Lessons from the syringe: Bryan Prinz discovers new calling after fighting heroin addiction

Durgin McCue

News Editor

After going from a heroin addict at the age of 19 to being an activist at the age of 25, Bryan Prinz has found new purpose at Hudson Valley.

Prinz, a chemical dependency counselling student, started by using prescription medications in his late teens but quickly moved on to using heroin. “Pills were just really available to me and once they stopped working I started using heroin,” he said.

After years of doing heroin, Prinz was institutionalized and has served jail time.  “I picked up heroin and then life got thrown out of control for a while. I was in the throes of addiction,” said Prinz.

According to Prinz, at first he did not see a connection between his troubles and his heroin use, but as he became more mature, he did. “As simple as it may seem, I had to understand that if I stopped the drug use I wouldn’t go to jail,” he said.

Prinz committed to long term recovery after his second appearance in drug court. “Drug court works if you are honest and want to change. My first time in court I was ready and I went through it and it worked for me, but once I graduated I used again,” said Prinz.

Having been sober for 16 months, Prinz is becoming more and more active in local addiction educational programs. As part of his recovery, Prinz works with a non-profit in Albany called Young People in Recovery, or YPR. “We try to educate kids, and parents on how to deal with it”

Prinz’s family has been a key part of his recovery by supporting him through hard times, but when Prinz finds himself overwhelmed, he turns to his friends for support. “The people in YPR have been supportive of me in my recovery,” he said.

While making new friends at YPR, Prinz had to cut himself off from others he associated with in the past. “I had to cut myself off from all my old friends, and to move away from home. I relocated [to Lansingburgh] so I’m not surrounded by people I used to get high with. For me, constantly being influenced by old friends was a problem.”

A Chemical Dependency Counseling certification (CASAC), will help Prinz achieve his long-term goal of being a prevention educator to high school students. “I want to help create prevention programs in schools, I know they already have them, but I want help and critique them.”

When he speaks at schools, Prinz avoids lecturing or scaring students but rather tries to relate to them and share his experience about what could happen. Prinz also believes that being young will make it easier for high schoolers to relate to him. “If kids have somebody who really educates them I think they will be less likely to go where I did.”

Educating parents is also very important to Prinz. “People tend to put their children on a pedestal, so when it does happen they don’t know how to deal with it. They don’t know who to ask for help, or where to go.”

Prinz noticed that over the past few years, the ages of addicts are becoming lower and lower. “There are younger kids doing it. There are definitely more kids in high school who are doing heroin. It’s definitely an epidemic.”

Originally, Prinz was concerned that he would have trouble avoiding drugs at college, but has since become more comfortable. He often wonders when he will be next tempted to use heroin. “That’s what it means to be in recovery, to think about these things constantly. It’s just about what you do with those thoughts,” said Prinz.

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