By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News
Lynn Marie Smith’s problems began when she wasn’t being honest with herself.
She’s learned the hard way how dangerous that habit can be, and has grown out of it in her career as a national speaker, activist and author, sharing her story with young people to steer them away from destructive choices.
A graduate of Danville High School, Smith spoke at the Drug-Free Life Assembly held April 25 at the Danville High School. The event was hosted by the high school’s Students Against Destructive Decisions group.
Smith had been a good student at Danville and was involved in several extracurricular activities. She was also the child of an alcoholic father.
“I was never comfortable in my own skin,” she told the assembled students.
From a young age, she learned to put on an appearance that everything was normal, everything was all right.
From a young age, she dreamed of moving away from rural Danville and her alcoholic home life, but when she enrolled in a New York acting school at age 19 she didn’t find the life she was looking for.
Surrounded by new people and new experiences, Smith came to the realization that years of living in denial had not prepared her for the world she lived in.
“I had no life skills whatsoever,” she said, and her only defense mechanism was to repress her feelings. Which is why, when friends gave her ecstasy and other drugs to use, she didn’t know how to refuse. “I didn’t even know what drugs looked like,” she recounted. “My life was forever changed by that choice.”
She was soon living for just another high, and after a night of hallucinations her mother drove her back to Danville where she was admitted to Geisinger Medical Center and, afterward, a psychiatric ward.
Smith spent 14 days in the ward, and while there was shown a scan of her brain. Doctors said, due to Smith’s drug use, it resembled that of a 60- or 70-year-old who had suffered from multiple strokes.
After her stay in the ward, Smith “began crawling my way back out again.” She stayed in Danville for nine months, when her mother finally asked her father to leave. Smith said this was due to her finally being able to come clean with herself and her parents about her self-esteem problems and history of lying to herself. “The truth won and we were able to heal our lives again,” she said, in a conversation after her presentation.
During this time, Smith heard of a program on MTV that was looking for real-life drug stories and she volunteered. A TV producer called her and a camera crew followed her around while she was fresh out of the hospital and returning to New York to collect her things from her old life. “It was a long road to recovery,” she said.