As his habit grew, so did his need for cash.
He shoplifted video games from stores and resold them. He broke into cars, pawning anything he could steal along with his mother’s jewelry and laptop. He knew he was living dangerously, but that was part of the allure.
“The whole stealing and robbery and going to the city (to buy drugs) ... it was thrilling,” he says. “I just felt like I had a lot more excitement in my life when I was a full-blown drug addict. ... It was just very dumb.”
Lewis is blunt and matter-of-fact when describing his addiction. He’s quick to offer an unvarnished account of his mistakes and the pain he has caused himself and his family. He speaks slowly and deliberately, stretching out his words, and with his baby face — shadowed by the hint of a goatee — he looks much younger than 21.
Lewis’ upbringing was distinctly middle class. He played Little League and skateboarded, growing up in suburbs filled with cul-de-sacs and strip malls carved from farm fields. Dad designed computer networks; Mom now works for a shipping company. As a child, Lewis took regular family vacations to Florida to see his grandparents and visit Disney World.
Still, he traces his problems to a troubled childhood: Constant fights between his parents, who later divorced. The death of a beloved grandmother. And harassment from school bullies. He was a C-student at best; his class work started faltering in third grade. A doctor diagnosed attention deficit disorder and prescribed Adderall. A year later, he was put on antidepressants.
At age 12, Lewis started using marijuana. By freshman year, he was smoking weed daily — hiding his stash in a bedroom vent or outside school in Batavia, a far western Chicago suburb. “It would bring my mood up,” he says. “I felt ... like a normal teenager.”