True Story: Johanna

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

I grew up in a good home.  My parents were together, and my mom and dad were both hard-working.  But I did grow up a home that had domestic violence.  I became very angry with my father for the way he treated my mother, and the way she allowed him to treat her.  I guess you could say I lost respect.

I made up my mind—I would always attack before being attacked, because I didn’t want to be like my mom.  I became a violent person myself.  I had been a straight-A student, but I started hanging out with people who were gang-affiliated and running away from home.  Then, when I was sixteen, one of my friends was using meth and she said to me, “Try it!”  I became so hooked that I wouldn’t run away anymore; I would just stay home and get high.  I got a weekly allowance and I would use it to buy drugs.

By the time I started using meth, I had already been caught with drugs and was on probation.  I came out with a dirty drug test, so they put me under house arrest.  When I came out dirty again, they took me into custody. My options were boot camp for six months or rehab for one year.  The only reason I chose rehab was that I knew I could walk out of there.  I planned on going to Phoenix House Academy of Los Angeles, doing my time, and leaving.  I wasn’t really there for treatment.

At first, I couldn’t see my own problem, but I could see how the drugs were affecting the other teens at Phoenix House.  I thought, “Oh my God, that’s really sad.” It changed my mentality.  I also liked going to school at the Academy and all the sober activities they had us do—performing in shows, trips to Six Flags, and just hanging out without drugs or alcohol.  I was like, “This is what a normal teenager is supposed to do.”

I wanted to do better for myself, but I still didn’t think I had a drug problem.  I just wanted to stop hanging out with the crowd I was hanging out with.  I wanted to focus on school and graduate.  My dad became involved in my therapy, and he completely changed.  When I saw that, I said, “I need to be grateful and deal with the anger that I have.”  I wasn’t raised to live the lifestyle I was living.

On Sundays, Phoenix House had a preacher come in and I started going to church.  That’s what made the difference in my life. I realized I shouldn’t be using drugs and I became open to the treatment.  The tool that really helped me was, play the whole tape.  When temptation comes, don’t just think about the urge and the feeling of getting high.  Play the whole tape: After you take that hit, what will be the consequence?  So I started doing that.  Now that I had gained so much, I realized I had a lot to lose—the newfound trust I had with my parents, getting good grades, getting my credits to finish high school.  I didn’t want to go back to where I was.  It wasn’t worth it.

I completed residential treatment in 2004.  My family moved, and it was great to be in whole new environment.  But I didn’t stay sober for long.  After I completed outpatient treatment and graduated from high school, I relapsed.  Then it hit me more than ever before—I really did have a problem.

But this time, I had the desire to get sober.  I knew I had what a lot of people don’t have—and that was hope.  With my faith in Jesus Christ, I knew I was not alone in my struggles and God loved me enough to help me change.   So, I used the tools I’d learned to play the whole tape.  I kept on fighting.  And the desire to get high never came back.

That was about five years ago.  In 2009, I earned my degree in surgical technology, and I’m planning to go back to school to study psychology.  Meanwhile, I work at Phoenix House as a counselor.  I also work as a case manager at a law firm, assisting claimants with disabilities.  Most importantly, I’m the director of the Young Girls’ Ministry at my church, where I’ve had the privilege of counseling young people who’ve face struggles similar to my own.  My relationship with my parents is great now.  I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to make it right with them.

I never thought in a million years that I would be where I am.  I thank God for Phoenix House and for the faith I have today.  Now, I know that I can overcome anything.

If you or a loved one needs help for substance abuse, call us today at 1 888 671 9392 or send us an email.


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  • Kristen.K

    What a powerful story !

  • Iris T

    I’m taking my son this week had my doubts but your story has really helped me, trust them with my son.

    Thank you,

    Glad your doing so much better !

  • Kathy

    Johanna – Your journey has been filled with some tough stuff and I am so proud of you for not only seeing how substance abuse has impacted you but also how you are now giving back to your community in so many positive ways. I am positive you will continue this path on you life journey. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Makayla

  • Armando Ramirez

    Muy bien! Very positive outcome to a bad situation.
    Great inspiration. Saludos.

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