The warning signs of teen substance abuse were all there: failing grades, bad-news friends, moodiness, reclusivity, constant sleep. Alex was smoking pot almost every day. His life was falling apart.
On Tuesday, Alex will personally thank Derek Jeter, the New York Yankees legend, for helping him turn his life around.
Jeter will be at the Phoenix House rehab facility in Brandon on Tuesday for a re-dedication of the the Derek Jeter Center.
The center recently doubled capacity in order to accommodate a surge in teen drug use in the Tampa Bay area.
Ninety-two percent of the adolescents at the non-profit rehab facility are there to deal with marijuana use. Alcohol abuse and addiction to over-the-counter drugs are also prevalent.
Jeter founded the Phoenix House division specifically with kids in mind.
When Alex, then 16, was arrested for drug possession, he was offered a diversion program at Phoenix House. The program is aimed at teens trying to turn their life around.
Alex did not pass up his opportunity to succeed. Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation rewarded him with a $4,000 scholarship that he'll use to attend UCF in the fall.
"Addiction is very hard," says Alex, now 18 and very much a success story. "It's not something you can do on your own."
Alex is urging kids and their parents to treat substance abuse openly and with understanding.
Emotions can get high; denial and anger are tough to negotiate. But compassion and one phone call to the Phoenix House can turn a life around.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, you can contact the Phoenix House at (888) 671-9392 or online at www.phoenixhouse.org.