Experiences of a Former Teen Addict

My name is Dana Kippel. I was raised in an upper-middle-class family in Suffern, NY. It was a medium-sized community, mostly affluent people, but a mix overall. Most of the town was in denial about the serious drug problem we had. Many of the parents thought “my kid doesn’t do drugs”. Most of them were wrong.

Today, Dana is a recovery advocate, who loves to help teens and families.

When I started high school, I was immediately introduced to underage drinking at school hockey games and at parties thrown by kids whose parents didn’t pay enough attention or were away from home a lot. At first, I was able to maintain good grades, but soon my drinking spiraled out of control at the early age of 14. I lost my friends’ trust. And I was bullied for the way I would act and behave while drinking. I felt I had no one to talk to.

At age 15, I started using cocaine. The girls who were a grade under me and my boyfriend were using it. Once I tried it, I was hooked. During my senior year at 17, I was barely going to school. I also had a couple incidents where I felt I was taken advantage of by older men.  And the bullying by my classmates was worse than ever. During that time, I developed anxiety.

Fighting Addiction As A Teen

When I was 16, I was put in a psych ward because I went into a cocaine-induced psychosis, which didn’t help my image at school. My classmates made fun of me, called me names and “booed” me in the hallways. Worst of all, they created fake stories about me and spread them all around. It was all too much for me to take.

Instead of doing the logical thing and stopping my drug abuse, I continued to use more and more.

After my psych ward visit, they discovered that I wasn’t crazy but I was battling addiction and put me into an intensive outpatient treatment program.  I was told to go to AA meetings. But as a 17-year-old, I had a really hard time staying sober when all my friends were out partying, including my boyfriend. I was depressed and thought why me, why am I like this? I focused on all the wrong things. I couldn’t stop using, and eventually, during my senior year, I had an intervention.  I went to an inpatient rehab program and graduated high school there.

After spending four months in rehab, it did not take me long to start using again. I went back to the same relationship, same friends, and I wanted so bad to just be normal. Things got worse and worse for me. I’ll spare you all the details. But I finally overcame addiction when I went back to rehab at age 22 and got sober at 23. I have been clean for the past 5 years.

Advice For Teen Addicts

I’m writing this to the addict who is still young and isn’t sure they want to be sober or feel they are missing out. Trust me don’t go back out. Stay sober.

After I relapsed at age 17, I went through terrible things no one should go through. I never got to walk at graduation or go to college. I never got to experience my teens and early twenties sober. I lost the most important people in my life because of my addiction. I lost my high school experience. I never even got to enjoy prom.

I completely severed my relationship with my parents, and I will always regret the pain I put them through. I was an amazing cheerleader and gymnast, and I also lost any chance at continuing in that.

Now, I am happy about where I am in my life but that’s because I have five years sober and have worked very hard to get here. I could be so much further if I got sober when I had the chance at 17!

Sobriety is a wonderful gift, and I am so happy I eventually got it. If you are young, get sober now, I promise you won’t miss out on anything! Surround yourself with positive people!

Don’t Be The Cool Parent

For the parents out there who think it’s just a phase, don’t assume that. Your child may have an addiction issue. Ask questions. Find out how they’re being treated in school. Be involved. Don’t be the cool parent. If you notice signs don’t feel shame and turn a blind eye to it. Ask the teachers how they are doing. Find out who their friends are and if they are safe influences. Don’t hover, but be smart.

My parents tried, but they were also in extreme denial. Make sure your child feels support. Make sure they are going to school. Don’t give in to them, or cut them slack.

Be their parent, not their best friend. Help them figure their life out and gain life skills. Make them do chores. Don’t let them stay out till 3 a.m. If you think they need help, get them help ASAP. Don’t procrastinate.

Inspirations For Youth and Families offers comprehensive treatment for teens ages 13 to 17, who are struggling with substance abuse disorders and mental health issues. Call us at (877) 779-8010 to learn more about how we can help your teen overcome drug addiction. No teen deserves to fight drug addiction alone.