For the past several months, James Dallin of Lehi has traveled Utah County visiting many junior high and high schools, spreading a message of the effects of alcohol and drug addiction.
It is a message that the 42-year-old husband and father of three never thought he’d know anything about, let alone be sharing his own story to hundreds of students.
It was in 2011 when then-34-year-old Dallin tried alcohol for the first time. It was a welcomed drink accompanied by an even more welcomed feeling — a feeling of numbness. Over the past several years, leading up to that point, Dallin lost two successful businesses. Having prided himself in his ability to provide for his family, he felt like a failure, and sunk into a depression that he saw no way out of. This newfound drink had caused him to forget at least for a moment the troubles that were consuming him, and after just two beers, Dallin said he became an alcoholic.
“I had never had alcohol before this point, but once I did, I was hooked,” Dallin said. “I began drinking every day. Over the next two years, I was arrested for a DUI, and had three trips to the ER for alcohol poisoning. I was told that if I continued on this path, it was only a matter of time before I would have complete liver failure and die.”
The thought of dying was enough to get Dallin to stop drinking alcohol, which according to him, was done cold turkey. Even so, quitting drinking didn’t stop the constant feeling of failure, but now, he had nothing to numb that pain. He began working as a store manager, spending 70 hours a week at a job he didn’t like, and one frequent customer took notice.
“There was a customer who would often come by, and we would talk,” Dallin said. “She knew I wasn’t happy, and that I couldn’t drink alcohol anymore, so she introduced me to crystal meth. She told me that I would be high-functioning and be able to get all my work done fast. So, I took it.”
Dallin said that the first day, he took two hits, and the next day, he took five. He was now able to numb the pain that he had been feeling for so long, but there was something else he said he noticed — he couldn’t feel anything.
“I have always been a people lover,” Dallin said. “When I started taking crystal meth, all my feelings left. Yes, I felt energy when I was using it, but my feelings and compassion for others was gone. I didn’t care about people anymore, just the drug.”
It was only four days after his first hit of crystal meth when Dallin said he decided to leave his family and follow the drug.
“After four days, I left my wife and kids,” he said. “It may be hard to believe, but with this drug, there is no set time frame. It affects everyone differently. My goal as soon as I started using was to stay close to the drug.”
For the next five years, Dallin said he lived at a bar, and when the bar closed, he lived in his car that he parked in emergency room parking lots in case he overdosed. In 2018, he was arrested in a drug deal, and he said it was the moment when he knew he needed to stop using.
“Being arrested was a blessing,” he said. “I got sentenced in Utah County, 24 months of probation, and was released from it after six months. I have been clean and sober since February of 2018, and have dedicated my life to spreading the word about addiction.”
There are several messages that Dallin said he wants to teach the students he talks to, with two main ones being that addiction can happen to anyone at any stage in life, and to stay away from drugs at all costs.
“I never had even a taste of alcohol or drugs before I was 34,” Dallin said. “I want kids to know that it isn’t just this time of their lives when drugs can be introduced. It can happen any time. I keep my presentation age appropriate, but I don’t sugar coat anything because I want them to know how bad it can get even trying it just once.”
During his presentations to the schools, Dallin welcomes questions and comments, but said that it is after the presentations, on his Instagram page, when kids will often open up to him.
“After my presentations, I will often do live recording on Instagram,” Dallin said. “Students who saw my presentation who were too scared to ask in front of their peers will use this as a chance to open up to me about drug abuse, and a lot of them have parents who are using. Teens will ask me what they should do, and I tell them just to love their parents. I say that when I was using, there were three things that could get me to stop: the police, myself or the mortuary.”
Dallin wants to give teens a place where they can talk about addiction whether it is their own or experienced through a family member or friend. He also wants to serve as an example of recovery and hope.
He will continue to spread his message to schools throughout the state as well on his Instagram page. For speaking engagement bookings, go to https://www.JamesDallin.com, or find him on Instagram @addictiontalk.