Every addict has a different story. We come from all different backgrounds: different races, nationalities, ages, etc. My story was that I got clean two and a half years ago at the age of 15. I’ve struggled with emotional trauma and serious mental health issues since the age of 12. I didn’t have what some might consider to be a “rough childhood”–I grew up in a middle class family with parents who were in a pretty stable relationship–but when I was around 10 or 11, I experienced several traumatic events. Around the same time that things started to get more difficult within my own household, I entered a middle school where I was severely emotionally bullied. I was depressed, anxious, and had lost any sense of direction. I had no idea how to cope so I turned to starving myself, self-harming, and abusing prescription pills. At first, I started with benzodiazepines–a class of sedative drugs including Valium, Ativan, Xanax, and Klonopin, among others. I only used them every month or so, but when I did, I took them in large quantities. I felt that the drugs were able to help me numb out and escape from the turmoil I was experiencing internally. When I entered high school, I started using Ambien as well, a sleeping pill that acts similarly to a benzo. There were some nights when I would snort so much Ambien that I wouldn’t be able to get up and go to school the next morning. Because the benzos made me so tired and limited my ability to function so much, I turned to a new class of drugs that took me out–opioids. I found a bottle of Vicodin that my sister never took when she got her wisdom teeth out. I took a few pills, and by the end of the week, the bottle was empty. I continuously stole to maintain my habit, and by the end of my first lapse (which lasted several months), I was using drugs like Percocet or Vicodin or codeine nearly every thirty minutes just to stay sane. When I tried to quit for the first time and experienced a harsh withdrawal period, I promised myself I would never go back to using opioids. I was quick to break that promise and start the cycle over again. By the end of my using career, I believed I was broken. I had tried to quit several times and had failed. I had ended up in the hospital several times, I was ashamed of myself and pushed away my friends and family, and I became suicidal. I decided that using heroin would be easier, so I stole some needles from a diabetic kid at my school and spent a great deal of time texting heroin dealers and trying to make an arrangement. By the grace of a Higher Power, before I was able to use heroin, intentionally kill myself, or overdose for the last time, I was sent to treatment. I attended a Wilderness Therapy program for several months before transitioning to a long-term residential treatment center. For nearly a year and a half, I addressed my trauma, emotional challenges, and addiction–which I discovered were very much intertwined. That being said, once I graduated the residential program, my journey was not over. In fact, it still isn’t over. Although I’ve stayed clean for the year I’ve been out of treatment (two and a half years clean all together), addiction isn’t something that will ever go away for me. I will continue to fight this disease for the many years ahead of me. I attend 12 step meetings several times a week, participate in activities I enjoy such as singing and the swim team, and keep a group of people around me who are also dedicated to their recoveries. I want to show that recovery from addiction is possible, even for young people. I have begun to speak about adolescent addiction/recovery at various events around the Seattle area, where I live. I am headed off to college in Boston next year, and I hope to spread the message of recovery there as well. My life is at a place where, two years ago, I could have imagined. I believe that others can reach this place too.