Hi, my name is Erica. I’m an addict and alcoholic. I was born and raised in Texas. I grew up in a little town in McAllen and then lived there the majority of my life. Always was a really good student. Had three older sisters. My parents are still married. We were the type of family, every Sunday, went to church. My parents always talked about God. My sisters, like everyone else, we had a close relationship but you fight because you’re sisters. My childhood, I don’t have any horrible things that have happened, but I think the things that lead me to drinking the first time … I always played sports growing up. I always had a bunch of friends, but I never felt like I was a part of any one of those groups. I had my basketball friends, I had my friends that I hung out with, all the different groups I could fit into, but I never felt part of it.
One time after basketball practice, I was walking home with one of my friends to her house. Across the street was this field and we were walking through there to get to her house, and she was like, “Hey, one of my friends gave me a joint.” I was like, “What is that?” She was like, “You want to try it?” I was like, “Okay.” So, we smoked a joint and we went back to her house and ate everything in it, laughed, danced, and had so much fun. For the first time, I felt like nothing mattered and everything was okay. From the outside looking in, people probably thought everything was always okay. Inside, I never felt like a part of, like I said. I always felt out of place, awkward, weird, not popular enough, not pretty enough. All of those different things.
After I smoked that joint for the first time, I was like, “Oh, that was nice.” I had tried wine coolers before because I have three older sisters. I would find wine coolers under their bed and try it, and be like, “Oh, that was fun!” It was never like, I didn’t do it all the time or something. It was after I smoked that joint that I was like, “Oh my gosh, that was a lot of fun.”
So, I started smoking pot more. That school year ended. It was the Summer before I was a sophomore, I believe. One of my friends had pills, . They were like, “I know you smoke pot, but do you want to try these? They’re like drinking without having to drink so much.” I was like, “Oh, okay. I’ll try it.” I took a rohypnol, or a couple. I loved it. I don’t remember anything of that night. My friends told me the next day all the things I did, and I was so embarrassed. I’m like, “Don’t ever tell me anything I do again,” but I loved the feeling of I didn’t know what happened. I just know that I felt like I had fun and it was fun. That whole Summer, that’s all I did was rohypnol’s and any kind of pill that my friends had.
After that, it was off and running. I had always been really good at basketball. When I was a freshman, I was already starting, playing with the varsity. My sophomore year, because of that Summer before it, I blew off basketball. I would miss practices. I would do horrible. The school I went to most of my life was very, very strict. You couldn’t dye your hair. If you wear a skirt, it had to be your knee, very strict. Always had to tuck in your shirt. Anyway, you couldn’t dye your hair, but I didn’t care. I was popping pills, smoking pot. I dyed my hair and I got a piercing and I went to school.
They put me in ISS, in school suspension, because they were like, “You can’t be here like this.” I stayed in ISS for a while and my basketball coach came and was like, “Erica, you can’t play basketball if you’re in ISS.” I was like, “Well, I don’t care.” He was like, “You were one of my top players, you’re going to ruin your whole season and your future. You could possibly have a really good future in basketball.” I didn’t care. I messed up that whole time.
I stayed in ISS for a while. Finally colored my hair back because my Mom was embarrassed because she actually worked at that school. So finally, for her, I colored my hair and took out the piercing. One weekend, I was staying with one of my friends and we took her Mom’s car. This is all in my sophomore year … Took her Mom’s car and drove it to South Padre Island. We all got trashed. It was during a school day. We skipped school, so we got arrested at South Padre Island for truancy. We got taken in handcuffs back to the school. My Mom worked there at the time, so she was so embarrassed. We’re all handcuffed together in the office. After that I got kicked out of that school.
Then I went to this other school, which was more of a public school, and so you could do whatever you want. That’s when things got even crazier. I got introduced to every drug in the world. In the interim of all this, I had been put into rehab a couple times. My parents would find marijuana. My parents would find different things, and their solution was obviously, “We need to get her help.” I would go to rehab all the time, but I’d get out and do the same thing over and over. I was 14, 15 years old. I didn’t care.
I did horrible at that school that I went to, the second one. Got kicked out of that school. Got put into a learning center. Got kicked out of the learning center for selling drugs. Then everything got worse after that. I don’t know how I finished school, to be honest. Actually, after getting kicked out of the learning center, I got my GED. I got arrested for some stuff while I was on drugs. I got arrested, my parents were like, “You need to get out of here. You need to get your GED, at least do something, and you need to move and get out of this place.” They thought the geographical was the problem. It wasn’t me, it was the friends I was hanging out with.
So, I got my GED and I moved to San Antonio. That was even better because I didn’t have parents watching me. I moved in with my three older sisters who were busy with college and actually doing life. I met a new group of people who were doing a lot of things that I had already done but had their own apartments and had their own stuff. Life just got even crazier. I was doing heroin all the time. I was stealing from my sisters, my parents, people, anything. Just to get money to buy drugs. That went on for years. All of this time, I was continuously going to rehab for different things. I’d get arrested, my parents would get me an attorney and the attorney would be like, “Go to rehab so we can get this taken care of and you get the charges dropped.” All these different things.
In and out of rehab forever until I was 20 years old. For a long time, I wanted to quit but I just couldn’t. I didn’t know how. I didn’t want to get sick from stopping heroin or stopping pills. I was miserable though. I tried to kill myself all the time. It never worked. When I was 20, I ended up in my bedroom, shooting up. I used to have a renaissance knife on my vanity. I was like, “You know what God? I’m sick of living like this. I don’t know how to stop using, but I don’t want to keep living.” So, I did some heroin, took a bunch of pills, and I grabbed that knife and I went into the closet and stabbed myself three times in the stomach. I normally don’t tell that story but I think that it helps people, because that’s how far down I went.
I ended up getting taken to the hospital. My sister, poor thing, is the one that found me in the closet. They took me into the hospital. A lot of stuff happened in that time. All I remember is, I woke up … In the hospital, I was so messed up on drugs that I just remember hearing things. They were like, “We don’t even need to give her anything to suture her up and all this stuff, she’s already so medicated.” I remember the surgeon holding my hand. This is one of the only things I remember before later on. He was holding my hand and he looked at me and he goes, “Why would somebody so young and so beautiful want to kill themselves?” I remember looking at him, thinking, “If you only knew, like, how empty and dead I already feel inside.”
I don’t remember anything after that. I woke up to my Mom holding my hand, crying. This is weird because I never listened to country at that time, but I opened my eyes that morning and the sun was just coming up. The blinds of my room were just a little bit open. I looked up and I saw the sunlight coming up. I just remember thinking, “Oh my God, I’m alive. Okay, God. There’s a purpose.” I woke up. I looked at my Mom, crying. This stupid country song came in my head when I was thinking all this. It was like, “Is there life out there? So much she hasn’t done. Is there life beyond her family and her friends?” A Reba McIntyre song. At that moment, I told my Mom I wanted help. I wanted to try and see if I could live clean. She couldn’t believe I was saying this. It was the first time I had ever asked to go to treatment.
She called this place, La Ha. I went there for 30 days. I had been through there so many times before, that they told me, “Erica, you need to go to this place in California. It’s called New Directions for Women. You’ve been through our program too many times. I think this place is the place you need to be.” I did it. I thought, “Why not give it a shot? Because what else could happen? Obviously, God’s not going to take me because I’ve tried so many times.” I flew out to California. I didn’t know anyone or anything. I did New Directions for Women for 90 days. That place literally saved my life. It was the first time I had friends that cared about me and that I felt a part of, and that didn’t want anything from me. We weren’t using each other for some reason. It was just genuinely, we cared about each other.
I’m not going to say I was the best client. I tried to leave a thousand times. I did horrible things in there, got in trouble all the time. Those girls always talked me out of leaving, always had my back. I learned for the first time that I could live and be clean. New Directions used to take us out to meetings. I remember going to the Newport Club, and I was amazed … We were in this meeting and it was so packed of people my age. People were sitting on the floor because it was so full. I was like, “Oh my God. I’ve never seen this before. In Texas, people aren’t getting clean and sober.” They probably are, but I didn’t know anyone that was. Especially, at the age of 20. To be in this meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, and it’s so big that people are sitting on the floor. I was like, “This is the place I need to be.”
I ended up staying in California. I finished my 90 days at New Directions. I moved into their sober living. I did that for a while. Then I ended up starting school again at OCC. I stayed clean and sober out here for a little over four years. Then some family stuff happened and I ended up having to move back to Texas. I moved back to Texas and I got into SMU in Dallas. I stayed clean and sober there for a while, but then I started thinking, “Oh, God, I’m older now. When I got clean, I was 20. Now, I’m almost 25. Like, maybe I can drink because drinking was never really like my thing.” So, I relapsed and I was drinking. I was going to SMU for undergrad for clinical psychology. I was partying all the time again. By God’s grace, I finished undergrad. I also started doing heroin again.
One of my friends that was actually one of the girls I went through New Directions with, found out I was doing heroin and called my parents and told them, “Erica’s doing heroin and she needs help.” At that time, I had just gotten into grad school in Malibu at Pepperdine. My parents were like, “Erica, do you want help?” I was like, “Yes, I do.” So, I ended up coming back to California. I went through New Directions again to get clean.
I used to go there all the time and just visit whenever I had a really bad day. That was my little safe haven. I remember being there one day and I was in grad school, I was like, “Maurice, I don’t know if I can do this. This is so hard. I’m stressed out all the time.” He was like, “You can do this. I’m going to tell you, if you finish this program, you will have a job here.” I was like, “Yeah, right.” Anyway, years ago, I do my practicum. New Directions allows me to do my practicum with them, so I finish my practicum hours with New Directions. Then all my friends from the MFT, Marriage and Family Therapy program, were freaking out. They were like, “How are we going to get a job after practicum? I’m applying to all these places.” What was awesome is, I didn’t even have to. I finished my practicum and Maurice was like, “You’re hired.”
I worked at New Directions as a therapist for a couple years. Then I’d been there for a while and I was like, “You know what, I kind of want to try other things.” I ended up quitting New Directions, but was always still a part of it. I still go to alumni on Thursdays. I’m still friends with a lot of people that have gone through the program and that work here. Like, Tanya and Victoria. I don’t know. Now, I still currently am a therapist but I’m not working in a treatment center at this time. I still want to be in the treatment field, so I have a sober living and I love that. Basically, that’s my story.
How much time do you have now?
Well, this is another horrible thing. A little over two years ago, I was going through a lot of stuff. Personal things. Family issues, again, with stuff at home. A lot of things going on in my life, and I ended up drinking. That was for a couple months, and then I was like, “What am I doing? I worked my butt off to get become a marriage and family therapist, and put myself through all of that school. I could lose everything.” I ended up getting pulled over and got a DUI, after a couple months of drinking. In jail, I was like, “This is not worth it. For drinking, I can lose everything in my life. Like, this is crazy.” The life that I had and have is amazing, to anything I’ve ever had before I was 20. The next day, when I got out of jail, so embarrassing, is my new sobriety date. Now, I have a little over two years.
I keep coming back because my life is amazing when I’m sober and clean. I know you hear it in meetings all the time. When I first got clean and sober, I used to be like, “Oh, God. That’s so cliché.” I used to roll my eyes when people would say, “My worst day sober is still better than my best day, or messed up.” I used to think, “That is so crap. Like, come on. I had some pretty good times when I was using.” It finally hit me. That is true. There is nothing in the world, when I’m sober and clean, that is worse than when I’m out there. Because it’s like, I lose everything. It’s not even talking about material things, it’s talking about that hole inside of me that I had all of those years before I got clean when I was 20, comes back in an instant.
What’s your relationship like with your family?
They’re my rock. My Mom is my best friend in the whole world. My sisters, I would do anything in the world for. That’s because, before, they wouldn’t talk to me when I was 20. They never believed I was really going to stay sober and clean. Now they’ve seen my life and all the things I’ve done and it’s amazing. My family is everything to me.
Even if you fall, you don’t have to stay down. Take every day you have sober and clean, don’t take it for granted. It is true, no matter how much time you have, you could lose an instant. Because I’ve had time, like I said before. Four year and a half years and then I lost it because I thought I could drink. Six and a half years, thought I could whatever. Even when I’ve fallen, I’ve always, with God’s grace, been able to pick myself up and know that I can get back into the program and have those people hold me up until I’m strong again. I guess my message would just be, don’t give up if you fall. Remember how amazing it is when you’re standing.