A Columbus man hopes his story of substance use will help others on the road to recovery.
Brian Hall said he was 14 years old the first time someone offered him heroin. They called it "smack." He didn't know what it was.
"I said, 'Sure, let me get some!' Before I knew it, the guy had my arm extended and he was skin-popping me, which is just taking the needle and injecting into your arm," Hall said. "It developed into something far greater. I actually didn't know what I was getting into."
Hall described drugs like fire. He became engulfed.
"Every day I tried it again. About the third time, I took a liking to it because it seemed to allow me to block out the problems that persisted," he said.
Still, he managed to get satisfactory grades in school and excel in sports. However, people around him were noticing he was not OK.
"A promising career went down the drain," Hall said. "There were about 40 colleges that were interested in me for football, but I was told by my coach at the time that he wouldn't recommend me to his worst enemy because he saw I had gone astray and was in a bad way. As a matter of fact, on the day I graduated, I was so high on cough syrup that I couldn't even see. My parents were standing next to me looking at me like, 'Brian, how could you?'"
Hall went on to attend college at Youngstown State University. The drugs followed him.
"I played first-string as a freshman in college, but I was still dipping and dabbing in drugs after practice and after classes. Eventually, after one year, I just went back into the streets and left school," he said.
At this point, Hall said his mistakes were catching up with him. He ended up serving about 72 days in prison.
"I know where drugs will take you. The things they will make you do," he said. "[It came] at the expense of a 26-year marriage and six sons. I tore it up. I alienated myself and estranged myself from my family."
However, on April 26, 2001, Hall entered a new chapter in his story. He found help for his addiction in Columbus and finally put down the drugs for the last time.
"Something happened spiritually to me," he said. "I just started to appreciate life and recognize God loved me, people loved me, and I had a responsibility to do the things I needed to do to maintain my sobriety."
Hall now serves as a community outreach coordinator at PrimaryOne Health. He connects those in the chains of addiction to the resources they need.
"It's been a rough life, but I do believe it's a purposeful life because, in my pain, I developed a passion [and] in that passion, became a purpose," he said.
Hall said it's important to know there is help available. You just have to take that first step.
"If you do your part, there are people in the City of Columbus who will help you - that will come to your aid and walk with you every step of the way. Next thing you know, one week has turned into two, two into a month, a month into a year, and you say I got six months clean. I got one year clean. And you don't have to go back."
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