Escaping the Drug Spiral: A student’s account of getting clean


Aris Sanders

PHS student, Tacoda Anker, provides insight into his personal journey of rehabilitation.

Natalie Svinth, Reporter

Students struggle through high school to various degrees, whether it’s balancing sports and homework, trying to fit in, or simply waking up early. For 19 year-old PHS student Tacoda Anker, adversity showed itself in the form of drug addiction, starting in 5th grade.

A day heavy with boredom but lacking in weed spurred Anker and friends to try meth for the first time. The decision would eventually result in Anker facing the desire to become clean, but first came a series of nightmarish encounters with the notorious drug.

“I got really bad into it and started using everyday. I started having really bad hallucinations which led me to chasing people outside – people who weren’t really there – that I thought were breaking into my house,” Anker said.

The maelstrom that followed included a stint in the hospital, a disappointed father, and a court order to attend rehab. But with no real interest in sobriety at that point, Anker went to rehabilitation as more of a “vacation” than anything else.

“We went to NA meetings and AA meetings. We went on hikes and a whole bunch of other fun activities,” he said. “Stuff that brings people together, working with other recovering addicts. We would listen to other people talk about their addictions.”

A sobering field trip to the Monroe State Penitentiary is what perhaps made the biggest impact.

“I didn’t wanna end up like the guy who was in there for 667 years and 67 days, who was in there for murder because he was high on drugs and alcohol,” Anker said.

The real challenge came when Anker was released from rehab and thrown right back into the mix of friends who had no lasting interest in getting clean; Anker fell quickly back into old habits.

“Having the people I was around and them not caring about my life very much, they just wanted to use me for drugs and money and whatever helped them get high at the same time. It was pretty much like a big negative feedback loop, it just kept going around in a circle. I help you get high, you help me get high- it’s pretty bad,” Anker said.

Recalling Anker in the midst of drug addiction, vice-principal Melissa Mcneish described him as “disengaged,” “not interested in school,” and “stubborn.”

As a full-time drug user and a part-time student, Anker struggled with the demand to engage with his school environment when his entire life revolved around the goal of becoming disengaged, of numbing the senses and the mind to the point of shutting out. The two worlds collide in a very much mutually exclusive way, and often in these cases, the drug-world prevails. What begins as bliss soon transforms to a feeling of desperate helplessness, a quieting realization of how deep into the hole you’ve dug yourself.

Wake-up calls take many shapes; for Anker, one came in the form of a painfully honest confrontation with his father, which led to a dramatic change of perspective.

“The breaking point was when he said I was super ungrateful and that I didn’t deserve anything that he was giving me – which was true, because I took advantage of anything I possibly could have to use drugs,” said Anker. “I was like, ‘yeah, you’re right.’”

With what Anker describes as a “strong personal mentality,” he took the steps to become sober on his own, and he has remained sober from marijuana for two years and from meth for even longer. Post-drugs, Anker is able to approach life with a newfound hope, vigor, and sense of self whilst discovering the capacity of his own perseverance.

“I quit [using] and went out and found a job, ended up buying a car, re-enrolled in school and got straight A’s for the first time ever in my life, because every year before that, I had all F’s no matter what – that was because the drugs. So when I came back to school, that gave me hope. And all the people and teachers there telling me I was doing a good job just made me feel good,” he said.

Mcneish mirrors these reflections, depicting clean Anker as “a changed person,” “engaged,” and as one who values education.

Future plans after high school include a potential shipyard job that could lead to a career at Boeing, or following the footsteps of the majority of family members and joining the military. To others experiencing a similar downward spiral like the one he was able to break out of, Anker vouches for thinking beyond just the present.

“People don’t really think about their long-term life, they just think about in the moment,” said Anker. “They just think like, what’s benefitting me now and what’s fun today, and they don’t really worry about anything else.”

To those whose lives have been reduced to the constant demands of drug addiction, getting help sooner rather than later will make a world of difference, as will reaching out to others: Many are willing to help.

“If you’re sitting at home doing drugs and watching the world go by when you’re not doing anything but just using, I would say you’re in a bad spot and probably need to start digging out of the hole. Don’t dig your hole too deep because it’s going to be hard to get out of it,” said Anker, as he is no stranger to the uphill battle for sobriety. “I dug myself out of a million-foot hole.”