their stories


My name is Shawna and I'm 24 years old.

I started drinking and smoking weed when I was 14 years old. When they say weed is a gateway drug, it's so true. It then led me into a cocaine addiction at the age of 17. By the time I was 19, I was fully addicted to heroin and pain pills.

Throughout high school, I did very well. I actually got a full rights scholarship to any college that I wanted to go to in Washington. I thought that by still maintaining what my goal was -- to graduate high school and to get good grades -- that I was okay. By still maintaining, I wasn't going to lose everything by the time I was 23 years old and have absolutely nothing. It led me into a life of complete destruction. I was on a downward spiral from the very first time I picked up drugs. It caused me to do things that are completely out of character for me.

I come from a good and supportive Christian family. My parents got a divorce when I was about 10 years old. At that point, my dad left our family. For about four or five years we didn't hear from him. I didn't know if he was dead or alive. I believe that is when my drug addiction and my wanting to be accepted came into play.

when you're in your addiction, you're not thinking about anything else. you don't think about 20 minutes from now. all you think about is getting what you want at that point. there's no thinking of consequences.

The hardest thing for me was saying no to peer pressure. I didn't want people to make fun of me if I didn't get involved in what they were doing. It made me feel good when I was drinking or smoking weed. It was my escape from hurting anymore from my parents' divorce and my dad not being there.

When I started using drugs, I thought I could drink once in a while or that drugs would be fun to party with on Friday or Saturday nights. It started out just smoking one bowl of weed rather than a whole big stack. I thought that I was gonna be able to keep it under control.

I didn't believe it when they said, "weed is a gateway drug," but it led me into a cocaine and then a heroin addiction. I wasn't able to maintain or control it. Throughout high school I thought I was able to because I had my full rights scholarship. I went to college for about two years and then I lost my scholarship because I wasn't maintaining my grades. I also lost a really good job at a mortgage company and my apartment. I lost everything because I wasn't able to control my drug use.

drugs took my self-respect, my dignity, my family

Until I was 17 years old, I was pretty much just drinking and smoking weed. Then a boyfriend of mine introduced me to cocaine. At first I said, "No." I was actually appalled that he was even doing it. After a couple of more times of persuading me, I eventually did it and loved it. I was heavily addicted to cocaine for about two year.

When I was 19, I had my wisdom teeth pulled and I was prescribed Percocet. Then I was introduced to Oxycontin, which is a very strong pain pill. Somebody then told me to try heroin because it was cheaper. For so long, I told myself, "I will never do cocaine and I will definitely never get to the point of using heroin". I have this mental picture of heroin addicts like that is the worst of the worst of the worst. When I was introduced to heroin, I was so much into cocaine and pain pills that my thought reasoning was that the high would be better.

My addiction became a very expensive habit. I had always heard if you worked at a strip club, you would make a lot of money. One of my friends was stripping and she told me how much money she made. I got involved in stripping and at that point, I just didn't love myself. I was willing to do anything to get my fix.

My lowest point was when I was living on the streets with no home to go to. I didn't know when I was gonna eat from day to day because every bit of money I had was spent on drugs. I was so physically addicted to heroin that it was all about not feeling sick anymore.

...there's only one way with drugs and that's death

Heroin was one of the most ultimate highs, but it was the worst feeling when you come off of it. You have dry sweats, you're shaking uncontrollably, but you just have to go through it. Your body aches like the flu, but a million times worse. You can't convince a heroin addict that they're not dying because it's so physically painful. The mind of an addict is just insanity because you go back to it time after time knowing what you're gonna go through. It doesn't matter; you just strive for that high.

When you're in your addiction, you're not thinking about anything else. You don't think about 20 minutes from now. All you think about is getting what you want at that point. There's no thinking of consequences. I ended up in jail twice and I now have a theft felony on my record. When you're in the midst of addiction, you're just lost. You don't know where to turn. I felt like there was no way out. Either I was gonna get help or I was gonna die a drug addict.

Drugs took away everything. Drugs took my self-respect, my dignity, my family. It took away everything that I was. I was a totally different person when I was on drugs. Here I was, a really good kid when I was growing up. Then, I was filled with anger and resentment and all the other negative things that made up my life. It was all a result of using drugs the first time.

If I were speaking to a 14-year-old, I would tell them that there's only one way with drugs and that's death. With drugs there is either death or prison. It's a miserable life that just consumes you.

teen challenge has taught me so many wonderful things. it's taught me patience. it's given me a hope for the future. it's given me a foundation to build my life on from this point forward.

One day, I looked in the mirror and said, "This is not me. I can't do this anymore." I was so broken and hopeless. Finally, I went to my mom's doorstep and begged for help. I knew that if I were to keep going, I would have ended up killing myself. I asked my mom, "Please help me. I need help to do this." She said, "If you are serious about getting help, there is this program called Teen Challenge." I told her I was serious and I would do whatever it takes and here I am today.

I've been in Teen Challenge for 11 and a-half months now. I have about two more weeks left and my plan is to go back to college. I'm gonna get my education degree and become a teacher. I want to work with high school students because I think my experience can encourage them.

When I came into the program, I thought that I was gonna be able to get my parents' trust back, I would get clean for a year and then I would be fine. Teen Challenge has given me so much more. Teen Challenge has taught me so many wonderful things. It's taught me patience. It's given me a hope for the future. It's given me a foundation to build my life on from this point forward. Teen Challenge is a brand new chapter in my life. Teen Challenge is the beginning of the rest of my life.