by Ansley Bartlett, Publicity Chairman for The Next Generation Board of The Next Door
I was 14 when I first started hearing the word “drugs” thrown around, but I wouldn’t see the impact and toll it took on a person until my senior year of college.
It was Thanksgiving break. A high school friend and I went out for a night on the town in downtown Nashville. Not more than 15 minutes passed before two guys started hitting on us. They bought us drinks, one put his number in my phone and vice versa, and the rest is history.
A few weeks went by and I got a call from the guy from the bar; we’re going to call him Bennett. He asked what I was doing for New Year’s Eve. I had no plans and decided to tag along with him to a party. I saw a lot of “party drugs” that night; cocaine, Xanax, and ecstasy all being done right out in the open. Little did I know this would be something I would be seeing a lot more of.
Bennett and I became “official” around March of my senior year in college. I always went to visit him because he said coming to visit me in Mississippi was too much of a hassle for him. Finally, he came down for my graduation. I remember vividly one dinner where he was pouring sweat, shaky, and told us he had to go out to his car for a bit. He was out there for an hour, doing pills. He did so many pills and was so high on my graduation night that he made me drive him all the way to Memphis to buy him three more pills to make it through the rest of the weekend until he got back to Nashville on Sunday afternoon.
That was the night I realized this wasn’t normal.
That whole summer I remember doing late nights with him, riding around meeting people to do some deals. He always told me to stay in the car. A few times I saw guns pulled out in the deals—but no one was ever shot, or hurt—that I saw.
That same summer we started hanging out with a couple who had two kids. They were opioid users and dealers too. The pills they sold were called “moons” because there was a little half-moon printed on each pill. They always had thousands of dollars of cash on them and thousands of pills in every portion of their home. Their house smelled like smoke and I always felt like their kids were neglected.
I remember storming out of the house in tears one night, saying that this place was not good for kids and that I felt just like those children: neglected. My boyfriend told me he would start to act right. But you know how it goes. Words are just words if there are no actions behind it.
Instead of Bennett’s problem getting better, his pill problem got worse. After standing me up for a date, I finally got a call from his mom. He had been stopped by the police who found over 100 pills in his lap.
This incident landed him in an addiction treatment facility. I visited Bennett in rehab a few times. He was really good at manipulating me into thinking he was getting better. I started going to Nar-Anon meetings with my mom every Sunday night. It was crazy hearing about all the families that were going through drug related problems and how it was affecting them, too.
The first weekend he was out of rehab, we took a road trip to visit friends. He did cocaine right in front of me! I knew then he hadn’t changed at all—he was just trying to make everyone think he did. A master manipulator. But, I stayed with him. Soon, he started stealing money from me and others; any extra dollar he could get to keep up his habit. He stopped going to work. He stopped going out in public. He just stopped being a human that I thought I knew and once loved. It was then that I knew I couldn’t stay in this relationship.
I had lied to my parents and friends for far too long because of a boy and his crippling addiction. I still have a hard time forgiving myself because of that betrayal, but my parents ended up finding a way to forgive me and I will always be thankful for that.
Through this ordeal, I learned that I am loyal to a fault. I am stronger than I ever thought possible. And most of all, I have seen and lived someone’s addiction and what it does to people, and I think that my experiences will be able to help those that are in the same boat.
When the opportunity presented itself to apply to serve on the Young Professionals board of The Next Door, I jumped at it and knew this was a way to give back. I am proud to be a part of The Next Door. They do amazing things for women each day, who are battling the disease of addiction like my ex-boyfriend was.
Today, I’m thankful that my story has a happy ending. I am in a great relationship with someone new and know that hope and change is possible. That’s just what The Next Door does – they help women and families find a new way to live and find hope in hopeless situations.