Red and white balloons line the fence at Craig Middle School Tuesday afternoon. Part of Red Ribbon Week,  a drug and alcohol prevention campaign, students wrote drug free messages on the balloons and then released them into the air.

Photo by Darian Warden

Red and white balloons line the fence at Craig Middle School Tuesday afternoon. Part of Red Ribbon Week, a drug and alcohol prevention campaign, students wrote drug free messages on the balloons and then released them into the air.

Craig Middle School hosts presentation on drugs and alcohol during Red Ribbon Week

Why I stay drug free ...

CMS students share their thoughts during Red Ribbon Week:

“I stay drug free because I want to stay healthy, alive and live a good life.”

Dylan Howlett, 7th Grade

“Wrestling is my passion, and why I stay drug free.”

Jay Carrico, 8th Grade

“I’m drug free because I want to go somewhere in life.”

Tehya Colvin, 8th Grade

“Choose your friends wisely and be drug free.”

Emma Samuelson, 8th Grade

“I love to play basketball. It’s my number one thing. It’s why I do not do drugs.”

Angelica Martinez, 8th Grade

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Alex Hamilton, an eighth grader at Craig Middle School, writes a drug free message on her red balloon Tuesday afternoon. It’s red ribbon week, and in an effort to encourage students to stay drug free the entire middle school released balloons with messages Tuesday afternoon along with hearing a presentation from Craig resident Matt Beckett about his own struggle with drugs and alcohol.

Most kids in middle school have heard the spiel, “don’t do drugs, they’re bad for you.”

Sometimes that message resonates more coming from someone who's lived it.

In a presentation Tuesday afternoon to Craig Middle School 8th graders as part of Red Ribbon Week — a week of student awareness on drug and alcohol abuse — Matt Beckett, Moffat County Director of Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, warned students about the increased risks they would face entering high school.

“You guys are going right into the wheelhouse,” said Beckett, a Craig resident.

Beckett’s downward spiral from a popular athlete to a drug addict in jail — a story so outrageous yet relatable at the same time — allows students to see how easily they might fall prey to the allure of drugs and alcohol. Ho told them statistically speaking, the percentage of students who use drugs and alcohol will double in just one year from the already 20 percent of eighth graders nationally who admit to using.

Although he finally has his life back on track, Beckett said he wasted ten years of his own potential, and made poor decisions that will affect him for the rest of his life. After barely graduating from high school and losing a full ride soccer scholarship to a university in Oregon, Beckett spent a year hanging out in Craig, "boozing," before going to college in Denver.

He flunked out, but stayed in the city.

“I started hanging out with more and more of the 20 percent,” Beckett said.

Introduced to cocaine, crack, methamphetamine and heroine, Beckett began running drugs for drug dealers, entering a whole new world of danger.

Owing a drug dealer $5,000, Beckett began working to pay off his debts by collecting money from others who owed the dealer.

“I took an 8-year-old’s brand new bicycle he got for Christmas and hocked it for $50,” Beckett said. “It’s sad that his parent cared more about supporting his drug habit, and sad that I took an 8-year-old’s bicycle.”

At 23 years old, Beckett called his mom and told her he was a strung-out drug addict who either had to leave Denver or he was going to die.

She told him to come home.

Beckett came home, but only after signing over two cars to the drug dealer to repay his debts.

A picture of a 1968 Ford Mustang flashed before student’s eyes during the presentation as Beckett told the students what he had given up.

Along with the Mustang, he had given up a 1986 Ford Bronco.

After kicking the meth habit, Beckett replaced drugs with alcohol, once blowing a .207 on a Breathalyzer after passing the roadside sobriety test perfectly.

“That’s how high my tolerance was,” Beckett said.

After a few more years of trouble with the law, Beckett decided to turn his life around for his then 2-year-old son.

Beckett recalled his lowest point, hiding in the bushes from the cops next to the O.P. Bar and Grille during his ten year high school reunion.

“At that moment I decided I wanted to make the next ten years count,” Beckett said. “All I had to show for the last ten years were bad teeth, a wrecked liver and probably some lung cancer down the road.”

After his presentation Beckett told students that although they are only kids, the choices they make would stick with them their entire lives.

“Choices you make stick with you forever," Beckett said. "Find something you love. Something you want so bad. Don’t give up on your potential.”

Beckett also warned students that since they are younger, their thought process and logical thinking skills aren't fully developed yet. To demonstrate his point, he asked students what type of car they’d get if they were to buy one today.

“A Ferrari,” shouted a student in the crowd.

Beckett proceeded to tell students how a Ferrari would only cost too much in gas and insurance, and how he’d be unable to drive it in the snow during the majority of the winter. The exercise showed what happens when the growth of a young person's brain is stunted, which is a side effect of teenage drug use, leading to a lifetime of mental and emotional struggles.

“There are no redos," Beckett said. "There is only one shot so choose your friends wisely. I want you guys to end up well and do great things. The choices you make in the next three or four years will get you to either to where you do or don’t want to be. You have to be focused, devote more time and give the extra little something.

"Do something amazing.”

Darian Warden can be reached at 875-1793 or dwarden@craigdailypress.com

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