David Parnell of Dresden, Tenn. was in prison in Oklahoma for selling drugs when his oldest daughter was born and didn’t meet her until she was two years old. That didn’t stop the father of seven from getting high on and dealing in methamphetamine.
Parnell spent 23 years addicted to drugs, tried twice to kill himself and nearly succeeded in February of 2003 when he shot himself in the face with a hunting rifle. The bullet went in under his chin, came out between his eyes and broke every bone in his face. Parnell survived the 2.5 hour ambulance ride from his rural West Tennessee home to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. His family members were expecting a telephone call telling them he didn’t make it. Somehow he survived, and three days later learned that his wife, Amy, was pregnant with their seventh child.
Parnell has been sober since, underwent 30 surgeries to reconstruct his face and has dedicated his life to talking candidly about the way methamphetamine took over his life. He headlined last night’s Drug and Tobacco Free Starke County Red Ribbon Week forum and says innocent victims like his children and others pay the ultimate price when adults are addicted.
“When you’re strung out like this, your love can’t come through like it’s supposed to, like God intended it to, because the most important thing is getting high,” Parnell told the crowd at the Nancy J. Dembowski Community Center in Knox last evening. “I finally realized the most important thing in my life was taking care of my kids and spending time with my kids.”
Parnell started getting high with his father when he was 13 and was hooked on drugs by the time he graduated from high school. He admits the cravings can be intense at times, but says the only end to using methamphetamine is death unless you stop using.
” My Dad died in 2008 from meth use. He couldn’t stop shooting up. He shot up a needle full, and two hours later he was dead. I tell people all the time I’d give anything if they had arrested him. Now me and my Dad hadn’t talked for five-and-a-half years when he died. He never called me after I shot myself, and I never called him. I knew he was dying of cirrhosis and hepatitis, but I wanted to be sober so bad, I knew I even had to stay away from my own Dad,” Parnell said.
As for his own drug use, Parnell describes himself as a “functioning addict” who was always able to keep a job when he wasn’t incarcerated. Before he gave up meth for good, Parnell was sober for about five months. He says he relapsed when he returned to work.
“I’m back to using with them guys within just a few weeks. Huge mistake. If you really, really want to kick a drug or alcohol habit, one of the first things you have to do is get away from the people you’re using with. You have to cut that supply line off, or you’re never going to be able to quit a drug like meth,” Parnell said.
If you would like to hear more of Parnell’s story, listen to Kankakee Valley Viewpoints on Sunday at noon Central on K99.3 WKVI-FM.