Adrianna doesn’t remember exactly when she began to do poorly in school however, she does remember that right around 5th grade she became an angry kid with behavioral issues. Her father is an alcoholic and that reality began to affect her life at home. Her parents fought a lot and ultimately divorced. She remembers often feeling lost and emotional.
At the end of her 8th grade year Adrianna had her first beer. She was at a friend’s house and they thought it would be fun to try the ones belonging to her friend’s parents that were in the refrigerator. They didn’t finish those beers- didn’t like the taste all that much.
When Adrianna started high school she was 13 years old. All her friends had started smoking cigarettes and hanging out with the “cool”, older kids that smoked at school, so she followed along. “I was just this geeky girl trying to keep up.”, she remembers. Before the end of her first semester that year she was kicked out of school and moved to an alternative school. For the first time she was exposed to kids getting drunk at school. By her sophomore year Adrianna had pretty much stopped going to school choosing the more attractive option of hanging out at the park or at a friend’s house and drinking. By her junior year Adrianna was drinking quite heavily. In her world life became about partying, staying up all night and advertising” how sloppy drunk you could get”. There were parties happening all over, all the time. It was all that mattered.
“I feel like high school set us up in a way. It gave us a place to find drugs and alcohol.” says Adrianna. It was heartbreaking for Adrianna’s mom, Elena to watch what was happening to her daughter. “Her group of friends changed, she changed. I feel she was influenced by the older kids she was hanging out with and they had easier access to the alcohol. She became out of control.”
A month before the 18th birthday, Adrianna’s parents sent her to an alcohol abuse recovery camp. It was a one month program and they hoped it would help. According to her mother what she was worried about the most was what would happen after she returned home. Would she be able to maintain a sober lifestyle? Adrianna could not. Life after the camp was hard, lonely. She eventually reconnected with old friends and soon found herself starting all over again, casually at first and then escalating to a point that caused her a DUI last year. “The camp didn’t change me. I enjoyed it and met some cool people though. It did made me realized how I was affecting my family. But it didn’t change me.”
Today Adrianna is living at home with her mom and siblings. She has a solid, positive relationship with her mother and sees her father on occasion. She is working and still drinks but “not as much”. Adrianna is not shy or afraid to admit she has made mistakes, has some issues to deal with and work on and will probably always struggle with challenges surrounding alcohol. Laughingly she says” I just want to be normal and do normal things. I want to play mini golf and go to the movies and eat at In and Out!”
When asked about her thoughts about the mission and vision of Justin’s House she replied: “I love the idea of Justin’s House. I like that it is voluntary, non-judgemental and welcoming. I think it will appeal especially to kids who don’t have great family lives to go home to at the end of the day because this will give them a sense of belonging.” I think no matter where you come from or where you want to go, a place like Justin’s House will benefit kids because it will be motivating. It’s a place where positive things are happening and it will help kids think “outside the box”- something we’re not very good at. Most importantly it’s not a program that is trying to “fix” us because we’re bad kids. It’s a program that asks kids: “who do you want to be and are you willing to discover your potential?”