My childhood was pretty rough. My older brother was using, so I followed in his footsteps. I started drinking when I was 11 and smoking weed when I was 12. I didn’t really know what drugs were yet. I just liked the buzz.
At 13, I got tricked into trying crystal meth. It got to the point where I was drinking and smoking weed every day, and then smoking meth once or twice a week. By the time I hit the age of 14, I was heavily into my addiction. I got arrested and went to juvenile hall for assault and battery. When I got out, I was doing drugs while I was on probation. This was the point where I was just doing meth nonstop. I slowed down on drinking and smoking weed just to smoke meth.
Around the age of 15, I ran away from home because all I wanted to do was get loaded. I told my parents, “If you call the cops on me, I’m going to kill you!” I started sleeping around. I didn’t really know what was happening. I still had that pink cloud over me. I met this older guy and stayed with him till I was 16. We were getting high together and then, he became a drug dealer.
By age 16, I was using about $200 worth of meth a day. I was living with a drug dealer, so I didn’t have to pay for it. After that, I started going crazy on the people in my life. I threatened my boyfriend that if he didn’t give me dope, I was going to do something stupid. Things were really bad, but I kept using. Then, right before I turned 17, I started dealing drugs myself. I got caught with someone on parole in an unregistered car with $90 of dope on me. A couple months after that, I got busted with another parolee for attempt to sell.
When I went to court, the judge said, “I’m locking you up because you look like you’re going to die.” I had no skin color. I was just skin and bones. That was my rock bottom—pretty much, I was going to die. If I hadn’t gotten arrested, I wouldn’t be alive right now.
I was detained in juvenile hall. I knew I needed help. I asked the judge if I could go to Phoenix House. I pleaded with him to give me this chance and he did. It saved my life and I’ve been clean for over a year.
I entered Phoenix House Academy at Lakeview Terrace on May 27, 2011. I turned 17 while I was there. If it wasn’t for Phoenix House, I’d probably be dead right now. They taught me that it’s OK to ask for help. I learned that you can’t receive privileges if you haven’t earned them. Most importantly, I learned how to take care of myself—and that you can be sober and still have fun. I worked hard while I was there. By the time I left, on November 22, 2011, I had the highest job among the residents in the program. I was a role model to the other teens.
Today, I’m back in school. Over the past two weeks, I’ve passed a couple classes. I’m taking it one day at time, but my goal is to get my high school diploma or GED. I also hope to start volunteering at Phoenix House; I am dedicated to that place.
My relationships with friends and family are so much better. I used to hit and steal from my family members, but now, there’s no violence. I enjoy hanging out with them. I’ve reunited with some friends I knew before I started using, including one friend I’ve known since kindergarten. I also stay connected to the recovery community through Narcotics Anonymous.
My secret to staying sober is that no one else can make you stay sober. You have to be ready, and you have to want it. Here’s what I’d say to teens who are just starting treatment: “You probably don’t want to be here right now, but just listen. It’s up to you if it’s going to be good or bad. Make it your dream. It works if you want it to.”