I grew up in California, and I started using drugs when I was 12. At first it started off as a curiosity thing; I just really wanted to take my first hit. So that was how my marijuana use started. By age 13 or 14 I was smoking more frequently. I never had to pay for pot, I would just get it from friends for free. Soon I tried alcohol, ecstasy, and cocaine. I think I started moving on to drugs other than marijuana because my tolerance was getting higher. Pretty soon my tolerance was so high it was out the window, and I overdosed on this drug called salvia. That was my rock bottom. The worst part was the paranoia that I went through because of all my drug use—the paranoia was so strong that I couldn’t handle it, and I even went into psychosis. I’m just lucky I got out of it.
I’m in foster care, and after my overdose I had my usual foster care meeting with the social worker and my foster parents, to see what could be done about my drug use. They all decided that I should go to inpatient treatment at the Phoenix House Academy of Los Angeles. Of course, I didn’t want treatment. I didn’t want to change. But I was overruled, and my parents said I had to go for at least three months. When I first got there it felt really hard, and I didn’t think I could make it the whole three months. But it turned out to be just what I needed. There was a great sense of community at the Academy, and I noticed it immediately. I really stepped up to the plate; I started putting myself into the program, going to groups, excelling in school every day. Before I knew it, I was a success. I helped people, got involved in projects, assisted the staff, received awards, was on the honor roll. The Academy has these different ranks and jobs and I did well at everything I applied myself to because I decided that I wanted to change after all. I wanted to get better. I took treatment one day at a time, and I ended up staying at the Academy for four months total—even longer than I’d planned. I stayed because I learned how beneficial the treatment process was, especially for me.
When I completed treatment, I had a chance to go back to my biological family but I chose not to because it wasn’t a stable enough environment for me. I knew for a fact that if I went back there, I would stop caring about things and I would eventually relapse. I didn’t want that to happen, and I wouldn’t let it. So right now I’m living with my foster parents. I’m going back to my old high school for my junior year, but I’m going into a magnet program and I’m excited about that. I’m starting over, getting new friends, new everything. I know I can’t hang out with my old friends, the people I used to do drugs with—not anymore. I have the opportunity to go to college on the east coast when I graduate, and I’m really looking forward to that. I’m going to pay for it myself, so I’m saving money and studying for my PSATs and SATs. My goal is the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, and I’d like to study mechanical engineering. I also want to start volunteering and get my driver’s license. I have a lot of goals now!
The one thing I want to tell kids who are thinking about treatment or thinking about Phoenix House is that if you work your way up and apply yourself, treatment can actually be enjoyable. Life after treatment definitely is. I’m way happier today than I ever would have been if I was still using. I’m able to express my feelings in a healthy way. My relationship with my foster parents is way better than it was before treatment; they didn’t even know I had a problem before I overdosed, and today our communication is much better. I talk to them more, I trust them more, and they finally trust me. I used to love drugs, but now I know better. Now I only love the things and people that give me health and success and happiness.
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.