count on the people here,” says Joe. We’ve all done our drugs, we’re in recovery, and relating on a deeper level. We are building deep relationships.”

Now, Joe has a great relationship with his half-brother and sister, and his dad, who he has loved throughout their struggles. He’s also happy to have three nephews. He plans to attend Minneapolis Community Technical College and then head to college to become a licensed alcohol and drug counselor (LADC).