Thompson delivers powerful Red Ribbon speech

Savanna Gregg/Burnet Bulletin
Marble Falls native Donald Wayne Thompson shared his tumultuous story of drug addiction and recovery with Burnet High School students at the close of Red Ribbon Week on Friday, Nov. 1, sharing the results of his bad choices and encouraging students to refrain from trying drugs, as he did when he was high school sophomore.

 

 

 

 

By Savanna Gregg

Staff Writer

Burnet Bulletin

Burnet High School students learned the heartbreaking truths of drug addiction at a special presentation by Marble Falls native Donald Wayne Thompson, who recently gained the strength to overcome a controlling drug addiction, but not before a lifetime of heartache and unhappy twists and turns.

“In early high school I made a decision that would tear my life apart for the next 20-plus years,” Thompson said. “Every dream, hope, aspiration I had that I wanted to be, the things I loved in my life, it tore them away from me when I started my addiction. Family friends, all of it I threw away.”

Raised by a single father, Thompson grew up on small town values and drugs were never a part of his life. He was an A-B student and was involved in football and track, and had aspirations to make it to the professional rodeo scene.

“I was taught the right things, the difference between right and wrong, to be respectful and to work towards the things I want,” Thompson said. “Good work ethics were instilled in me very young, but none of that made a bit of difference when it came to my drug addiction.”

Thompson's battle with drugs began at a high school pasture party, and after a night of drinking, his judgment impaired, he succumbed to peer pressure and tried recreational drugs for the first time.

“I was raised right,” Thompson said. “I had a good set of morals, core beliefs, values. That night, if I had not been intoxicated, I would have run them off. I would not have used if I had not been intoxicated.”

Thompson likened the chances of becoming addicted to drugs to playing Russian Roulette.

“I became addicted the first time I tried drugs,” Thompson said. “It doesn't always happen like that, but it was a silly chance to risk, to me, looking back.”

Within a year of trying drugs, Thompson was kicked off the football team, dropping out of school, and losing his chance of a professional rodeo career.

“By this time I had lost the power to choose what I wanted to do,” Thompson said. “To me it's a privilege getting to choose right or wrong, because I had that privilege stripped away from me when I became a drug addict.”

After being kicked out of his father's house, Thompson's life continued to unravel as he began dealing drugs, and was soon facing jail time at 19 years old.

“Life was essentially over it seemed; I was sitting there with a $250,000 bond, 19 years old, never been in trouble, with four felonies, fixing to go to prison for a very long time,” Thompson said.

Thompson avoided the first prison stent by attending rehab, but remained untreated and still struggled.

“I knew I couldn't stop,” Thompson said. “Fear, love, whatever it may be does not stop this from happening."

Thompson found himself in prison again, unable to kick his addiction. His father was soon overcome with cancer, and for a major part of his treatment, Thompson was in a cell in Huntsville rather than by his father's side.

“I should have been there; he deserved to have his son there with him for that, like he had been with me all my life,” Thompson said. “When he was going through chemo treatments, when his hair was falling out, when he couldn't eat, his son wasn't there because he was in prison, because he was a drug addict.”

At the end of his sentence, Thompson walked out of the prison unit to find his father, bald from chemotherapy treatments, waiting to take his son home.

Unfortunately, a stay in prison did not treat Thompson's addiction, and he soon started using again. Thompson lamented at the memories of putting drugs before his father, who was determined to endure tough cancer treatments and stick around long enough to see his son find a purpose in life. After his father's passing, Thompson was angry that he was still alive when his father was taken.

Years after his father's death, Thompson's life took another negative turn, and after realizing how badly drugs had affected his judgement and those he loved, he tried to commit suicide. He was found and revived, then sent to a mental hospital, but once he was released, he fell off the wagon again.

In Sept. 2018, Thompson was at his lowest point, and he was living in a shed.

“At this point I had half a trash bag of dirty clothes, $17, and one shoe,” Thompson said.

Thompson reached out to a lifelong friend, someone he had known since before his life turned upside down, and who happened to be at the head of His Joshua House, a faith-based men's recovery center based in Kingsland.

By the time 36-year-old Thompson found His Joshua House, the once A-B student could barely put two sentences together when reading the Bible during the program, and had forgotten how to use utensils when eating. But through prayer, meditation, and other aspects of the recovery programs offered at the center, Thompson has celebrated over a year of a drug-free lifestyle, and used his story to encourage his audience to refrain from the lifestyle he chose over 20 years ago.

“This is not a victimless crime,” Thompson said. “If you use, I beg you to reach out to someone. If you know someone who is using drugs, reach out to someone for them. Give them a chance to get help so they don't live the life I lived.

“I promise you, you don't want to be 36 years old trying to learn to read again and use silverware like I did,” Thompson added. “Don't spend the rest of your life in the pain that I feel from my dad dying knowing his son was a sorry, low-life, dope-dealing, thieving son-of-a-gun. I live in that reality every day.”

For more information about His Joshua House, visit joshuahouserecovery.org, or call the center at 325-388-0293.

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