The Cost Of Addiction: R.J's Story

R. J. Feild
CBS
"Where's your iPod? Where's your phone? Where's your lunch?" he was asked.

It's a typical teenager's morning routine.

But R. J. Feild, a sophomore in Riverside County, is anything but a typical teenager, CBS News correspondent Sandra Hughes reports.

Everything about school is a struggle for R.J. He can barely read because his vision is so terrible. Only one hand works well. And walking is a major ordeal.

When he make new friends, do they ask him: "were you born like this?"

"Yea, which I'm fine with it. It's part of life. Like all my other struggles," he said.

What does he tell them?

"I tell them that my mom did drugs and she made me have to be born this way," R.J. said.

He was born addicted to heroin, with meth, alcohol and cocaine also in his system. Months premature, he weighed only two pounds. His birth mother, who was on public assistance, abandoned him in the hospital. No one expected him to survive.

But then again, surprising folks is what R.J. does best.

Now 16 years old, he just won an essay contest sponsored by California legislator John Benoit, called, "There ought to be a law."

Part of his essay reads, "For my entire life I will need assistance...."

What R.J. is proposing:

  • All welfare recipients would be randomly tested for drugs.
  • If they test positive, they'd be offered help.
  • If they refuse to enter rehab, they would loose their benefits.

    It's not just about the human cost, says R.J., but the cost to taxpayers as well. The school district provides a full-time aide and special PE teacher. His medical bills are well into the millions.

    At a Republican ladies luncheon, R.J. campaigned to turn his idea into a real law.

    "What it's for is to stop other kids turning out like I did," R.J. said. One lady at the luncheon replied: "That's a brilliant idea, R.J."

    "Why should there be a law, R.J?" Hughes asked.

    "So that we can clean up the people and get babies so they don't turn out like I did, they don't have to go through what I went through, or what I'm going through," he said.

    R.J.'s PE teacher is the same teacher who taught him how to walk - way back in kindergarten.

    He's had nothing but encouragement from the foster parents who raised him.

    "We've never told him there's something you can't do. We'd say you can do it. Just figure out a way," said Mary Beth Field.

    Like earning a Varsity letter - in football - for assisting coach Peter McGowan.

    "He has a great attitude," McGowan said. "He's a survivor, he's a warrior."

    R.J. heads to Sacramento this week to introduce his bill to the California legislature. He knows that turning his idea into R.J.'s Law will be an uphill battle, but R.J.'s not even worried.

    He's already conquered mountains.