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'Today, your sons and daughters are the faces of heroin'

Recovering addict tells parents it is their job to take action

(From May, 10, 2012)

Recovering heroin addict David Lee grew up in Indiana, in a town he described as being much like Orland Park.

A self-described "insecure geeky kid," he started drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana when he was 15 years old. Lee's indulgence in illicit substances brought him out of his shell and made him popular with is classmates, he told an audience of more than 100 people last week at Sandburg High School in Orland Park.

"I graduated from high school in a town that looks like this one in northwest Indiana," Lee said. "A year before my graduation, I stood in a gym just like this one and became student council president. A year after that, I was the first kid in that small town - the first person, ever-to be arrested on a heroin charge."

Lee, now 41 and the CEO of Sober Solutions, which works to help drug addicts kick their habits, spoke May 2 at a symposium - organized by Orland Township and the Orland Park Police Department - intended to educate parents and high school students about the dangers of heroin and drug abuse. Speakers including Lee talked about the signs of abuse, and provided parents resources that can offer help for their children.

Lee spoke about himself and his brother, Kevin, who is a year younger and did not devolve into a drug addict. David and Kevin hung out the same group of friends in high school, and often attended the same parties, he said. Kevin was able to have an occasional drink, but alcohol and marijuana - and eventually heroin - became the focus of David's life.

"At age 15, I picked up my first drink, and I became popular," Lee said. "I was no longer the insecure, geeky kid. Now, I'm awesome. I loved it."

Lee abused drugs for 15 years, until he entered a rehabilitation program when he was 29 years old.

"I became a full blown drug addict, and I ended up homeless," Lee recalled. "I was a train wreck. I just went to a conference in San Diego with my new fianc