Feature: In Their Own Words (Part One)

Guest Post by Linda Millar

“My addiction started as my solution and ended up as my problem.” – Chelsea, now 17

The experts provide us with important facts and data about drug use, and they answer many of our questions, but if we really want to know why kids turn to drugs, we should ask the source – the teens themselves.

As part of Drug Free Kids Canada’s efforts to reach out to Canadian parents who are struggling with the issue of teen drug use, we were given the opportunity to talk at length with young people who have gone through or are presently going through, treatment for their substance use disorder and listen to their perspectives on drug use.

Their stories provide us with a window to explore the thoughts, feelings and actions that have impacted their choices in the prime of their lives – In Their Own Words.

This three-part series includes a one-on-one interview with a young girl, Chelsea* who is making huge strides with her addiction after beginning her journey at the tender age of 11.

The second part focuses on Chelsea’s parents and what they did to save their daughter.

Finally, in part three, we hear from several young people who are in various stages of addiction treatment and hear their heart-wrenching stories and their suggestions for parents…In Their Own Words.


Part One: Chelsea’s Story

“The only time I felt ‘normal’ was when I was high.” – Chelsea, now 17

Chelsea* was 11 years old when she started using. It began with alcohol, then ‘weed’, and later, Ecstasy, laced with Crystal Meth. It was easy to get; “A ‘friend’s’ brother was a dealer and their basement was a good place to escape the adult world.” By age 13, she was using daily and would go to any lengths to get high, including “stealing from friends, family and even the drug dealers themselves.”

When asked why she turned to drugs, she stated, “I was in internal chaos. I don’t know how my self-esteem got to be so low, but I hated myself and everybody else. I was so afraid of not fitting in- not being accepted. Getting high gave me immediate relief. It let me escape from the world and from my feelings. It became a vicious cycle: I would get high to feel good, then I would do something stupid and feel badly and then I would get high again to feel better.”

Coming from a loving home, with two parents and three siblings, Chelsea was involved in lots of extra curricular activities. As she stated, “I had every option. I was involved in sports, dance and music theatre.” Her older siblings, she explained, were so cool, so adult-like and they seemed to be happy and enjoying life. “I just tried too hard to catch up too quickly,” she said.

Chelsea believes that genetics played a role in her addiction. According to her mom, there are addiction issues on both sides of her family. Like almost all of the young people I interviewed, she believes she has an addictive personality that puts her at a higher level of risk for drug addiction.

Chelsea has been sober for three years and two months. She is going to university next fall and she hopes to someday help others who are going through issues similar to hers.

How did she get sober, and what made her want to do so?

As Chelsea would tell you, “I didn’t want to stop using. I had nothing to do with the decision. I got sent away by my parents.”

At age 14, while Chelsea was heavily involved in drugs, her parents knew that she was not capable of making the best decisions to turn her life around. After consulting doctors, drug counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists and anyone else who would listen, her parents were forced to send her away for lengthy treatment in a drug rehabilitation wilderness camp, followed by a year at a residential school that specializes in drug addictions.

It wasn’t a smooth transition to a healthy lifestyle. Chelsea resisted treatment and broke every rule in the book. She even tried to eat a mushroom that she found in the desert while in treatment in the wilderness. Now she realizes that this could have caused harm to herself, but at the time, she said, “I would have done anything to get high. The reward at the time seemed greater than the risk.” She claims this desperation was her turning point.

When asked how she feels now, Chelsea replied, in her own words: “I feel strong, capable, smart and driven. I am proud of who I am and I believe in me!” As one of her Guidance teachers remarked “I can’t wait to see what you are going to do!” Chelsea can’t wait either.

* Not their real names.

Thanks so much to Chelsea* and her mother, Helen* for sharing their stories.

Linda Millar is a contributor to Drug Free Kids Canada, and an education consultant with over 40 years of experience. She has authored several teacher resources in the fields of substance use prevention, media literacy, childhood obesity, and mental health.


Quick Resources:

  • The Cannabis talk kit for parents provides information on the drug, and practical tools for parents to start a conversation with their kids about cannabis ( and other drugs).
  • The Cannabis talk kit and other health resources can also be found on Health Canada.
  • If someone in your family suffers from Substance Use Disorder (SUD), check out Families for Addiction Recovery.
  • Drug Free Kids Canada inspires and supports parents to talk to youth about drug use.