TOPEKA (AP) — After seven years on methamphetamine, and beset by paranoia and schizophrenia, David Parnell in 2003 decided it was time to end his nightmare of a life.
“I put an assault rifle under my chin and pulled the trigger,” the 43-year-old Parnell said in a phone interview from his home in Martin, Tenn. “Thank God, I survived.”
Ironically, he said, the meth in his system may have contributed to his living to tell about a wound that paramedics thought likely would be fatal, as it acted as a stimulant.
Parnell blew his nose off his face and lost all his teeth in his suicide attempt.
When he got out of the Nashville, Tenn., trauma center where he was taken by ambulance, Parnell said he was a changed person.
“I knew I’d been given a second chance,” Parnell said. “I asked God to come into my life. I just knew my days of drugging were over.”
For the past few years, Parnell has spoken more than 200 times a year in churches, schools and prisons in 31 states, discussing what he calls his “downward spiral” of drugs that started when he began smoking marijuana with his father — whom he would visit on weekends and in the summer — when he was just 12 years old.
Parnell was recently scheduled to make at least two Kansas stops.
As he got older, Parnell said, he moved from marijuana to harder drugs. He found meth while he was in Texas in the 1990s and quickly became addicted.
He was sentenced in 1993 to an Oklahoma prison for selling marijuana, but when he was released, he went right back to using meth.
Parnell said he even smoked pot while he was at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in the McAlester, Okla.
He later moved back to Tennessee, which by then had become a meth hotbed.
Some of the drug houses he would visit had people from ages 13 to 65, he said.
Parnell said one of his goals in sharing his story is to draw attention to children who are caught up in homes where methamphetamine and other illegal drugs are used.
“They are the true victims,” he said.
Parnell said his own father, David Parnell Sr., died a couple of years ago at age 63 from the effects of drug use, particularly meth. He said his father contracted Hepatitis C after sharing a dirty drug needle.
As for his speaking, Parnell said, he hopes to make a difference in the younger generation, so young people will steer clear of illegal drugs, such as meth.
“Selling drugs for 20 years, I knew the damage I’d done to families and things I could never make amends for,” he said. “I wanted to try to be a positive influence to the next generation coming up. I wanted to do something positive with my life, what I had left of it.”
Though he admits to taking many kinds of illegal drugs, Parnell said meth was in a class by its own, as far as its far-reaching effects.