True Story: Mariela

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

I started using cheese heroin when I was 13. Before I tried it, I had never used any drugs. I never drank, and I never even smoked cigarettes—I went straight to cheese. I was peer-pressured into it by my friends in middle school; they told me, “Here, just taste it, it’s awesome, you’ll feel great.” I remember debating whether or not I should try it, but in the end I gave in. I was addicted for the next two years.

Cheese became my life. I did it at my house, at my school, and I would buy it off of my friends.  I think my mom knew about my drug use, but at the same time, she didn’t want to know. Eventually my cousin and I got caught using, and my mom and aunt sent us to the Phoenix House Feinberg Academy of Dallas to get help. At first, I really didn’t want to be there. I saw no point in it, and I couldn’t wait to get out and start using again. I thought, “You’re not going to change me. Nobody can change me.”

In the end, it was my family that changed my mind. After my third month in Phoenix House, my counselor told me that by refusing to change, I was just wasting my own time. “You’re stuck here,” he said, “so you might as well learn something while you’re here. Because I’m not going to let you go back out there and use. You see your family here every week, showing up to the family groups because they love you and support you and want you to beat this. Don’t you want to go home with them?” That was it—I realized I had to change, not just for myself, but for my family.

From then on, I was committed to my treatment and my education. My peers helped me when I felt down, and the staff was there for me 24/7. I basically developed a second family at Phoenix House, in addition to the family at home that I wanted to rejoin so much. I had two families supporting me and wanting me to stay clean. I loved school, it was better than regular school because there was so much more one-on-one time with the teachers. I learned so much and advanced so quickly that when I left treatment and returned to my old school I was actually ahead!

Now, four years later, I’m clean and sober, completing my first year in college, trying to get straight A’s, and working towards my Associates degree for substance abuse counseling. I really want to help other people realize that drugs aren’t the answer. They don’t help anything, and addiction is never fun. But so many teenagers don’t know that, and they feel so much peer pressure to use that they cave in. I know, because that was me: indifferent, rebellious, feeling like I was grown up and knew what I was doing. I wasn’t. But I’ve learned from my mistakes, and that’s great, because now I can look back and be proud of how much I’ve changed.

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  • Praise the Lord!!! What an inspiring story I am so proud of her for finding the courage to turn her life around. i have a burden for the youth of this day. They have so much out there that they have to resist. It is really awesome when they come to realize that God has a plan and a purpose for all of us. Connecting to our Destinies is a beautiful thing!!! May God continue to bless her!!!!

  • Laura Moss

    Mariela, I am so impressed by your poise and confidence! You obviously gained so much more than sobriety (although that is a major accomplishment!) while you were in treatment. Congratulations on your success and for the freedom you now enjoy after taking your life back from addiction! I will be excited to hear what other incredible things you accomplish over the course of your life. Continue to spread your story – you are impacting more lives than you could possibly know!

  • Alexis Halamka

    Good for you Mariela! I lived at the Phoenix House for 6 months and have now been clean for 8 years. There is so much ahead of you now. Keep strong. Know that outpatient services are always there for you and of course you can call up there anytime of day just to talk, or cry, or hear that someone cares about you not using. You’re a strong woman.

  • jennifer De la rosa

    Good for you. To have taken control of your life at such a young age. You are amazing to me!

  • louis rios

    I remember the first time you showed me this at phoenix house. its crazy how I was around people that been through the same things I have. I felt comfortable there because I was around people just like me. now im proud to say that im drug free!. thank you phoenix house family!:)

  • Eloy Ortiz

    Way to go Mariela, years ago went through Phoenix House. Your story is my story only a bit different. I went through Phoenix House Tuum Est, in Venice Beach California, and it totally changed my view on life. Your story reminds me of how powerful and important change is. Thank you for sharing, I hope that you’ll continue to go forward, and I want to wish you the best on that road of recovery. I am currently in school working on a associate degree for counseling as well. E-mail me if possible, I’d love to hear from you.

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