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Personal Stories: TURNING POINT
Personal Stories Westville - Out of the corner of his eye Jeff can see red and blue lights flashing in his rear view mirror. A Westville police officer has his sirens blaring and is chasing the stolen vehicle at high speed.

Panicked, Jeff decides to pull the car over, but not before he gets rid of the evidence. Fifteen candy coloured pills could put the 18-year-old in jail for a long time. As he steers the car to the shoulder of the road, he fishes the ecstasy pills from the bottle and swallows them one by one.

"I don't know what I was thinking at that moment; I wasn't thinking," says Jeff, almost three years after the arrest he says changed his life. "I figured I had taken five ecstasy pills at once before, a few more won't be that much different."

But the high was different. Jeff was taken to the Aberdeen Hospital and treated for an overdose of Methylenedioxymethamphetamine ( MDMA ). After three years of being heavily addicted to the street drug ecstasy, Jeff had hit his rock bottom.

Today, Jeff is a different person. He has a daughter, a fiancee and is starting his life at 20. This former drug dealer and user has a message to parents who have teens living in Pictou County - ecstasy is out there and it's on the rise.

Seven per cent of students in grade 7 to 12 have used ecstasy at least once in their life, according to results from the 2007 Nova Scotia Student Drug Use Survey. That number has increased since 2002 when 4.5 per cent reported using the drug.

Jeff believes those numbers are actually higher. He considers himself to be among the lucky ones; many of his friends are still using and some are in jail.

"What parents should know is not only are the drugs bad, but so are the people dealing them. Most keep rifles and some have hand guns. If you cross them or aren't able to pay them I guarantee they will not think twice about busting down your door and shooting you in the head. I've been there."

It all started when he was 16 years old. As a child growing up in Westville, Jeff says he was always good at school. When he got to high school he no longer felt challenged. He began to get bored and started to skip class. Then he began hanging out with a new group of friends, that's when he was introduced to weed. Next came ecstasy.

"I remember the very first time I took E. It feels like you're on top of the world. They call it the love drug because you do tend to get more affectionate with people. Most ecstasy users listen to bass music, that's why it's mostly used in bars. The music just goes right through you."

It wasn't long before Jeff starting dealing to pay for his habit. He was taking, on average, five to six ecstasy pills a day, at a cost of $10 per pill. He lost nearly 50 per cent of his body weight, dropping from 180 to 95 pounds in a few short months.

"You have to understand that when you're on E you don't think about eating or sleeping, all you think about is feeling good and when you stop feeling good you think about how you're going to get more." Jeff dropped out of school and wasn't able to hold down a job. He needed money to pay for his addiction. At one of his lowest points he was "car shopping" almost every night. He would break into dozens of cars in the span of a few hours, stealing CDs, car stereos, loose change, and sometimes the entire car.

"I remember this one night I broke into a vehicle down the street from where I lived. There was a digital camera with photos of a newborn baby. I saw the faces of the family I was stealing from and knew I couldn't destroy the first photo they took of their child. I threw the memory card on the floor and stole the camera."

The turning point came on the night of Jeff's arrest. The officer who pulled him over told him he wouldn't have to go to jail if he entered a detox program. Jeff admitted himself to the detox centre in Pictou, but only stayed for two days. The centre's strict no smoking policy was more than he could handle at the time.

Jeff decided to try recovery on his own. He isolated himself for weeks until the drugs were out of his system. When friends called his house he lied and said he was on house arrest and couldn't see them. He avoided temptation and kept busy. It took him about a year, but he says he has his life on track.

His body has still not fully recovered from years of drug use and there's a possibility it never will. He has bouts of paranoia, which makes it difficult for him to meet new people. He is also dealing with rage issues.

But for the first time in his life, Jeff is making plans for the future. He went from stealing cars to fixing them. He is enrolled in college and hopes to one day work as an automotive mechanic.

Jeff says he owes everything good in his life to the Westville police officer that pulled him over that night three years ago. That officer is now an undercover cop with the Pictou County Integrated Street Crime Unit. His job is dedicated to getting drugs off the streets.

"I knew it must have been hard for him to see me like that," says Jeff. "He was an officer in Westville for a long time and watched me grow up into a drug dealer. He cared about me when I didn't care about myself. That meant more to me than he will ever know."

* The name in this story has been changed to protect the identity of that person.

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