Jim Marshall gets a little more choked up every time he tells his story, one which tugs the heart strings.
Marshall, a track and field coach at Westminster College in Jefferson City, tells his story to schools all over the state. Last month, he spoke to the students at El Dorado Springs schools.
It’s not an easy story to tell. It’s about his son Cody, and how he died of a drug overdose. His son started out taking unprescribed prescription medications like Xanex, then started going up the food chain of drugs and started using K-2 (synthetic marijuana) and eventually heroin.
Cody did anything to get his fix, even if he had to steal money from his parents or pilfer electronics from his aunt, so he could get the drugs to feed his addiction. One night, when Cody overdosed, his friends did not take him to the hospital. They just laid Cody in his living room, just for Jim and his wife to find him dead.
Now that Cody is gone, his friends wish they would have said something to Jim, so it might have prevented Cody’s death. That’s why anytime Jim is the guest speaker at any school, one of the main points he hammers home is, “If you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” His goal is to get students to not just avoid using drugs, he wants to get everyone to get their friends and family members to stop even if it means telling someone of authority about it.
“If you know your friends are getting into bad stuff like that, don’t be afraid to go to their parents or snitch on them about it,” El Do senior Kaitlin Robison said reciting the principles Jim touched on. “Don’t think of it as snitching on someone, think of it as helping them.”
The issue of drug overdose is something Jim calls the invisible epidemic. It’s not an issue that is often brought up in today’s society. Not many people are aware that it’s even a problem.
“We are not talking about this as a society in America, we just shove it under the table,” El Dorado Middle School counselor Tiffany Bahr said. “When you hear of someone who robbed a bank or a convienence store, no one mentions they did it so they could get high. So in America, we are not talking about the underlying issue at hand. Drugs are a problem. The more awareness we can bring to it, the more it will be a help.”
It’s nothing to be ashamed of, Marshall said. Many people are afraid to talk about their drug problem because they are embarrassed. Communication is the key to helping someone stop.
“It’s a disease like cancer,” Jim said. “Do we judge people with cancer? We don’t see this as a disease but it is. The national disease center calls it a disease.”
These problems just don’t happen to children in poor neighborhoods, it can happen to anyone, Jim said.
“This doesn’t just happen to a kid who lives in the poor part of town on the wrong side of the tracks,” Jim said. “It happens to good kids who get straight As and live in a good home.”
The statistics Jim brings up on drug overdoses are startling. Every 19 minutes, a teenager dies of a drug overdose. Once someone is addicted to drugs, they have a 12 percent chance of recovering. From the firefighters Jim has spoken to, they say they have three calls regarding drug overdoses to every fire they fight.
“Most people don’t know about these things,” Jim said. “I didn’t know about it before. Kids I have taught for 30 years didn’t know people were dying like this or getting that addicted. I think every student I talk to knows 10 times more about drugs than they did coming in.”
Those statistics caught the students’ attention, and so did the story about Cody. At El Dorado Springs middle and high school, many students cried, knowing they have a family member or a friend who has the same problem. It really hit home for a lot of students. Overall, Jim’s speech was effective.
“This wasn’t a cheesy program or anything,” El Dorado High School counselor Shayne Thompson said. “It wasn’t just someone talking at them telling them what to do. They actually got to hear someone’s real story. That really reaches to your core because you could feel the emotion behind his voice.”
His story even motivated high school student Janel Brown to act.
“I am going to talk to my friends even more about this issue,” Brown said. “A lot of my friends do it, and they know I don’t like it. I am going to try and get them to stop.”
Even though Jim gets emotional, and his story reminds him of darker times, to him it is all worth it.
“I always tell them, ‘If one of you walk out of here and stop doing it, or one of you stops a friend or relative, or if this helped one of you prevent trying drugs in the future, then it was worth driving the 150 miles,” Jim said.