Original Article: https://www.idahocountyfreepress.com/community/deleon-presents-dangers-of-alcohol-vape-drugs/article_92e6c236-cabe-11ee-b360-bfecf0b5b915.html

By: Kaylyn Ahrens / Idaho County Free Press

COTTONWOOD — “I came to talk to you about life, whether you’re in seventh grade or 12th grade, life comes down to two things and two things only, and that’s your choices and your decisions.” DeLeon opened, “The choices and the decisions you make in life, that’s what determines your life.”

On Dec. 14, Michael DeLeon, founder of Steered Straight, met with students at Prairie High School to teach them about the dangers of fentanyl and vaping and to tell them about his life, hoping to help them avoid the mistakes he had made. DeLeon also met with parents in a parent assembly the night before, Dec. 13. and spoke to the Prairie Middle School on Dec. 14, as well.

He then noted that many people would think the problem of drugs and alcohol is not prevalent in Idaho as compared with states like California, Washington and Oregon. He continued, however, to acknowledge its presence, saying Idaho has had a 450% increase in fentanyl death in the last five years.

“Last year they made an announcement that 107,735 Americans died from an overdose of drugs or drug poisoning and, one thing, after that announcement, they said fentanyl poisoning was 75%,” said DeLeon. “It’s killing people. In fact, it’s now the number one cause of death 18-45 years of age.”

“I want to stop it, but I know I can’t, but I know you can if you’re informed and understand how serious this is. I didn’t come to play. I didn’t come to waste your time,” DeLeon continued. “I came because I want you to understand, and I need you to listen to me. 27 years of age and below, the number one cause of death in our country is drugs and alcohol.”

DeLeon then opened the conversation to the drug Narcan. Narcan is a drug that can help to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

DeLeon told the story of a 15-year-old who hit a vape laced with fentanyl at his school and was saved by a nurse with Narcan.

“I have 208 cases, nationwide, of a kid dying or being narcanned in their school building in the last 23 months. 208 kids who died in a school building, and 155 of them were not revived.” DeLeon enthused. “I don’t want to lose one kid. I don’t want to lose one kid in Idaho. I don’t want to lose one kid in Tennessee. I don’t want to lose any kids. I don’t want you doing drugs. I don’t want you getting high. I don’t.”

DeLeon then told the students his story. He told how he was abused as a child, how he was affected by his parents’ divorce, how he learned to hide his pain from everyone who wanted to help him, and how he eventually turned to drugs, smoking and alcohol in his preteens and teens.

“I started smoking weed. I’m 11 years of age. I was on pills at 12. I was addicted to pills by 13 years of age. On my 14th birthday, someone put two white lines on a mirror and said, ‘Here, rolled up dollar bill, stick it in your nose. This’ll make you feel great.’ I was shooting cocaine in my arm by 16 years of age. At 17 years of age, I was a heroin addict. Two days before my 19th birthday, I shot meth for the very first time. For the next 10 years, I destroyed my life.”

He then told the group he joined a gang and began running drugs and weapons to feed his addictions. He’d run a drug deal that went wrong, and the two kids with him were shot. One of the two died from his gunshot wound, and his brother, who was the leader of the gang DeLeon was in, put a hit out on DeLeon.

DeLeon lay low for a while, and when gang members went to his house and couldn’t find him, they killed his mother instead.

“On Sunday, May 14, 1995, I came home to find my 63-year-old mother murdered. Sunday, May 14, 1995, was Mother’s Day morning.” DeLeon said solemnly. “See, I get to live with that for the rest of my life. I’m the one who got his mother killed on Mother’s Day morning. It’s been 28 years, and if you think the pain goes away, I swear to you, it doesn’t.”

Following these events, DeLeon pled guilty and spent 12 years in six prisons and 22 cells for the murder of his mother.

“When I got out of prison in 2007, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I want to prevent you from following my footsteps. I want to prevent you from getting on drugs. I want you to learn from my mistakes, so I’m gonna go talk to kids in schools. I’m gonna go talk to kids in schools and share my story. So, I picked up my phone and started calling some principals, ‘Yes, good morning, I just got out of prison. I’d like to come by and talk to your children. Hello? Hello? Hey, he hung up on me.’ My wife was like, ‘Don’t give up. Call another one. They can’t all hang up on you, can they?’” DeLeon laughed, “I got a lot of dial tones. Who’d want the ex-convict to come talk to kids in school? Hey, when it comes to drugs and alcohol, there’s no one better. You need to listen to me, cause I’m not gonna sugarcoat it. I’m not gonna lie to you. I’m gonna tell you the truth, and a lot of you, you’re being lied to…Here’s the truth: vaping is gonna destroy your generation…It’s poison, and the parents don’t understand, and America doesn’t really get it, and the tobacco industry is lying. I need you to listen to me ‘cause I don’t want what happened to me to happen to you.”

“The truth about drugs — drugs are a lie,” DeLeon continued, “Drugs don’t get you high. Drugs get you temporarily high until the high’s gone, and then you’ve got to get more drugs to get high again…and then, it’s not about getting high again anymore. It’s about not getting sick.”

There was an audible “Aw” in the room as DeLeon showed a picture of his granddaughter, who gets him ‘high’ now. He encouraged kids to embrace other ways to get naturally high: math, cheerleading, music, meditation, religion and prayer. “It’s life. It’s real life. You live in a beautiful place with beautiful people, and your whole life is ahead of you. Vaping and alcohol and drugs, they ain’t gonna get you anywhere, nowhere.”

“I need you to live your life to the best of your ability, to become who you’re supposed to become, who God created you to become. You are created with value and purpose, and you need to find your purpose… so please, no drugs or alcohol.” DeLeon finished. “I so appreciate you. I appreciate your time. Thank you for letting me share with you guys.”