HICKORY, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) - “I was more than addicted. I was heavily addicted,” described Luca Kinard, 15.
Kinard wants everyone to hear his story. It’s one of addiction and the road to recovery which was not always easy. The teenager from High Point, NC picked up vaping when he started high school.
“I felt like I was fitting in with the older kids,” said Kinard.
His mom, Kelly, says he went from being a straight A student to having F’s. She says her son became explosive. Initially she thought he was having adolescent psychiatric issues and didn’t connect the nicotine to what was going on.
She had her suspicions and her intuition ended up being right. Her family was in and out of counselor’s offices trying to get through to Luca. The addiction went on for about a year and a half.
In September of 2018 Luca went to the hospital for a seizure. Doctors told the Kinards they couldn’t rule out the episode being possibly connected to vaping. By October, Kinard put her son on a plane and sent him to a rehabilitation center in California.
“It was the most important 39 days of my life. It completely flipped my life. If I hadn’t gone there I’d be close to dead or in jail because of the stuff I was doing. I wasn’t breaking laws it was the way I was living,” explained Luca.
“It’s been a huge journey and a struggle to turn things around,” said Luca’s mom.
E-cigarette use among teens is a growing epidemic according to the FDA and Surgeon General and it’s one Luca was part of but is now trying to slow down. He’s connected with CATCH My Breath. The program specializes in e-cigarette and vaping prevention and education across the country.
Luca never went through the program but considering what he has been through believes it would have helped. His story is all too familiar according to program director Marcella Bianco.
“It’s scary and we need to take it seriously. If you recognize a child with a behavioral problem really look into whether they are vaping,” said Bianco.
For the first time Luca walked into a middle school class in Hickory not as a student but to share his story. It’s something he hopes to do more of.
“I’ve always been a very caring person and wanted to make a difference. I just never thought it would be about sobriety,” said Luca.
His determination makes his mother proud. “To see him in front of a classroom and engaging with them and doing what he can to prevent the same mistakes causes a huge amount of pride,” said Kelly Kinard.
“If I can get into the heart and mind of one kid every time I speak then that is good,” said Luca.