I started using meth at about 12 years old. I fell into the wrong crowd as a kid and I had a lot of older friends in my neighborhood who had access to alcohol, and eventually drugs. I actually had one much older friend who was about 30 years old, and she was into methamphetamines. She got me started. I was running wild on the street doing whatever I wanted, and coming and going whenever I pleased.
After a bunch of friends and I were caught with meth, I went to juvenile hall, which is how I ended up at Phoenix House Residential Program and Outpatient Services in Santa Ana. It was a major adjustment for me—having to stay put and follow structure and rules. Phoenix House taught me to look at why I got into drugs in the first place. During my program, I taught seminars to other residents about male-female personal boundaries. I learned a lot, and I hope I taught a lot as well!
My family was very supportive during my treatment. My mom, sister, and brother came to visit me every week for Family Night. My entire family was supportive because—without help—starting with drugs and drinking as early as I did, my life could have gone a much different way.
I was 16 years old when I left the program and went back to live with my mom in a really bad neighborhood in Santa Ana. I went back to high school, and I also worked two jobs, enabling me to move my family to a better neighborhood. I didn’t want my sister and brother to fall into the same bad crowds that I did.
I finished school, and when I was 18 I had a son. I worked hard to take care of him. Now, I’ve got three boys, and I’ve been married since 2007. We’re in a very happy place—my life is busy and full of joy. I’ve been a licensed optician for 12 years, and I’ve worked my way up to management positions through hard work, loyalty, and perseverance—everything I was taught at Phoenix House. I never thought about going back to the life I lived as a teenager, not after having so much happiness and so many people around me who love me. I don’t want to go back there.
My oldest son will be 16 in a few weeks. We talk a lot. He knows I went to Phoenix House at about his age. His father, my ex-boyfriend, passed away six years ago from a heroin overdose, so drugs have affected my life and his life. As far as I know, he doesn’t have any care for using drugs or hanging out with people who use them. He has so many people keeping an extra eye on him who love him so much, I hope it motivates him to stay away from drugs.
I would tell anyone struggling with an addiction to stay strong, stay positive, and stick with positive people. Be brave and think about your life before drugs, then use that as motivation to get into a program and get back to the people you love. When you get out of treatment, make yourself as busy as possible with things that will build you up rather than things that will knock you down.