For most of Mindy’s 19 years of life, she was a “normal kid” who swam on the school swim team and looked forward to trips to the zoo with her mother. The youngest of four sisters, Mindy enjoyed art and French class, and her classmates at the high school she attended. Drugs and alcohol had never been a problem. “I didn’t drink, smoke pot or anything,” she says. But Mindy’s boyfriend was another story.
“My boyfriend was into heroin,” she says. Though she was tempted to try it, she never did. And then in 2009, he jabbed her with a heroin-filled syringe as she walked by. Mindy was shocked – at first – then grew to need the drug.
It wasn’t long before Mindy became addicted. “I’d use once every couple of weeks,” she says. “But then it progressed…and I was doing it every day.”
She was also stealing money from her parents to buy drugs. The combination of lying, stealing and addiction led to a breakdown. “I was going through counseling and I told my therapist about all the lying and using behind my parents back,” she says. Mindy told her parents about her drug use and tried hard to quit. But she couldn’t.
By March 2009, Mindy had returned to a daily habit, and along with an acquaintance, brought drugs and needles with her for a three-day senior retreat. But school staff discovered their plans, and called Mindy’s parents to come and pick her up. Just two months shy of graduating, Mindy was expelled from high school.
She was given a job at her father’s business to keep her busy while her parents looked for ways to help their daughter. They found Hope Academy, the recovery high school at Fairbanks. By then Mindy had quit using again, and felt good about enrolling at Hope.
“I immediately clicked with the staff,” she says. “But the expectations were different than what I was used to. They weren’t just focused on your grades. They were focused on your sobriety, too.”
Still, Mindy continued to struggle with her addiction. “I relapsed during the school year,” she says. “Then the staff at Hope convinced me to take a tour of Fairbanks treatment center.” Mindy stayed in the adolescent unit at Fairbanks for the next six weeks.
Throughout her time at Fairbanks and Hope Academy, Mindy experienced several relapses, the worst coming over the Christmas holiday. “Normally when I relapsed I would use once or twice,” Mindy says. This time she used every day for the entire break.
Yet instead of hiding her relapse, Mindy told Hope staff about it. “I knew that was what I was supposed to do,” she says. “For once, it started to work out because I had done the right thing. And from that point on it became easier and easier for me to maintain my sobriety.”
Mindy has been sober since January 1st. She credits her success in part to Hope staff and to lessons she received while she was at the school. “Dr. Z really helped me work through a lot of issues,” she says, referring to Hope Academy staff member, Dr. Sig Zielke. “I finally had someone to talk to who wasn’t a therapist or my parents.”
One of the most important lessons was making a commitment to honesty – with herself, and with others. “I learned I had to be honest with myself,” Mindy says. “I had been lying to myself.”
Mindy graduated from Hope Academy on May 28th, 2010, and has enrolled at IVY Tech Community College. After she finishes at IVY Tech she wants to earn a degree in mortuary sciences, but is taking life one day at a time. “I live by that,” she says with a smile.