ASM Speaker Stephen Hill Shares Personal Experience Overcoming Addiction

Last Thursday, All-School Meeting (ASM) speaker Stephen Hill spoke on his journey fighting substance addiction since high school. Now sober for ten years, Hill has published a memoir titled “A Journey to Recovery: Speak Sobriety,” which documented his personal experience with overcoming addictions and discussed the American opioid epidemic. 

Through the program Speak Sobriety, Hill shares his story with young people across the country. When addressing the Andover community, Hill detailed the progression of his addiction and his understanding of his relationship with drugs after rehabilitation.

“Addiction — it’s something that I never thought would happen to me. I never thought I would be the guy that people were calling the ‘junkie,’ the ‘dope friend,’ the ‘drug addict,’ the ‘drunk,’ the ‘dropout,’ the ‘felon.’ And for me, the worst of all was the all-encompassing ‘failure’… What I didn’t know when I got out of that first treatment program [was that] this was about much more than simply not using drugs and alcohol. I had to change my thinking. The way I acted, the people I hung out with, the places I went, and the things I did,” said Hill.

Avin Ramratnam ’24 emphasized the importance of support systems at Andover for those struggling with substance addiction. He also recognized the stigmatization of drug use and appreciated that Hill dedicates himself to educating a younger audience. 

“I agree with [Hill] that support systems are necessary for everyone. He made a point that he only managed to beat his struggles through support systems and his belief in himself. As a prefect, I agree with that. I think that being able to support yourself, lean on yourself, and lean on others, is vital. I feel like drugs and the use of any kind of substance, they’re always stigmatized, and I believe [in the importance of] talking to a younger audience, [for the audience] talking to successful people, and younger students overall,” said Ramratnam.

Max Boesch-Powers ’24 was surprised by Hill’s candidness about his past drug addiction. He acknowledged Hill’s emphasis on personal responsibility throughout drug addiction. 

“[Hill] had really come to terms with his issues. He didn’t seem to hold anything back, even if it was embarrassing to state the mistakes he’d made and the trouble he’d been in. He was very honest. I took away that it can be a risk to try drugs for the first time because you don’t know what the impact will be, that everyone can have a different reaction to the same drug and that addiction can be common, and it’s up to the individual if that’s a risk they’re willing to take,” said Boesch-Powers.

Anny Wang ’26 agreed with Boesch-Powers and believes that Hill’s story conveys hope for those struggling with drug addiction. She explained that she did not know much about drug addiction before and was surprised by the cycle of relapsing and addiction that Hill went through. 

“I agreed with his opinion of how he said when a lot of people talk about their own drug abuse experience, it’s very easy for the audience to kind of pay more attention to how they got out of it, and not really the miserable experience [while] they are using the drugs, so I think him focusing on all the bad influence drugs brought him, like quitting school, horrible relationship with his family, and basically drugs messing up his life was a very strong depiction of the influence that drugs can [bear] on people. First of all he’s telling people not to get into drugs, and second of all, he’s telling those who already use drugs that they always have a chance to get out of the situation and live a new life,” said Wang.

Boesch-Powers learned to be attentive to those around him and actively offer help to those who need it. He believes that the Andover community should combat the stigmatization of substance usage and addiction.  

“I also learned about the importance of checking in on friends and intervening on friends — even if it’s temporarily harmful to them, it can be beneficial in the long run. Even if it’s stigmatized, it’s important to check on people and offer assistance. He wasn’t shoving it down people’s throats, he wasn’t saying you can’t do drugs, you have to stay away from it, you can’t drink alcohol, all of this stuff is bad for you… It’s just kind of up to everyone and what they’re willing to do. And he helped us better understand what the risks were,” said Boesch-Powers.