Denver's done a fantastic job of making itself one of the most desirable places to live in the country--but that doesn't mean it's all bluebird skies, puppies playing in the park, and powder days. Scratch beneath the shiny, happy surface of the Mile High City, and you might be surprised what you find.
David, Student, University of Denver
As told to Daliah Singer
During high school I went to rehab three different times, including a lockdown facility in Utah for 10 months. But I usually was using soon after I got released. By the time I was ready for college, I’d switched from cocaine to meth because I’d decided coke was my problem. Even with all that, I was a model student at a therapeutic college prep school, and I decided to go to DU after I graduated.
I started classes and everything was great, but then I ran out of the meth I’d brought to school, so I went home on a weekend to buy a bunch more. People think it’s a white trash drug, but I’ve never met anybody [who does it] who lives in a trailer. When I was dealing later on, I sold to soccer moms, real estate agents, and doctors.
During my freshman year, I finally came clean to my parents, so we got a medical stop-out from the university. I told the doctors at DU that I was coming down off meth, but they weren't much help. So I turned into a stoner. Weed was everywhere at DU, and I also did mushrooms and I drank a lot, like a normal college student.
By then my parents told me to either stop doing drugs or get out of their house, so I said, “Fuck you,” and left. For a while I lived on the streets in San Jose, California. Then I bounced in and out of rehab clinics in Utah. But I’d always relapse, and eventually I started dealing meth.
One night I got a call for drugs. I went to a house, and three guys with automatic weapons came out, put the guns to my head and took everything from my car. Then one guy put me in the passenger seat, got into the driver’s seat, aimed the gun at my head, and drove away.
He started shooting the gun outside my window. Then he put it to my leg and it jammed, which sounds like bullshit, but it’s not. We drove up into the hills of Utah, and I thought, “This is where I’m gonna die.” Then he sexually assaulted me. He broke my nose and my jaw before he just walked away.
I went to rehab again, but I only stayed for six days. I stayed high for another six months. The last month I got high I just would cry with a pipe in my mouth. The loneliness and the utter fucking disgust that I felt was so beyond what I could explain.
I decided to go to [rehab in] Houston. I weigh 140 pounds now, and I’m 5 feet 10 inches. When I got sober this very last time, I weighed 92 pounds. I was there for 60 days, and it was amazing. When it came time to plan my aftercare, I decided to return to Denver. I got a sponsor and took his suggestions like my life depended on it, because it did.
After a year of Cocaine Anonymous, I went back to DU. Staying sober in Denver is very different than staying sober elsewhere. There are 50 or 60 meetings a week; everybody knows everybody. I could call anybody I’ve ever met in a meeting at three in the morning and they would be there for me.
Fun things happen in Denver. Sober things. I started going to all sorts of clubs and festivals and just fun shit I could do sober. I never realized I could live such a cool life and remember it the next day. Denver opened up that life for me.
Sobriety for me today is so cool. My sobriety date was August 15, 2007, and today I’m sponsoring four people, doing well in school, and I own a computer services business. My life is so full now. I have no desire to get high. My parents are my best friends who support me as long as I’m helping my life. I pray in the morning and at night, and when it’s a bad day I pray 300 times in between. That’s what keeps me sober.