By Jake Rogers
I recently met with Vince inside the Juvenile Detention Center. That night I walked away thinking, “Wow. What would it be like to be Vince?” The next several days his story keep popping up in my mind. With each part of his story I’d recall, I couldn’t help but imagine his gentile demeanor and soft voice, or the sadness in his eyes as he’d occasionally fight back the tears that were welling up as he shared his story with me.
What amazed me was his motivation for telling me. He wasn’t trying to make me feel sorry for him, and he wasn’t making excuses for his actions. He simply was telling me his life story and why it made him afraid of his future. This is Vince’s story, I’ve never had a positive male influence in my life before. I was 5 when my dad finally left us. I was so thankful he was gone, but then about 6 months later my mom’s new boyfriend moved in with us. My stepdad’s not as abusive like my dad was, but he was always yelling at me. I used to wake to him yelling at me; every morning I always woke up so angry.
My grandpa was the only positive role model I’ve had in my life, but about 5 years ago he died of alcoholism. I used to beg him to stop. He drank so much that he had a hole in his leg, so nurses had to come take care of him. But he didn’t care. He just kept drinking anyway. I remember dumping out his beer and breaking all his cigarettes, but it didn’t matter. He’d just go buy more. Every member of my family is an alcoholic. I guess it’s in my blood, so I probably will be too. The first time I drank alcohol was with my dad when I was only 8. When I drink, I always drink until I black out. I don’t want to be an alcoholic. That’s why I mostly just smoke weed now. It helps calm me down.
I’ve been through a lot in my life, probably experienced more than most adults have. Still, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s made me who I am today. I was only 9 the first time I saw someone overdose; I held my dad’s best friend in my arms as he died. I learned that smoking weed helped me to cope with life, after watching a family member overdose on heroine, when I was 10.
I’m 16 years old now, and it’s my third time in JDC. The first 2 times were only for a few days. I’m going to be here a while this time. Really, I don’t really mind it, living here. I just wish that I could be working on my GED, instead I’m just wasting all this time away. I remember when I was a little kid, I told myself I will never be like my dad. But it seems like I’m making the same mistakes he did. He used to get into trouble and was locked up when he was the age I am now. I want to be good. I want to be a good husband and father to my kids someday. I don’t want to become like him, but I’m scared I already am. What if I don’t ever learn how to be good?