From Pot to Heroin to Jail Time – An 18-Year-Old Speaks of his Downward Spiral with Drugs
Aug 31st, 2009 by Liza Wiemer


I Hope You Can Learn Something From My Story

By Ben Coplin, age 18


A Heroin User

A Heroin User

My downward spiral started when I was fourteen.  I had been in and out of ten different school settings since 3rd grade for being oppositional with teachers, not doing the work, and distracting other students from learning.  Having ADHD didn’t help.  What led up to my downward spiral was sixteen months of hell at a place that was supposed to be a therapeutic boarding school (a school for troubled teens).  I was thirteen and placed in a group of fifteen to eighteen year olds.  I was the scapegoat and was mentally abused constantly. I also got the  x@##@!!  kicked out of me and was physically punished for things I often did not do.  Don’t get me wrong, I was not an angel.


I graduated from the boarding school program and came home around the time I turned fifteen.  I smoked pot a week after I got home.  It was the best stress reliever ever and that was when I fell in love with “Mary Jane.”  (Mary Jane is another name for pot.)  I smoked before school, during school, after school, and before I would go to sleep.  I would wake up at night, take a piss, and take a hit to fall back to sleep.  


I used pot to escape from my awful memories of boarding school.  I started hanging out with a different group of kids and began using a lot of LSD to see how far from earth I could get, if that makes sense. I liked seeing the parallel universe.


When I was almost sixteen I was put on juvenile probation for resisting arrest.  I was eating valium like candy and drinking way too much.  I don’t remember much besides walking down icy stairs and two cops falling on top of me.   Because I was on probation I had to go for drug tests.  (Failing a test meant finishing off my sentence.) I started using oxycontin because I felt the need to escape from myself.  Oxy doesn’t stay in the system as long as pot,  so I got away with passing a few drugs tests.  But not for too long.  I spent two weeks in juvenille detention.  I kept having bad dreams about my boarding school experience; it still haunts me today.  Oxy soon turned into sticking a needle in my arm three times a day or more.  I would shoot up  oxy, morphine, and heroin every day.  I not only became addicted to opiates, but addicted to the needle.  I loved the thrill of the process of getting high.  It was a sad existence.  Heroin was my new escape; it was like the warmest blanket on the coldest day….


I started missing school to get heroin.   Everything in my life revolved around it.  My group of friends eventually were only opiate users.  I tried to hide my problem from everyone else because I was so embarrassed.  I sold drugs to support my habit and soon realized I was a junkie.  


I’m writing this dressed in an orange jumpsuit, using a flexible pen while sitting on a three inch thick mat that I would not even call a mattress.  It has a built-in pillow.


Kids, I am now facing 16 1/2  years for selling drugs just to support my habit.  I’ll leave you with these words to wrap your mind around. Because of my drug use I lost relationships with my family to the point where there were none.  I was overdosing and nearly dying two times a month.  I would get so dope-sick I could not get out of bed.  I would lie all the time to cover up my addiction.  I thank my Mom for saving me.  She turned a needle in to my Probation Officer the day before my eighteenth birthday (early June, 2009).  If she didn’t I don’t think I would even be writing this, as a matter of fact I’m sure of it.


Note from Liza Wiemer:  I have changed Ben’s name.  I have known Ben since he was three years old.  He’s been more fortunate than most kids in this situation.  He has loving parents who have done everything they could think of (and then some) to help him.  The mom is one of the strongest, most courageous, most incredible human beings I know.  Most people would think that Ben came from a messed up family – but he didn’t.  He made poor choice, after poor choice, after poor choice despite hundreds of opportunities from loving adults (numerous professionals) who wanted to help him.  Ben has many amazing qualities, is very likable, and kind when he’s not on drugs.  He is still so young.  Can a person receive a 101 chances, 102, 103?  We hope so.  Your comments on Ben’s honest and heartfelt perspective would be deeply appreciated – encouragement too.  So, please take a few minutes and let him know what you think.  

Words of Wisdom for my (any) College Student
Aug 27th, 2009 by Liza Wiemer

Another thing to cherish - photograph beautiful things, capture memories through art.

Another thing to cherish - photograph beautiful things, capture memories.

Where have the last eighteen years gone? At 5:07 A.M. this morning I sat at our kitchen table going through iphone apps when my son asked me if I had any last minute Words of Wisdom before he left for Boston University. At that moment, I had none.
“Are you going to keep looking at that iphone?” he asked.
“It’s a distraction,” I said. “Plus you’ve taken care of everything with my phone.”
“That’s just one thing you’re going to miss about having me around,” he said. And he’s right. He also wanted to know where my tears were. They were there, I just didn’t want to show them because inside I was a mess and I’m not big on teary good-byes.
So since he asked, I’m going to try and deliver those Words of Wisdom.


1. Dream HUGE. We have always said you can change the world and we meant it and mean it still. But dreams cannot come true without ACTION. You need to make them happen by setting clear goals, staying focused, working hard, and staying determined until you accomplish it. Once you do, find new dreams and make them happen.

2. Success and Failure: Life is full of both, so learn from them – they’re a part of the journey. Be excited for your successes, but keep moving forward. It’s okay to be disappointed by failures, but don’t let them hold you back for a second. Continue to put one foot in front of the other. As long as you do, you’ll be just fine – no, great. Remember the world is big enough for lots of people to be successful. Rejoice with them, admire them, and then do your own thing!

3. Promises: Your word means everything. If you tell someone you’re going to do something, then do it. If you can’t, have the courage to be honest, even if you’ve given your word. Your credibility is at stake. We all know people whose word means nothing. Don’t be like them.

4. Enjoy and Value Life (Family, Friends, and Humankind) NOT Things: There is nothing wrong with enjoying nice things, but ultimately relationships are the most important. Grandpa Jack taught us that. He had very little materially. His greatest treasures were his family and friends. Our successes were his successes, our pains – his pains. So, be tremendously successful and enjoy the rewards – but don’t put the material rewards above people. True friends are those who listen, support you, are honest but kind, and want to see you succeed too.  Be a true friend.

5. Give: Give of your time and when you start earning a living give financially too. (Even when you don’t have money, set aside at least a penny a day so that you’re thinking of those who are less fortunate than you and acting on it in a small, simple way.)  Do some work for a non-profit organization or volunteer, even if it’s an hour a month.

6. Receive: Let others give to you and be gracious about it.

7. Laugh: Dick Chudnow, our cousin and the founder of ComedySportz, once brought a giant leaf to cheer me up when I was in the hospital. He said something like, “The rest of the plant was too much to carry.” It was the best present I could have received. If life’s getting too serious, find things to laugh about.

8. There is a Mind, Body, Spirit Connection: Your outlook on life has a huge impact. You are what you think… Think negative thoughts and hold on to them, then you will become them. Attitude may not be everything, but it extremely important.

9. Surround Yourself with Mentors: Learn from others who know more than you, respect them, don’t be afraid to challenge them and ask questions – but always – always with the respect they deserve. Then you can make your own decisions.  Mentors are not just academic.  They can be individuals you admire.  I have always admired Aunt Barbara and Uncle Don – and modeled who I wanted to be as a parent after them.  Choose great role models.

10. Learning is a Lifetime Quest: You’re off to college, a new beginning in your life journey. Never stop learning and never stop asking questions or seeking answers. Keep your mind fresh and seeking new challenges. Only stop learning when you’re dead.

11. Love: A soul-mate is someone who brings out the very best in the other. Someone to grow with, learn from, trust, share the same values, hope, support, give to and receive from. Someone who has the power to hurt you because she knows where you are most vulnerable, but doesn’t do it. The same goes for you. Be flexible, be respectful. You may not always be IN love, but with respect, love will be there for you.

12. Be Forgiving: Forgive us for not always being the best parents (we’ve done our very best), and ask forgiveness when you need to. Whether you are forgiven isn’t up to you. Those people who have hurt you, forgive them. They may not ask for forgiveness first or ever, but that’s okay. Forgiveness is something that comes from within.

13. Small Things in Life are Important: Holding the door open for someone, smiling at a stranger, changing a diaper, calling a friend to say hello, saying “I love you” or “I’m thinking about you,” are all very important. These things can alter someone else’s life for the better, so value them. Making a blockbuster movie will be absolutely incredible, but no more valuable than some of the small things in life.

14. Remember Who You Are: We have a strong heritage and faith. Be proud of it, maintain it, nurture it, and respect it. Let it be your guide. Celebrate and continue to grow and have a true mentor.

15. Take Care of Your Teeth: I think Grandma Lena once said that!

Recycle, Enjoy Down Time, Meet New People, Be Kind, Be Flexible, Do Things You Love, Have Fun, Have Fun, Have Fun, Have Fun… Study, Study, Study, Study… This is the best that I can do for you right now. I reserve the right to revise this list and add to it!

Aug 9th, 2009 by Liza Wiemer

photo-1Wisdom from the Streets of San Franciscophoto

No, I’m not shy.  Yes, I actually stood on the street and asked strangers to share their best advice for young adults.  Thanks San Francisco!  Note:  The photo on the left is of actor Wylie Herman in front of Alamo Square.  The photo on the right was taken at a bus stop on Powell Street.

Actor Wylie Herman

“I took an alternate route after high school.  I chose to skip college to pursue my acting. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, because it’s risky.  But it did work for me.  I don’t have any regrets, not at all.  But there was a time when all my friends were in college doing their thing.  There was always that sense, well, should I be in college?  But, I was doing what I love to do – so why not continue doing it?  So I did.” 

“My advice is to follow your heart, follow your dreams.  Do something artistic.  Most people have some kind of artistic inclination, so follow it as far as you can.”  

In addition to acting in films, TV, and theater, Wylie Herman gives movie tours of San Francisco.  Click on this site for further information.  http://www.sanfranciscomovietours.com/ 

“Don’t get into things before you’re ready to handle them or because of peer pressure, especially sex or drugs.  You should be in control of your decisions, so ask yourself if you’re ready for the consequences.”  Richard, 39

If you’re absolutely sure you want to do something, then do it.  If you have any doubts, don’t do it.  Obviously, if you don’t want to do something, don’t do it.”  James, age 42

“Love is not what you get, but what you give.”  James, age 42

“Life is far too short for fear and all that stuff that might hold you back ’cause you feel you don’t know what you’re doing.  Guess what, not too many people know what they’re doing when they pursue their dreams.  Just do it.  I should have been afraid to move to San Francisco from the other coast.  There was nothing rational or practical about it.  My heart and soul were telling me it was the right thing to do.  It was the little voice inside saying forget the rational and just go for it.  It turned out to be the best thing I have ever done.  In the end, I met the love of my life and have been very successful.”  James, age 42

“Listen to music that speaks to you.  But know that what you listen to says a lot about you.  So, my recommendation is to listen to music that inspires you in good ways and doesn’t promote all the negative stuff in life.”  Anonymous 

“This past weekend I had some friends over for a party.  One of my friends was a regular user of GHB (Date Rape Drug) and he overdosed and died.  He was 34.  I didn’t even know that he had slipped it into his drink.  The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was meet his mother and sister at the coroner’s.  He had been a long time user of drugs.  You think that it will never happen to you.  But it can, it very well can.  My best advice is don’t start using drugs, because you don’t know if you’ll end up in my friend’s shoes.  Jimmy, age 39

My advice:  If there is something you really want to do in life, don’t let someone dissuade you from doing it.  I really wanted to move to San Francisco from England.  My mother was very unhappy about the choice and tried to get me to change my mind.  I am certain she acted that way out of love and concern.  I glad I didn’t let her pressure dissuade me from moving here.  That was eight years ago.”  Josie, age 32

“My father said, ‘The world is run by the people who show up!’  I think that was great advice.”  Jay, age 30

“My parents divorced and I lived in Canada with my mom.  I didn’t care about school and hung out with the wrong crowd.  My mother sent me to live with my father in San Francisco – and I continued with the same behavior.  I found the same types of kids here.  What did I learn from this experience?  Avoid peer pressure by following what you feel is the right thing to do.  I got caught up in the peer pressure and things didn’t change for me until after high school.  My life would have been better and much easier if I just listened to what I thought was right, instead of following the crowd.”  Brendon (City Rent-a-Car), age 27

“I didn’t get along with my parents when I was growing up. Actually, I hated them and thought they were completely full of it.  They valued education and I could have cared less.  Plus, I struggled with ADD.  My parents never lowered their expectations of me.  They wanted me to go to college and pushed me to understand that an education brings value to your life.   I ended up going to college, getting a degree in Political Science, and now I work on environmental issues.  My mother is a independent woman.  She once told me that it is important for me know who I am.   She also said do for yourself first, but don’t forget to do for others too.  I think my mom’s a wise woman.  The greatest lesson I learned was that parents often know best.  Looking back, I am so grateful that they wanted me to get an education, that they never stopped believing in me.   They were right, going to college turned out to be a great thing for me.” Kimberly, age 28

“If you have a problem in life, don’t just go to your peers for advice. Have an open mind. Don’t get locked into one opinion that you can’t hear what others have to say.  Get many different opinions and perspectives before you make up your mind.  Seek adults you can trust, people you respect – perhaps teachers, clergy, family friends, or family members.  Once you’ve heard these different opinions, you are better equipped to make a sound decision.  Remember, the best decision may not be the one you might have wanted to hear.”  Harold, age 40   

Tip for a Happy Day
Aug 5th, 2009 by Liza Wiemer

Emotional Baggage

Question for today:
What are you doing? No, I don’t mean what are you doing right now, like sitting in front of the computer. I mean what are you doing to yourself emotionally? Are you creating emotional complications when you don’t need them? Let go of those complications. Drop them like a water balloon from a second story window. Ask yourself if you really need this extra burden or if you’re creating more obstacles than you need to get through the day in a productive way?

If the answer is “yes,” then make a choice to truly stay on track with the course of your life, instead of the detours of emotional complications! Keep it simple. If you’re having a hard time pulling yourself from the muck, get clear on your goal. What is it that you want?

Examples: Are you worrying about a friend? Are you worrying about the things you need to accomplish today? Are your parents getting on your nerves? Too much emotional baggage here!

End goal –

Understand where your friend is coming from – so talk it out. Or, realize it may not be you?!

Getting things done – Make a list for things to finish today, make a list of what can be postponed and give a specific date/time when you need to accomplish it. Look at your list from time-to-time or keep it with you, check it off when you’re done with each item. Stay organized.

Parents are bugging you – decide what needs to change in a positive way – communication? Following through with a task? Explaining your point-of-view? Letting go of the issue?

Motivational Quote: Worry is a misuse of imagination. ~Dan Zadra. Dan Zadra is an authority on strategic communication. http://bit.ly/4YqQi

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