This is dedicated to Travis Holappa who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered on July 25, 2004 in Northern Minnesota. This was all due to meth. I am Travis' mother and I wish to make this devastation turn into a better thing by educating and exposing the truth about meth, the dangers, and the deadly consequences it brings about to individuals and communities.

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Location: Colorado, United States

I want to do what I can to educate people about what is going on around the world with the meth problem. I want people to know about it BEFORE they even get the idea to want to try it. It is a dangerous drug and will ruin your life as well as all those who love you. I am on a mission on behalf of my only son, Travis.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Parnell to share story of addiction, struggle, suicide

Editor's note: This is Meth Education Week in Freeborn County, Minnesota. This is the second in a series of stories on the drug and its effects.

By Adam Hammer, Tribune features reporter

David Parnell has been sober for three years following 23 years of drug addiction. But it wasn't until surviving his second suicide attempt with a gun blast under his chin that he was driven to go straight.

“I woke up in the hospital and gave my life to the Lord,” Parnell said. “That's when I turned my life around.”

His injuries from the suicide attempt were so severe he was written off as deceased while in transit to the hospital. Parnell has had 15 surgeries to repair his face with many more scheduled.

On Tuesday, Parnell will talk about his experiences, including seven years of using methamphetamine that led to his attempted suicide, during two presentations of “Facing the Dragon” at the Albert Lea High School.

“I have an hour to convince them that this (methamphetamine) will kill them. Dealers have every day of the year. It hardly seems fair,” Parnell said.

Although Parnell was a user of numerous different drugs including cocaine, marijuana and alcohol, he said being addicted to meth was by far the worst.

“That seven years on meth was worse than the rest of those years combined,” he said.

His history of drug use started with marijuana when he was 13. Hanging out with a tough crowd led Parnell to progress on to heavier drugs.

“As they moved on to cocaine, I moved with them,” Parnell said.

Eventually, he moved on to meth.

As his addiction progressed, Parnell attempted suicide - not once, but twice.

His second try almost did the trick. He pulled the trigger of a SKS assault rifle that was pointed up under his chin. The blast literally blew his face apart.

When he woke up in the hospital, Parnell's wife Amy and their children were around his bed praying for him. That's when he decided he was going to get sober. His family support helped him recover and get clean.

Getting clean was not an easy struggle, however. Parnell said he remembers waking up in the middle of the night and sitting on the edge of his bed craving the drug. At times, he thought he wouldn't make it, he said.

“I made it over that hump and never felt better,” Parnell said. “Sometimes it seems like a lifetime ago, sometimes it seems like yesterday.”

Parnell and his wife Amy have now been married for 11 years and have seven children.

He has shared his story at stops in 11 states and one other country.

During his presentations in Albert Lea, Parnell will show slides and video footage of children living in the filth of meth houses, the self destruction and family torment that users encounter on meth as well as before-and-after footage of his personal struggles with the drug.

“It's the reality about the drug,” he said.

Parnell hopes to get the attention of students to steer them away from the drug, let parents know possible signs of meth users and send a message of hope to those who may be, or are recovering, users.

Parnell will present during two shows, one from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. for students and one in the evening that will start at 7 p.m. The evening presentation is open to all members of the public and will include some added extras from the daytime showing.

“I think people are going to get a bigger picture with the extra presentation in the evening,” Ross Williams, dean of students at Albert Lea High School, said.

Williams acknowledges that some of the images during the presentation may be too graphic for some. Parents or people with concerns about what they will see are recommended to contact Williams at 379-5359 for questions.

Prior to the start of Parnell's evening showing, the high school's Teens Involved in Drug Education (TIDE) group will put on a presentation about the effects of meth on families and communities.

Following the evening presentation, area police officers will be available to answer questions and talk with people about their concerns.

“We want to get as much out there as we can about the topic,” Williams said.

Facing the Dragon is a show that has grabbed the attention of many. After a presentation in Avon, Minn., last week, Parnell was told by a student that it was the best program he'd ever seen and it really left an impact on him and his friends. These kinds of comments are common for Parnell, he said.

“Students in every school deal with addiction,” Williams said. “We need to do what we can to get the message out there.”


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