Plymouth teen shares story of addiction, fight to get clean

Kiersten White says she got into drugs and alcohol in downtown Plymouth, at her large high school where she could get 'anything'

PLYMOUTH, Mich. - Kiersten White has everything to look forward to tonight. She soon will graduate from high school. She is starting her career and she is about to become a mother.

But her story could have ended much differently, and she knows it.

"I put myself in absolutely terrible situations," she said while speaking to parents about her drug addiction. "I went to a really big school. You can find anything you want there."

At 18, White is clean and a peer support specialist at Growth Works Inc. in Canton Township. A few short years ago, she was in trouble. She was addicted to drugs and alcohol.

"I started actually taking Benadryl tablets. I would take as many as I could," she said. "They don't get you high, so I don't know why I did it. I think I had my first drink in 8th grade, and then I started smoking weed. There are like specific places in downtown Plymouth where they know cops don't go. So, you go there."

Then high school started.

"Once I got into freshman year I believe is when started messing with amphetamines. I was actually taking ADD medication. I was taking three times the dose you're supposed to. So instead of calming people down, who have ADD, it would make me really, really hyper," she said.

She said alcohol was readily available at school.

"Friends that I would drink with would bring it in the morning to school in water bottles, so we would drink really quick before school then get rid of the bottles. We just had a liquor cabinet of old liquor. So we would drink that, then fill it up with water," she said.

Then her mother started to question her.

"I was probably 15 when my mom started questioning me. I denied it and she drug tested me. I drank a gallon of water the night before so I past my drug test the next day. So I kind of played it off for a little bit and I would do that for ... I did that for two years, probably," White said.

She moved out of her mother's home soon after.

"I ended up moving out. They would catch me ... my mom caught me red handed, stealing her wine," she said.

Her parents had had enough.

"My parents actually finally stepped in, after I got my minor in possession," White said.

They took her to Growth Works, which helps teenagers in Wayne and Livingston county battle addiction. Professionals there recommended she get inpatient treatment.

"Kiersten, when she came here she was combative," said Brian Spitsbergen, of Growth Works.

White said she didn't want any part of it.

"In the beginning I would not do the first step, which is admit I was an alcoholic. It's not like you get sober and everything goes perfect right away," she said.

But it is getting better for White. After getting out of rehab she continued her treatment.

"She's got a lot of challenges in front of her still but she's a walking, breathing example of somebody I am really proud of," said Spitsbergen.

White has not only turned her life around, she has paid it forward by helping other teens kick their drug and alcohol habits.

"We get kids pretty much in every imaginable way," said Spitsbergen.

Spitsbergen said they treat children from 11 to 17 years old. In fact, the average age of an at-risk child is just 11.

"Gaining trust back with people was also very difficult," White told a group.

She says it took her parents' pulling away from her to understand she was in trouble.

"I was totally alone, and that's when I realized something wasn't right," she said.

Her advice to parents is if they suspect their child is abusing don't be afraid to get them drug tested.

"If they have nothing to hide then they won't object to it. I think it's worth it, the 10 minutes of arguing or whatever it may be, to possibly save your child's life," White said.

White and Spitsbergen said kids are getting more drugs from their family home than they do from the streets, especially Xanax and Vicodin. Many sell those drugs to buy their drug of choice, heroin.

For more information on Growth Works visit their website.

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