Stories about kids

young angry girl

D.A.R.E. Princess Jumps off the Bridge

You wouldn't know it to look at her now, but Kat almost didn't make it because of alcohol and drugs.

She tells her story with an honesty and directness that comes from having told it before. Both of her parents were addicted to prescription drugs. Her brother is an alcoholic who just got sober. Her earliest memory of her mother is sitting on the bed with her as she rolled a joint. She was three.

“In fifth grade, I was a DARE princess,” she recalls talking about the program in which local police go to elementary, middle, and high schools in their own version of “Scared Straight.” A common DARE tactic is towing a wrecked car and leaving it in front of a high school at prom time. Classes come out and listen to police lectures about students who died or were critically injured while drinking and driving.

By sixth grade, the DARE princess became dark and angry, she remembers. “When Kurt Cobain died, I started cutting and carved his initials into my arm.”

Kat’s childhood is a billboard for the role genetics plays in addiction. Her father died of alcoholism when she was very young. Her mother took Kat to AA meetings but never managed to get clean. For high school, Kat asked her grandparents to send her away to boarding school, and they did.

Overweight, painfully self-conscious, and smart, the curriculum was too rigorous for her to drink or do drugs and keep up academically. So she only did them on weekends. She hung out with whomever she needed to find alcohol, pot, and other drugs.

On her frequent visits home, Kat saw her mother and stepfather, who was also a heavy drinker, grow increasingly worse. Senior year of high school, her mother was arrested for forging prescriptions a second time (she was a school nurse) and lost her job. It was a high-profile case, and she couldn’t work, leading to more drug use.

At the same time, Kat discovered ecstasy, which sent her to a euphoric place where “every human being was beautiful inside and out.” Her grandparents gave Kat $20,000 to pay the rest of her senior year tuition and buy a used car, and she spent all of it on drugs.

“My stepfather was drunk, my mom was doing crack, and every kind of insect, mouse, or filth you could imagine was in that house. My mom was having psychotic episodes and screaming. I fed her bong hits to calm her down,” she says. “Then I realized that this could be me.”

When her mother was functional, she took Kat to an AA meeting. Kat is now a special education teacher at an acute care unit of a hospital. She is sober for 10 years. She has a new group of friends, many of whom she met in AA, which provided a community of people like her, struggling with addiction. Her mother died of ovarian cancer while she got clean.

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