I started drinking when I was 13. I’d had freedom since I was a kid and could basically do whatever I wanted. I was always getting caught up in having too much fun. I would just drink on the weekend with friends, socially, but then it progressed to drinking more frequently.
I considered myself a social drinker. I was like, I don’t have a problem. I just drink occasionally and have fun. An alcoholic was someone I saw on TV, and I thought, That person’s life is so out of control. That’s not me.
That’s what I thought until it started progressing, progressing, and then I started getting into trouble. I got arrested under the influence, I went on probation for five years, and I ended up in a group home. That should have opened my eyes, but I would always go back to drinking.
I had so many release dates from the group home, but every time I was so close to leaving I would self-sabotage and get into trouble. I finally got locked up in juvenile hall a couple days before I was supposed to get out of the group home. I didn’t know what was going to happen, and that right there was the eye-opener for me. I thought, I’m 18, about to go to jail again. Dude, you’ve got to get your life together.
My judge told me that he still had faith in me and he was going to give me one last chance by sending me to Phoenix House Academy in Los Angeles, CA. At first I said, “Sure, whatever, I’ll do it to get this dude off my back.” I thought, I don’t need this, this is for drug addicts. I don’t need to be here.
That’s how it was the first two weeks at Phoenix House. But eventually I saw that some of my behaviors were addictive behaviors. Slowly I started getting adjusted to it, conforming to the structure. I ended up liking the structure and just seeing how life really should be, doing day to day things sober.
I got to help out by working with different departments, and everybody knew me there. People would call and ask me for help. Honestly it helped me a lot. It made me feel really good about myself, seeing how much I could accomplish and the big difference I could make. I started taking my life seriously. I started taking my recovery seriously. I decided I’m going to get all the help I can now, before it’s too late.
I finished my program at Phoenix House Academy in April. Before it was always fun, fun, fun. Now I’d rather work, work, work and go play later. I did a lot of research and I know what I really want to be in the future—a doctor in psychology specializing in child trauma. Right now I work at the coolest job, at one of my favorite clothing places. I’m 18, I start college in a few weeks and I’m going to start working on my degree. I’m looking into volunteering at a place that works with autistic children.
To any parents who read this, I want to say: Be supportive. Be supportive of your children 100 percent. Be there for them and don’t push them away. To anyone else, I want to encourage you to actually stay with recovery. I know that at first it may seem tough, but just stay with it and it’s worth it. Recovery is not easy but it’s not impossible. Just take it one day at a time.