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Rule #1: Don’t lie

“The drug was screaming my name. I wanted to get clean, but I didn’t know how. I learned how to act from you guys at residential,”
                                    --Nikiya, 18, youth residential treatment graduate


Nikiya dropped out at 15. She smoked marijuana with her dad so he wouldn’t be a mean drunk. At 16, she started using meth. She is brutally frank about her life before a juvenile judge sent her to the Gracepoint-ACTS Youth Residential Treatment campus in Thonotosassa. “I’ve been beaten, choked. I lost everything. I passed out on the lawn of the house where my boyfriend made meth and he left me there. I punched my grandma!”

Living on couches and on drugs, Nikiya spent so much energy to avoid feeling the pain. “Drugs don’t let you think in a logical manner. They train the brain not to think about pain. When I opened my mind and dealt with the pain, I could go back to school and get the grades,” she said.

In therapy at Thonotosassa, Nikiya asked questions she had never asked herself. She spent a few days at Gracepoint Children’s Crisis Unit healing her stress and depression. She listened to people at Narcotics Anonymous meetings. She connected to their stories, and found coping ideas she tried herself. She wrote letters to people who had hurt her, and threw them in the trash. That part really helped. Writing helped so much that Nikiya wrote an essay that was published in the regional NA newsletter “Clean Times.”

Nikiya has been sober nine months, she’s apologized to people who are important to her and she’s determined not to go back. She’s found her personal power…don’t lie…to yourself or anyone else. “I learned to tell people politely how I think and what I think,” she said.

Determined to return to school, Nikiya is just as determined not to use drugs. “I told people that if they are about the drugs, don’t bring it to me. I am not going to mess up my life like I did the first time,” she said. Now earning As and Bs she is studying for FCAT and taking agriculture classes. “It takes a lot to get me upset now. I want to go to school all the time,” she said.

She uses that newfound personal power to guide her. “I was at the fairgrounds the night those kids started trouble. As soon as I saw there was a problem, I got my friend and we left. My grandma picked us up. Before, I would have been in the middle of it,” she said.

Nikiya is looking for a job working with animals, aiming for a career in veterinary medicine.

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