I come from a long line of addicts. My family members are mostly alcoholics, but I was a drug addict. It was the classic story: I came from a broken home, my dad was abusive and on drugs, my parents split up when I was eight. After that I kind of got involved with the wrong crowd—I wasn’t getting enough parental supervision and I was looking for things to do after school, so I started using cocaine when I was 13. We lived in California at the time; we had moved around a lot because my dad was in the navy. My mom left us for a while but then she came back to get us—basically my childhood was a bunch of back-and-forth between my mom and my dad.
So I got into heavy drugs in Orange County, starting with cocaine and going on to meth, acid, mushrooms, you name it. I’ve done every drug except heroin. I was looking for something to fill that void you get when you don’t have your family around. Then I got into meth real bad. I tried to commit suicide when I was 13—not because I wanted to die but because I just wanted the attention. I was reaching out for any kind of attention, negative or positive.
My brother Bryan was the first of us to go into Phoenix House. He had been to some treatment programs before but none of them worked until he got to Phoenix House Orange County. It was really the right program and the right timing for him, because it had gotten to the point where he knew he was going to end up in prison or worse. Meanwhile, I was still doing drugs every day—but because I was working, because I was “functional,” I thought I wasn’t a real drug addict like my brother. I thought I had it all down, that I was all set, and that I was going to be doing drugs for the rest of my life. I’d accepted it.
One day after my brother graduated Phoenix House, he came back and confronted me. He said, “I know you’re doing drugs,” and I was like “yeah, you’re right, so what?” He told me, “You’re going to go to Phoenix House.” I still remember it—he gave me three days to sell everything I had. Like everybody else, I did that one last weekend where I went crazy, and then I entered treatment at Phoenix House Orange County. I was 21 years old. The program was long—I was there for a year and a half because I was so stubborn. I had a lot of issues, and I didn’t pass phase one for almost eight months. I tried to leave probably fifty times. But what it came down to is that my counselors were really there for me, and pretty soon I knew that Phoenix House had saved my life. It was exactly what I needed.
I graduated in 1999 and I’ve been clean ever since. Sure, I’ve been confronted with situations where I’m around drugs, but now it’s like a whole other world to me, and drugs aren’t even an option anymore. I work at a recovery house in Texas and I’m trying to institute some of the Phoenix House ideals into their treatment program. In two weeks I’m going to graduate with my Masters in Counseling and Education. I went into this field because of Phoenix House, to give back and to use what I’ve been given—you can’t keep it unless you give it away! All those slogans that Phoenix House taught me back in the day I’m using now to help addicts who are struggling with their own addictions.
It amazes me to realize the level of drug use that I came from, and to have arrived at a place where I’ve completely rebuilt my life. I used to be living on the streets, and now I’m buying a house and I’ve started my own business. I have a six-year-old son and I’m pregnant with my second child. I do roller derby and I started a league here in Amarillo—we’re pretty well recognized and have two winning seasons. So it’s a total turnaround for me, from doing drugs every day to becoming somebody totally new. My reason for joining the army when I was 17 was to get away from my drug-laden lifestyle, but it didn’t work—because no matter where you go, there you are. You can change your zip code, but you’re not going to change who you are until you change who you are. My addictions followed me because they were me. I was stuck in that loop of self-destruction because I didn’t have any tools until my brother showed up and said, “This is what’s going to help you: treatment.” And he was right.