I was adopted from Colombia when I was 3 months old, and I was very shy growing up. I started drinking when I was 11. My older sister had friends over, and they were drinking Zima [a soda-like alcoholic beverage]. She gave me some to try, and I loved it. I felt amazing. I also felt that I now had a way to bond with my sister over something. We had always had a rocky relationship.
In high school, I got depressed and started drinking alone at home. I also got with a bad group of kids who were selling pills. I was drinking and doing ecstasy and Xanax, and I got addicted to Vicodin. After two months, I weaned myself off the Vicodin somehow—I got very sick for a few days. I continued to dabble with drugs but alcohol was always my “go to”.
The summer I was 16, I went through a very traumatizing experience; I was raped, and I completely shut down. This is when drinking became more of a regular part of my life because I couldn’t deal with what happened or communicate with my family. Within two years, I was drinking and going out every night. I wasn’t at the point of blacking out, but I was well on my way there.
Then I started drinking and driving. My friends were doing it, so I thought it was OK, even though I knew in the back of my head it wasn’t. I got my first DWI when I was 20, and it was an aggravated DWI because I was under age. My parents didn’t speak much to me for over a week because they were so disappointed. By then, some of my family members knew I had an alcohol problem, but I felt my parents were in denial. I always wanted to go out, and my mom would be like, “OK,” and my dad would say “no.” So they fought a lot, and this made their marriage very stressful.
I didn’t care. I just wanted to go drink. I was a mess, and I hated myself. Then I got another DWI. I went voluntarily to a treatment program in upstate New York for six months, but when I came back, I had no structure in my life.
After two months of me being home, I went out for a friend’s birthday, thinking, “I won’t drink.” I ended up having a drink. This led to black-out drinking and drug use. The next day, without going home, we went to Fire Island. I couldn’t believe myself; I would have had eight months sober at that point. I felt humiliated and super estranged, so I just left everyone and went back to the ferry. When I got there, I called a friend, crying hysterically, and said, “I can’t do this anymore.” She answered, “I’ve tried to help you. You need to help yourself!”
For me, this was the bottom I needed. I had thought maybe I could control my drinking, but there was no controlling it. That week, I started intense outpatient treatment at Phoenix House Outpatient Services in Brentwood.
It wasn’t what I wanted, but it was what I needed. At first I was very stand-offish, but going to the group helped me a lot, especially the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder group and the women’s group. I learned that [the assault] wasn’t my fault and that I needed to stop blaming myself and everyone else. I had so much pent-up anger toward my family because I had always thought, “If only they were stricter with me, it wouldn’t have happened.” But I realized that no one really had control of the situation, and understanding this helped me start to heal.
It also took a long time for me to be able to look in the mirror and realize that I was self-centered. When I was able to accept the fact that I was the problem, I was able to fix the relationship issues I had with family, friends, coworkers, and bosses. I now am a daughter to my parents, I’m a sister to my sister, and I’m a good friend and a good worker. I follow through with commitments. I’ll have three years sober soon. I can drive now, and I work full time at a well-known animal hospital. It isn’t an easy road to become sober and clean, but going through all of the ups and downs just makes me stronger. I never thought I would live to see the age of 26, so I am very grateful for where I am in life.
When I went to Phoenix House, I learned there is so much more to life than drinking. Before, I was just existing, and now, I’m living the life I was meant to live. When it comes to what I’m looking forward to, it’s definitely helping other people out with addiction. Not everyone is blessed to still be here. Some have died from addiction. As long as I can put my head on my pillow at night clean and sober, it was a great day!