I started having a rough life from the time I was a baby. My mom was into drugs, and my brother and I were taken away from her when I was three years old. She worked so hard to get us back, and she did when I was seven, but by the time I was eight, she was dealing drugs. My mom tried to keep me away from drugs, but when I was 12 years old I got curious and tried it for myself. That first time I tried it, I was hooked and I ended up dropping out of middle school as a result. My mom was heartbroken that I used drugs despite her effort to shield me; she felt like she had failed. My drug of choice was meth.
We lost our house— we were homeless. My mom tried her best to keep me safe, but we were in a car accident when I was 14. There were four of us in the car—my two friends, my mom, and me—and my best friend and my mom died in the crash. We were all using drugs that night.
After I got out of the hospital, I attended my mom’s funeral and I ended up running away for a couple weeks. My grandma said “I’ll get all your friends in trouble if you don’t come home,” so I finally went home. My grandma told me I had to get better, and the court had ordered me into treatment. So, that night, my grandma sent me to Phoenix House.
From the time I entered Phoenix House Academy in San Diego, it took me four months to finally abide by the rules because I didn’t have that kind of structure in the past. I actually went AWOL twice, and after the second attempt to escape I finally gave into the program and did things the right way. The lady who made meals for us threw me a quinceañera when I turned 15, and it made me feel like someone cared. I thought, “These people are really trying to help me.” I decided to give it my all and do my best in treatment. They have different jobs at the Academy, and I became a mentor. If other kids in the program were struggling, they could come to me for help—in addition to the staff they could go to for guidance.
Phoenix House helped me get back into school, and I was getting good grades there. After I completed my program, I went back to my grandma’s. I still didn’t like school; I didn’t really care to learn. That whole high school scene threw me, given that I was fresh out of rehab. I didn’t feel comfortable being an actual high school student, so I home-schooled myself and got my high school diploma.
I lived at my grandma’s for another year, and then when I turned 18 I moved to Bakersfield. That’s when I had more struggles because I wasn’t around family who supported and guided me the right way, and I had more freedom. I had a slip, but I was able to use the skills I learned at Phoenix House to get back on track. I have been doing great ever since.
I got married when I was 19. I went to college to become a medical assistant. While in school, I got a job at an entertainment business where I could go to concerts for free, see hockey, and things like that. Then I started working at a baseball field. And about a month ago I got my first job as a medical assistant. Ever since I was little, that’s been my dream, and I accomplished it with the help of Phoenix House.
I’ve been clean for nine years, and I’ve still kept in contact with a lot of kids I was in treatment with. It’s pretty interesting to see how we all transitioned from being there. The only people who really know what you went through are the ones who went through it with you.
I have a close family member going through similar problems now. She’s 31 years old. I tell her you can’t run from it, you have to face it. You can run from it all day long but it’s going to catch up with you and bite you in the butt. And if you face it, that’s the only way you’re going to recover.