True Story: Sofia

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Sofia: A true story of substance abuse, treatment & recovery I grew up in Exeter, New Hampshire, where a lot of people think there’s nothing to do except drugs. It’s a lame excuse, but nevertheless, I started smoking pot and drinking when I was 12 years old. Right away, I was hooked: I was in 6th grade and using every single day.

By age 13 I was doing coke and pills, and my addiction just took off from there. I started using hallucinogens, because I was into the whole hippie scene and going to Grateful Dead concerts, and that became my drug of choice. My parents were unaware for a while, and I developed other problems; I had eating disorders and I was extremely depressed. I constantly fought with my parents and I hated everyone, but especially myself. At one point I got into a fight with my mom and I blurted out “I’m going to kill myself!” I don’t think I consciously meant it at the time, but it was reason enough for my mom to call the police. They sent me to a psychiatric hospital and then to Phoenix House Academy at Dublin.

During my first month at the Academy, I was just a drone. Once the drug aftereffects wore off, I just started breaking down because I was so mad at myself. The Academy is a strict program with a lot of rules, and I’m a perfectionist—the older residents were telling me about the changes that would happen to me eventually, but I was angry and frustrated because I wanted them to happen NOW.

At some point something clicked, and from then on it was full speed ahead; I became so committed to my treatment, and I really excelled. I was helping other people, leading the house and following all the rules. I was doing all the things I knew I was supposed to do, but I still wasn’t getting much respect out of it from the other residents. Looking back, though, I’m glad I had a tough experience with those kids – most of whom were boys – because it really helped me grow and become a stronger person. Besides, when I graduated, those boys all apologized and thanked me. That was a really eye-opening experience—it proved that you can’t judge what someone is feeling based on how they are acting.

I graduated in exactly 89 days. I made so many great friends at Phoenix House, and I’ve never met more amazing people than the staff members. The bonds you develop in treatment are hard to explain—it’s a different sort of family with whom you’ll always be connected. One of the hard things in recovery is that the relapse rate is so high among adolescents. It’s hard seeing friends relapse, because you care about them, but you have to care about yourself first.

I’m in college now, on the honor roll at George Mason University—something that I never would have thought possible before Phoenix House. I’ve been clean and sober for over two years, and I check in with the Academy at Dublin whenever I can. Last year I started volunteering there, which is something I have always wanted to do. I’m glad to be able to give back and help people who are having the same experience that I had. It’s difficult and it’s inspiring; I care about the kids I work with, I have hope for them and I want them to do well and grow. I’m really passionate about helping other addicts and alcoholics, and helping them helps me.

Recovery is about awareness, and that’s what Phoenix House teaches you: the fundamental tools you need in treatment, in recovery, in the rest of your life. These tools will be forever embedded in me. I know some people can get clean and succeed on their own, but I needed Phoenix House—it saved my life.

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  • Edwin Natal Agosto

    Hello, Sofia. I just read your inspiring story. I too have been in recovery for little more then 30 years now. You’re right about helping others and how it keeps on focused on life positively. I was so happy to have found Phoenix House in facebook. It has given me the opportunity to give back by sharing my experiences with others. One of the most important things I remember from the program was never to forget where I came from and to always think positive no matter what. I’ve found throughout all these years that it’s what makes me stronger each day. Thank you for sharing your story. I know that just as mine it will help and inspire others to change positively. God Bless you..

  • Bill

    Please email me..i could use a little advice and another persons outside perspective

  • hi my name is rebecaa i have a daughter whos now 21 in the last 3 yrs shes had a breakdown somebody that she assosiated with slipped her some bad drugs to where it has altered her thinking process. shes living on the street,basicly shes using meth drinking, and i love her very much and she cries out to me everyday mom i neeed help . ill be honest im unemployed looking for work i have no money but im desperate i want my daughterback. im asking for somebody, anybodys help. sincerally rebecca quintanar. home 7602416330 15145 golden st oro grande ca 92368 thank you and god bless

  • eedelman

    Hi Rebeccaa, Thank you so much for reaching out on behalf of your daughter. We applaud you for taking this first step to help her, and have passed your information along to our clinicians in California who will be contacting you shortly. Best wishes.

  • Erin Price

    I am seeking a program for my husband who has recently relasped. We are looking for extensive out patient or inpatient programs for him as soon as possible. I’d like to know what programs you have that migth suit him. Or if you could offer leads for other options – that would be appreciated.
    Thank you for your time in advance.
    Erin Price

  • mtrochimczyk

    Hello Erin, Thanks for your message. Please let us know which treatment locations you are interested in. Better still, call our national Call Center, and discuss your issues with the counselor, at 1 800 378 4435, 24/7. They will refer you to the appropriate program for further treatment. Maja Trochimczyk, Ph.D., Senior Director of Planning & Research

  • jim

    I have daughter 22 who needs helpi think inpatient program would be only way for her.she been taking pain pills for at least 1 year she doesn’t live with me but she is on a very bad path looking for options do not know what to do have insurance but they tell me not for substance abuse been calling all over but no luck; any help would be helpful thank-you jim

  • eedelman

    Hi Jim, thank you for taking this important first step and reaching out for help. We have emailed you for more information and are looking forward to assisting you and your daughter on her recovery journey. Best wishes and hope to hear from you soon.

  • Name

    I just have to say, I am struggling with addiction myself. Only alcohol but it is still very hard and I need to let you know that your story is absolutely beautiful and 100% inspiring. You give me hope.

  • eedelman

    Thank you for your words of support and we are sorry to hear you are struggling. Please feel free to call us any time to get help. Your local number will appear on the homepage:

    It’s the best and most courageous step you can take for yourself! We wish you the best of luck.

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