I was 12 years old when I started smoking marijuana. My family used to smoke weed in the next room when I was younger. There was always alcohol too. So that’s how I was introduced to marijuana. Pretty soon, because of my use I fell in with the wrong people, stopped going to school, and hardly came home either. I basically dropped out of 8th grade because all I wanted to do was smoke. One time there was something in my weed that I didn’t know about, and when I smoked it I started hallucinating. That was the worst ever.
Eventually I was smoking so much that my mom couldn’t handle it anymore. When she told me I had to go to the Phoenix House Academy in Westchester, I started to cry. They gave me a week to get ready and pack up my stuff, but I spent that whole week hanging with my friends and smoking weed. Then I left Queens and went upstate to the Academy. I was 14 at the time.
At first, all I wanted to do was go home. My mom originally told me she’d bring me home after a week, but once I was there she said I had to stay until I got better. At first it wasn’t great, but when I hit three or four months there was a turning point. I started to make friends, talk to other kids, and feel comfortable. It started going really well.
I liked the routine: every day I’d wake up, go to breakfast, and get ready for school. At first school felt weird because it was just downstairs from where we lived, but it was really just like a regular school—the boys and girls were together in class, but not on the residential floors. After school we could go to the gym, or meet with a counselor, or sometimes we’d have little groups where we’d talk about a certain subject. I went to Phoenix House thinking it was something stupid that wouldn’t help, but while I was there, I realized that it was helping. I realized I had to change. I wanted to get better, to stop using, and I didn’t want to have a drug addiction anymore.
I was at the Academy for nine months, and I’m still in touch with some of the people from there. When I finished treatment they helped me go back to regular high school. The transition was kind of hard for me; when I came back home, I was really happy, but a big part of me missed Phoenix House and the bond I had with the people up there. When I first came home I kept to myself, but then some of my old friends wanted to hang out. There was some peer pressure to smoke, but I was the bigger person. I said, “If you guys are gonna smoke, I’m leaving.” I realized I couldn’t be in that habitat again, back in the same circles with the friends who use. So I had to stop hanging out with them, and I’ve made new friends instead.
Now I’m a senior and I’m planning to go to college to study nursing. I’m back living with my mom, and our relationship is much better. She’s very happy because she can see a difference in me. I remember one day while I was getting ready to leave Phoenix House, my mom was crying because she was scared I’d go back to my old ways. But I haven’t. My sisters are proud of me too; they’re only three and 11 but they knew something was wrong. The 11-year-old came and visited me at the Academy, and it hurt me to see myself through her eyes. But now she’s happy that I’m better.
If you put your mind to treatment, you’ll do so well in the end. It doesn’t just help you; you help yourself at the same time. I used to smoke to take away my stress, but now I realize that every time I was done being high my problems would just creep back up on me. Now I don’t smoke to ignore my problems—I stand up and face them. Now I can clearly see what I was doing back then, and it doesn’t look cute anymore. I’ve grown up, and I’m happy about that.
If you or a loved one needs help for a substance abuse issue, Phoenix House is here for you. Email us or call today at 1 888 671 9392.