Crack and Crystal Meth at School

At the University of Southern Mississippi, located in the sleepy city of Hattiesburg, more than 16,000 students pass by Lucy McPhil, daily, without speaking to her. She doesn’t have friends. Maybe if her classmates knew she had valuable information, they would cling to her. But, she’s the invisible girl on campus. She doesn’t belong to a sorority; nor does she dress like a sophisticated lady. Instead, McPhil wears jeans and T-shirts, which are aged from years of washing. Her T-shirts hang over her frail shoulders. Sometimes, she wears dresses, but even those are worn out and faded; as is her navy blue fedora that she wears on occasion. It looks as if it could have been passed down to her from her dad, who got it from his dad. Her accomplishments are not discussed amongst the so-called “elite” students from the Student Government Association or USM’s Honors College. Ironically, though, McPhil is easy to spot, if one was to pay attention. She’s the rawboned, lonely girl with no makeup on.

I spot McPhil’s stare from a distance -- it’s lonely, distrustful, expectant. “I don’t trust people,” McPhil says, surprised that I showed up. “People saying they will be there for me. When I needed them the most they were nowhere around.” Tonight, she isn’t in some back alley looking for a hit. She’s waiting for me at USM’s Cook Library to talk about helping her classmates that struggle with substance abuse. The first step: Recognizing the problem.

Crack and crystal meth are commonly associated with the streets, avenues and boulevards. But, the drug may be creeping onto the colleges and universities where not all college students’ problems consist of sororities and fraternities or getting refund checks, retro Jordan’s, iPhones and e-tablets. An upwards of 22 percent of full-time college students aged 18-22 use illicit drugs according to U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration. “The high feels fucking great. Crystal meth is my drug of choice and crack is my second choice. I have met a few who say they do crystal meth, [but] most of the students here smoke weed.”

Indeed, marijuana has been the drug of choice for many college students for many years. Another study done by SAMHSA states, 17.4 million college students were using marijuana in 2010, up from 14.4 million in 2007. But, that’s changing. Not far from USM’s theoretical lectures and nerdy looking boys that wear suspenders and bowties are dope boys and dope fiends.

“When I got to Southern Miss, this was the first time I had crack readily available. USM is a lot closer to the hood and there are a lot more available. I have more options to do more. I don’t advise anyone to try drugs, most people wouldn’t be able to have the self-restraint. Most people wouldn’t be able to say I need gas in my car, so I’m not going to buy this twenty.”

It’s exactly why McPhil is hesitant about going to rehab. “I don’t do it enough for me to have to go to rehab. I hate not being in control of my situation. I have some godly self-restraint and I don’t know where it comes from. I only use it a couple times a month. And I only buy it after I buy the things I need.”

McPhil claims to be in control, but USM’s kitchen worker Betty Van Buren is worried about her unhealthy eating habits. “I tell her that she needs to eat,” Buren said. “But, she will sit in here with them books and read. Sometimes she will stay up two-to-three days. Considering everything that she has been through with the car wreck and her mom, she is so intelligent; she is smarter than she believes she is.”

Buren is referring to the year 2004. McPhil was using crystal meth before a car accident and was thrown through the window of her 1999 Toyota Tacoma while going “70-80 MPH.” “I was working 40 to 50 hours a week as a high school senior and getting off work around 1:30 a.m.” After more than 10 surgeries, a three-month stay in hospital and a “golf ball sized chunk” of her brain removed, McPhil was “at the state of a newborn child, mentally, physically and emotionally.”

“If you notice, I repeat your name a lot. That’s a tool I use to remember your name. I use tricks like always putting my phone in my back right pocket and keys in my left front pocket. If not, I won’t know where they are.” But, even before the memory loss and surgeries her life was “shitty.”

As a child she was diagnosed Dysthymia, chronic depression. “I’m always depressed. A constant level of depression. My parents divorced when I was two-and-half- years old. My mom would tell me that I was stupid and worthless on a daily basis. She never physicaly abused me, just a lot of cussing and demeaning stuff. I started keeping a journal and writing about the things I experienced until she found it and destroyed it. If she didn’t like my music CD’s she would break them,” McPhil said. “Other than a couple of people I was in the band with, I didn’t have friends in high school. My mom never came to see me perform. But, I saw my dad every other weekend. I’m my daddy’s girl, but my mom hated my dad, so he was never able to [take full custody of] me. My mom’s a bitch. She liked getting the child support.”

USM’s Student Counseling Service has been supporting McPhil since 2011. “My counselor, Matt, is awesome. He doesn’t judge me. He tells me what he thinks and we discuss why I make the decisions I make. It gives me someone to talk to.” McPhil wants to become a psychologist after she graduates because she knows what it is like to have brain damage. “I want to help people with brain damage,” McPhil said. “When I was in rehab after my wreck the counselors would say, ‘we know how you feel.’ How the fuck do you know how I feel? When have you had brain damage or used drugs?”

It’s her entire thesis: “Some people have problems that are not talked about on campus, [and] if I come forward with my story it may inspire others to come clean.”

She also wants her fellow classmates to know that they have counseling services on campus. “I didn’t even know they had it until a somone at ODA (Office of Disability Accomodation) noticed how depressed I was and told me. If I can somehow help people realize their strengths, that would be fucking awesome. That’s what I want to do. I want to get married someday and have kids. That’s when I will stop using drugs. I don’t want them coming up around that shit.”

It’s been about an hour and the only time she attempts to smile is when she talks about her dad. “We would take road trips and sing,” McPhil recalled, crooning several stanzas from her favorite song, fittingly, Bad Day by Fuel.

Had a bad day again/she said I wouldn’t understand/she left a note and said I’m sorry. Had a bad day again. Spilled her coffee and broke her shoelace… It’s just the same old song.

Even when McPhil is happy she sings a sad song.

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by Darryl Robertson

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