Drug Abuse Checklist
Books on Drugs

By Nicholas Williams, 17, Daniel Murphy HS
Print This Post

Having lived and gone to school near a drug rehab center before, I thought I knew what drug addicts looked like—hyper, always smoking a cigarette, tired-looking. I didn’t expect to meet someone like Danny Toguchi.

Danny, 30, is a fairly short Asian American male with a rugged face, mustache and long black tattoos on both arms. Danny was 28 when he first entered the Asian American Drug Abuse Program , but went in and out of rehabs all his life.

‘I was comfortable ruining myself’

When I asked him how he ended up at the program, Danny adjusted himself in his chair, took a deep breath and started explaining.

"I did every drug you can think of," Danny said in the gravelly voice of a longtime smoker. "Mostly cocaine." It didn’t take long before he was on the street begging for change. He lived in a cardboard box under a bridge. "I always saw people like that (homeless), I never thought I’d be one of them."

When he said that, I thought about how many of us go home, lay down in our beds and go to sleep. Imagine crawling into a cardboard box, in the cold night. You’re cold and dirty, you wish you were dead and things aren’t getting any better.

One day, Danny was standing in a parking lot, tired and hungry, begging for money, when he ran into his father after many years of silence between them. "It was God sent," said Danny. His father helped him register into the drug abuse program. After 18 months of hard work in rehabilitation, Danny had a relapse. He returned to his old neighborhood and got back into cocaine.
"I was comfortable ruining myself," he said.

Nevertheless, Danny checked himself back into rehab last July. "I’m a street survivor, but now I realize I need help," he said.

Born in South Central Los Angeles, Danny experienced tragedy at an early age. Both his parents were involved in drugs. His mother overdosed on pills when he was only eight. "I had a grudge with God ever since," Danny said.

His father, who was clean at that time, raised Danny by himself in Gardena. Though Danny had five step-mothers, none could repair the loss of his real mother. He began to drink alcohol and smoke at the age of 12. Though he had a record for being a troubled child, Danny still loved school. Unlike his older brother who ditched school, Danny attended frequently and earned mostly B’s and C’s.

Sadly, Danny followed in his brother’s footsteps and dropped out of school. He was in and out of juvenile hall on robbery and burglary charges. His first assault charge was at the age of 17. After that, he was put into a military school. Even there, he used drugs secretly.

Later in his life, Danny got mixed up with "the wrong crowd." He was involved in gangs, was stabbed, shot at and involved in confrontations with gang rivals. He was frequently in the county jail. "I was killing myself," he said, sounding as if even he couldn’t believe it. Danny said he blamed God, and everyone else. "I never took responsibility for my actions."

After entering rehab, Danny lived at the recovery center, where everything he did was scheduled. He got along with some of the other residents, read books and did reports on them.

For the first time in his life, Danny developed goals. He said he wants to become financially secure and stay clean. He also wants to get married and eventually have kids. He said he will tell his children to stay away from drugs, and not to go through what he went through. "I wish I had someone to tell me not to do drugs. That could’ve been the turning point in my life."

Faith keeps him going

Using drugs has taken a toll on Danny’s health. He now has bronchitis. He was very thin at one time. He has bad skin because the drugs are starting to come out of his system. But since being in rehab, he has gained 25 pounds.

Danny has a strong spirit, and he has been through a lot. But as strong as he might seem, Danny had contemplated suicide before. He said that during his relapse, he wanted to end it all. After hearing about his thoughts of suicide, I asked, "What keeps you going?"

His answer: "Blind faith."

Turning to me with an intense look, Danny said, "It feels good that I am alive, and that I know people love and care for me."
After our interview was over, my heart felt heavy and my eyes grew watery. I sat at the table for a moment, to thank God for the life I am glad to live. It was overwhelming. I was never that scared about drugs, until I heard Danny’s story. It’s hard to realize that there are many people in the world who have the same story as Danny. People may criticize drug users, but they have no idea what they have been through.

I later learned that Danny left the drug rehab program early to enter the Navy.