A lot of bad stuff happened to me when I was small, and I think that’s what pushed me to use drugs. Growing up, I was always depressed and sad. My family is originally from Mexico, but my mom left my dad and came to Los Angeles because my dad hit her and abused her; he even tried to drown her while she was pregnant. So I never met my father, and although my mother was there, she wasn’t there, you know? Not emotionally. My stepdad would bully me, push me around, call me names, and my mom wouldn’t say anything. That sort of family situation was all I knew, and I thought it was normal. I just wanted to get away, and in my mind I set a goal: I told myself that when I was 13 I would leave.
As soon as I turned 13 I ran away. I was living with a friend at first, and then on the streets. People told me to give up and go home, but I knew I could never be myself at home; I felt lonely and isolated there, and I always had. So I stayed on the streets, and my friends introduced me to drugs. I didn’t like marijuana or alcohol very much, but when I tried meth, I really liked it. I started using more and more every day.
The years passed, and drug addiction messed me up in a lot of ways. I got into trouble with the cops, I was on probation, and then I got into a situation where I was set up by a so-called friend. It’s hard to talk about, but I got taken to this place and I got raped. That really changed me. It was terrible, especially because I was so messed up on drugs. It’s taken a lot of strength and a lot of therapy to get over that.
I was only fourteen or fifteen, and I’d been out there doing drugs for four years. All I wanted was to have somewhere to go. I had nowhere and nobody. Then I got a call from my birth father, whom I’d never met—he called me from the hospital to tell me he was dying. He said, “I’m sorry for everything. I wish I could have made it right.” Hearing him, and then later finding out he had passed away, that hurt me so much because I had no one to grieve with. I just wished that somebody would have hugged me and said, “It’s going to be ok, I’m here for you, let’s be strong together.” I had nothing except for the drugs.
Eventually I went to jail, juvenile hall, and when I went on probation the judge sent me to the Phoenix House Academy of Los Angeles. At first I didn’t know what to expect, but then I started meeting the teachers and the other students, and I loved them. I was finally meeting people I could relate to, and I thought, “Whoa, I’m not the only one going through this.” I saw people who had been even worse off than me, and they had made it in recovery. So I knew I could make it, too.
I never thought that I would do a good job at anything; I grew up thinking that I was nothing, a screw-up, not valuable at all. But at Phoenix House they told me otherwise. I started to learn skills, I did well in school, I passed my tests, and I made the Top 20 list every week. Therapy was my favorite part; it felt so good to finally be honest and talk about things. When my therapist told me I had PTSD, I was able to work through it and I felt so relieved.
I was 16 when I started at Phoenix House, I relapsed when I was 17, and I went back at 18 and graduated. Now I have four years clean. When I completed treatment I got off probation and I went to classes and AA meetings and therapy. The judge even dropped my case because I was doing so well. I got married; I met my husband in the park, he’s a cook and works for a restaurant. He’s not into drugs, he’s a good influence, thank god! We have three daughters—they’re so lovely, the biggest is three and the others are two and nine months. They keep me busy!
I still get triggers here and there, but now I have the coping skills to deal with them. Instead of turning to drugs, I do something I love. I like writing poems, expressing myself—I used to do that at Phoenix House too, and I even shared some of my poems there. Every day, I’m grateful that I went to treatment and that I’m here today with my babies whom I love and who love me. If it weren’t for Phoenix House I don’t think I’d even be alive today.
At Phoenix House, I found myself. I didn’t know who I was when I got there, or what depression was, or PTSD. Today, I know who I am. I tell myself every day how strong I am, and how good I am, and that I love myself. Phoenix House built me up just by helping me and by pushing me to do good. I think deep down I knew all along that I wasn’t a bad person in my heart. I just needed someone to tell me that I’m strong and good and worth loving—and Phoenix House told me that. Because they believed in me, I started believing in myself.
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.