Program Gives At-Risk Teens Guidance From Former Drug Addict

Program Gives At-Risk Teens Guidance From Former Drug Addict

Anum Valliani
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - Stories of despair and heartache are common with addiction, but sometimes there's light at the end of the tunnel - even if it's a really long one.

The Palmer Drug Abuse Program (PDAP) has coordinated a program called 'XY Zone' that helps high school boys who could be headed down that destructive path.

Although the program has been around for a few years, this is the first time 'XY Zone' is being offered at both Midland High and Midland Lee. Interestingly enough, what seems to work for the program is that one of the interventionists for 'XY Zone,' is a drug addict who became a counselor who, "has been there, done that" and seems to know just how to help.

Chad Smalls might be the go to guy for at risk teenage boys but he used to be one of them.

"I never wanted to sober up because I enslaved myself to drugs and alcohol in the pursuit of fun and in the pursuit of freedom," Smalls said.

But over time, Smalls realized all the booze, cocaine and pills were more of a trap.

"At the lowest point, it was an absolute and total hell," he recalled. "Everything in life was about not hurting as bad as I did physically and mentally and nothing worked."

He says that people don't tend to realize just how bad it is until it's too late.

"There were lots of suicidal thoughts. There was a lot of, "God, let me die," and I really wanted to die. But my body didn't seem to want to give up," he said.

So Smalls entered a 12 step program and has been sober since 2010. Still, he has some permanent effects.

He described how he has some brain damage. "You can't be gone that long and expect all the parts to come home," he said.

But since sobering up, he said he has found his life-calling by mentoring those who might be headed down that same path, starting with boys that high school teachers and administrators refer to the program.

"By the time they've gone through the court system or they've gotten in trouble with the family or whatever and they come here, a lot of times they've already got their story built up and got all these defensive walls put up," Smalls said.

So what Smalls does is push right through from the get go; he ambushes them. He said dragging them out of class one-on-one gives them a chance to be in their natural environment, away from all the causes that would lead to them putting up those walls. That method has helped him help hundreds of people in his more than three years on the job.

"You'll see the lights just like come on. Literally, you'll see the lights come on. They have this spiritual awakening. And you see them grow and blossom," Smalls said.

Seeking treatment at PDAP is completely free. Currently, the center is trying to bring in a similar program for high school girls.