Clara went from a depressed teenager to a young woman who knows her worth

The day I turned twelve years old, I discovered the comfort and solace found in a handful of pills that were chased by the warm embrace of a bottle and my life changed for the worse. The summer before Jr. High I came to the realization that I was an odd girl. It didn’t matter how beautiful people told me I was, or how intelligent and charismatic I seemed to my family, there was an overwhelming sense of insecurity that consumed me.

I knew that I had to make changes to fit in with the “perfect and popular teenage girl” before I stepped foot into the daunting halls of McCormick Jr. High. I spent the summer pouring over my vast collection of Vogue Magazine. I was a voracious reader and absorbed the high fashion magazine like a garden bed takes water in the middle of a drought. Soon I had taken in all that I could about tall skinny models and the glamorization of party drugs like cocaine, and I used that information to blossom into what I thought was a beautiful young lady. However, I was mistaken. Instead of growing and progressing in to a young woman, there was a decadence of character and I lost my once effervescent personality and my self-love.

Although I ended up getting what I thought I wanted, which was a large group of friends who were made up of the most popular folks in school, that same insidious feeling of insecurity overcame me daily. I chose to cope using illicit substances, not knowing the endless plethora of resources that were available that could aide in my well-being. I remember reading an article about the Xanax that some runway model had overdosed on , but I had heard the feeling of ease that came with it was well worth the potential side effect of death by overdose. That was exactly what I needed.

I was drowning in an ocean of anxiety and self-hatred, so to hear that there was a little white pill that would throw me a life jacket and take it all away was perfect. As luck would have it, a family member had a prescription to this magic pill. She kept it conveniently located in the medicine cabinet, unsuspecting of the fledgling addict in the household.  I soon found that a handful of these little pills would not only knock me on my ass but they would make me feel glamorous and cool, and if they were chased with a stolen bottle of Sky Vodka I would get the perfect cross high going that would make me talk and act just a cool as I felt.

Before I knew it, I was in eighth grade with two drinking tickets under my belt. The magic cocktail of benzodiazepines and alcohol that had once made me seem so cool and popular had now led me to losing friends. No one wanted to be friends with a thirteen-year-old with two misdemeanors for drinking under-age,--their parents wouldn’t allow it! This newfound alienation didn’t stop me from using though; in fact, it expedited the rate at which my illness consumed me. Soon, I had found the good stuff, and was now battling an addiction to everything from cocaine to marijuana to LSD. By the time I was in ninth grade I had thrown away everything valuable in my life for the only friends who were still there, the drugs.

Soon my life was at stake, the disease of addiction was going to kill me if I didn’t quit using. My body was shutting down; it couldn’t handle the constant barrage of chemicals I was force feeding it. I was throwing up multiple times daily, passing out and getting severe migraines. My gallbladder and appendix failed and soon my kidney started to feel the effects of my addiction. However, even passing kidney stones in the school bathroom after I had finished railing a line of cocaine didn’t stop me from continuing down this fast track to death.

As my body shut down my mental state continued to worsen. The anxiety and depression was festering and growing stronger throughout my using career. It came to the point that no matter the amount I popped, snorted, smoked or drank the whole inside of me was too large to fill. Luckily, my parents and the school had noticed a shift in me and I was sent to the hospital. It was there that I was forced to make a huge decision, either I was going to drop out of high school to recover, or my parents were going to make me a ward of the court. I chose to recover and in that decision, real change came.

I went to a teen residential treatment center in Estes Park, Colorado called Fire Mountain Programs. In the beginning, I hated the place that would be my new home for the next six months as much as I hated myself. Unfortunately, my family life wasn’t any better than Fire Mountain life. I was wrestling with the fact that I had fallen so far into the hole of addiction that my parents were ready to give me up. I tried everything my addict brain could think of to manipulate my parents into discharging me and taking me home. Soon, I started to see that I was there for a reason. I learned through the Narcotic Anonymous (NA) program that there are three places an addict will end up if they do not recover: jails, institutions, or dead. I had already made it to the institution, and I was petrified at the idea of jail, death however… well maybe I could handle that.  It took four months of intensive therapy for me to realize I couldn’t handle death. After, I thought long and hard about my life the little glimmer of hope that remained inside me began to grow, I made the commitment to recover. I was ready to live.

With a lot of hard work and support from my family, my newfound family at Fire Mountain and a few sober friends, I graduated the program. I came home to a job at a coffee shop, I got my GED and enrolled in college at Laramie County Community College at the young age of sixteen years old. Everything was going great, the hole inside myself was healing and I was happy. I emendated light again, I had purpose and I wasn’t going to give up my sobriety for anyone or anything.

Unfortunately, not even halfway through my first semester at LCCC my best childhood friend killed himself. The feelings of depression came back to haunt me and I relapsed on LSD and methamphetamines. At this point I hadn’t continued my involvement with the NA fellowship and I felt completely alone in my struggles. There was no one I could turn to that understood addiction. Tired of hearing phrases like “where’s your self-control?” or “why can’t you just stop; don’t you care about your family?’ I gave up on recovery, and my addictions welcomed me with smiles on their faces. They whispered secrets into my ears and convinced me that I was back where I needed to be – under their control. After going through an intensive rehabilitation program, I knew that I was capable of recovery, and that if I surrendered to God as I understood Him, He would grant me the power to pull through this relapse. During a come-down I made the decision to withdraw myself from my classes and re-admitted myself into Fire Mountain.

After thirty days of extreme introspection I knew I was ready to come home. I had discovered what works and more importantly, what doesn’t work when it comes to recovery. I was ready to abandon my old playgrounds, playthings and playmates. I knew that this abandonment would leave me feeling even more isolated, so to cope with the impending alienation I found a homegroup, and then later a sponsor. The extreme support and love that is found within the doors of an NA meeting has proved to be my lifeline. I encourage everyone in recovery to use this awesome resource.

Today, I have seven months of sobriety. It is the first time that I’ve been able to maintain such a long period of abstinence without being in an institution. My family and I have never been closer; I’ve developed bonds with my parents that can’t be broken by anything. My brother and I still have work to do, in fact there will always be work to do, but things are getting better. I’m back in college going for my associates in art. I’ve volunteered for Fire Mountain Programs as a mentor who helps in the wilderness therapy program during the summer months. I went from a resident plotting my way out of the program to a role model for other residents who are where I was one short year ago.

Today, I think of what I can do to be of service to God and my peers. I’m in complete awe every day knowing that my story helps others get clean and sober. My health has even been restored even though the doctors told me that I would be sick for the rest of my life. I coped with throwing up and passing out daily--they called it Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome--but I haven’t gotten sick in months. I have energy, my hair is growing back, I have color in my skin, I feel beautiful again. I am no longer mentally, physically or spiritually bankrupt.

I went from a depressed and self-loathing teenager to a young woman who knows her worth and is willing to fight for her right to happiness. I still have hard days and weeks, but I now possess the tools to cope with these terrible moments instead of letting them consume me. In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous it is written that this total physic change is needed to truly recover. I have experienced the wild ride of change, but it wouldn’t have taken place had I not turned my will and my life over to God as I understand him, and placed my faith in the fellowships of AA and NA.

-Clara