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    Posted January 25, 2013 by
    Encino, California
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Girls + Education: Your message

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    Aliah From Connecticut

    Aliah* grew up in a leafy suburb in Connecticut --lovely homes, manicured lawns, fuel-efficient cars parked in every driveway. She never felt she belonged.


    She saw other kids smiling and joking, bantering with each other as if it were easy. They spoke a language she did not understand. They had a bond, somehow, a secret code she could not crack. She felt like a stranger in her own land.


    She hoped no one would notice. Perhaps she could pretend to fit in. But the awkward silences and slight stammering gave her away. Eye contact was especially difficult. She couldn’t move her body in a natural way when she was around people. Lunchtime was a nightmare. Who to sit with? No one. That was death. So she sat in a bathroom stall until the hour was over. If anyone at school asked what she had done over the weekend, she made up the answers, saying she had friends outside of school.


    Her parents said she was just shy. She would get over it. Her brothers and sisters sometimes tormented her about it.


    Isolation eventually became a friend, no one to make her uncomfortable, no one to judge her . . .until she found alcohol. From the time she first drank at a school party, she felt she was home. Her inhibitions fell away, at least for a little while. She noticed the other kids liked her when she drank.


    She didn’t notice that she was one of the few kids who always got drunk when she drank. She always had too much,even from the beginning. She was the kid passed out on the couch, or throwing up in the bushes, or making a scene. She thought that was what everyone did. She also didn’t notice that over time she stopped caring about what used to matter to her. She stopped doing her homework. Then she stopped going to school at all. She did things she never thought she would do or could not remember.


    She tried to hide her drinking from her parents , saying she was spending the night at a friend’s, or sick, or just feeling depressed. When her parents discovered her use of alcohol, she convinced them that all kids her age drank, it was normal, and she never drank too much.


    Aliah never finished high school. Her development all but stopped when she became addicted to alcohol. Most of the other kids she drank with did not become addicted – she did. She heard two of her drinking buddies died in an accident. That was the first time she tried to stop. She tried quitting a few times over the years, was abstinent for a while, and then went back to drinking. She thought if she just had enough will power, or was a better person, she could stop for good. That never worked. She did not know she had a disease or how to get the care she needed. She missed the rest of her teen years, then her twenties, and her thirties. Her family gave up on her. She found jobs here and there, dirty apartments to live in, bad relationships, sordid situations.


    Aliah did recover. She finally found help --proper medical treatment, ongoing partcipation in a 12 step program, sober housing and other assistance to enable her to reenter society.  She has lost her obsession to drink and has found peace. She never did complete a formal education, but she learned how to live and to be happy. She had given up on that. Aliah was lucky. Thirty five hundred kids and over one hundred and thirteen thousand adults die of addiction in our country each year. Over twenty million more go without help. Aliah has been given a second chance.

    Lisa M. Jacobsen, Harvest House

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