Growing up in south Austin, I never gave drug use much thought. That was probably what led me to start using at age 13—I just saw it as a normal, benign part of living. But it turns out I did have a genetic predisposition to addiction. My mom ended up seeking treatment as well, and on my father’s side a lot of people died as a result of their drug or alcohol use.
Anyway, I was at an alternative school in the 8th grade, and my drug use really escalated at that point. I wasn’t making progress in school, and my life was deteriorating. I didn’t have a drug of choice per se, but I was taking benzos, Xanax, and drinking a lot too. I remember there was this mirror on my kitchen wall and one day I just found myself looking into it, high on drugs and crying my eyes out because I couldn’t bring myself to stop using. At that point I was selling drugs, using drugs, stuck in this series of screwed up choices, and I felt like I had so much more potential than that—but I just couldn’t stop. I didn’t understand what was wrong with me, and I remember looking into that mirror and begging myself to quit using.
Long story short, I ended up on probation for truancy, I violated the terms of that probation, and I was sent to the Phoenix House Academy in Austin. I figured I’d only have to stay there a month and a half to finish my sentence, but then I ended up really loving the place, so I stayed for six months. I know now that if I hadn’t gone there I would be in jail or god knows where else right now.
I was 16 when I entered treatment at Phoenix House, and I’m 18 now. To this day I’m really grateful that the Academy was as difficult for me as it was. I have a lot of friends who have been to various treatment centers, and sometimes they work but mostly they don’t. The failures are the ones with short spans of treatment, where the program is structured more or less like a vacation—whereas I had six whole months to actually work on myself.
For me the process was just being in a different situation, around different people with whom I wouldn’t have otherwise associated, and learning how to deal with that and work together. In treatment, I learned how to maintain a clean living space, and how to get to my commitments on time. I developed a work ethic. That’s a huge part of it—just learning basic skills that you need as a human being in society.
When I got out of treatment I had to decide whether I was going to try and pursue my ideal lifestyle, or if I was really going to stay focused and do what I needed to do to stay sober. And I chose the latter. Because from where I’m standing, I’m screwed if I don’t prioritize my recovery. So I dropped out of school, which I’m not too proud of but it was what I needed to do at this point in my life—school wasn’t letting me be around positive people, so I needed to make that decision for me and for my sobriety.
During my first year clean, I relapsed around New Year’s, so my official sobriety date is January 5, 2011. After that I really stuck to my recovery and tried to stay close to the program and other sober people. I have a job at a call center, and I want to get my GED and go to college; I’ve been looking into a program to become a paramedic. But basically my top priorities are just staying sober and enjoying life.
My relationship with my mother has definitely improved quite a bit since I got clean; we’re both trying to work the 12 steps, and a lot of that for me is understanding that she’s also a recovering addict/alcoholic. She has to try to apply these principles to her life, too, and neither of us are perfect people but we’re doing our best.
I’m proud of myself every day for not ending up back in that lifestyle. You know, my life is far from perfect. But I have a job, a car, friends, decent relationships, and I’m in a place where I can actually do things and help other people with my life. That’s why recovery is worth it—because every day is it’s own new thing. It’s another chance to make it.
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.