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Camila
Credit: Courtesy of Camila via Jared Lam

I stayed sober through the pandemic

Camila was 17, and four months sober when the pandemic started.

She shared her story with Jared Lam of KUOW's Radioactive Youth Media program.

Many of us are struggling right now because of the pandemic.

But addiction has been a pandemic of its own for years. These two factors have made these past months especially hard on people with substance abuse issues.

Camila is a 17 year old who has had struggles like that in the past. Last year she went to rehab, where she chose to pursue a life of sobriety.

That decision was about to be tested when the pandemic started.

I live in Issaquah. But the meetings there didn’t have a lot of young people. And then I went to a meeting in Seattle where a lot of young people were, because you need to have people that understand you.

I couldn't hang out with the friends I was hanging out with before because they were using, and it was really just a toxic environment.

So when the pandemic started, I had about four months of sobriety — a little bit more. So that's still early sobriety. That's still a really fragile place to be in, where you know you have to go to meetings. So it made things like ten times harder for me.

I started getting super depressed, especially with school online. I was not doing good in school and that just affected everything else — like staying in bed all day.

There was a time where I just did not go to meetings, like barely really. I’m not good with online stuff — online meetings I’m not a fan of. They’re just not the same.

[Meetings] gave me this really happy feeling of just seeing everyone and being able to hug everyone. And have heart-to-heart conversations with people at meetings during a break. You go out with your friends that you meet, smoke a couple cigs, come back. After, you go to like a restaurant or someone's house and just kick it there. And it's like a whole experience.

And the pandemic hit.

I was alone most of the time so I felt like I could be sneaky and do certain things, and no one would be in my business about it because I'm 30 minutes away from seattle, 30 minutes away from my friends in recovery — just at my house in the suburbs, just chilling.

My mom got surgery on her — I think she got her wisdom teeth taken out or something — and something went wrong, and so the doctor prescribed her a bunch of painkillers. I took some of them and saved them for when things are going to get rough and I left them in my room.

And then one of my friends, Annika, she wanted to hangout so she came over. I told her, I was like "Yo I got like painkillers in my room and I was thinking of relapsing."

And she was like, "Where are they?"

And I was like, Fuck. Why did I tell her? I wanted to use those.

But I was like You know what, it's too late. I kinda just blurted it out. And then I gave them to her and we flushed them down the toilet, and that was that.

If this happened like not during the pandemic, I don't think I would even think about taking them. I was just in a super bad place and if I did, no matter what, people would know what was up.

I think when the pandemic ends and meetings are back to normal ... I will come out just feeling stronger and I'll be able to recognize a lot of the warning signs of, you know, Am I isolating? Am I about to relapse? Am I struggling?

Because now I know what my warning signs are, what it looks like when I'm about to isolate, what it looks like when I’m about to relapse — what helps me from doing that. And when I get out of the pandemic, I will have the resources I have to prevent those things and it will be much easier staying sober.

But at the same time, I'll know that I'll be proud of myself that I stayed sober through the pandemic because next month, I'm gonna have a year. And the majority of that time I spent in quarantine — through the pandemic, through this stupid virus.

And I'm gonna feel good, I already feel good about it. I feel proud of myself and it's something that is a big part of my story honestly, now that I think about it.

Young adults feeling isolated during the pandemic can get customized advice through a UW program. More on that program here. Young adults in recovery, and their families, can also access wrap-around services at Seattle's Bridges program.

Camila's story was produced by Jared Lam, of KUOW's Radioactive Youth Media program, with editing and sound design by Joshua McNichols.

You can hear more stories from this series, Voices of the Pandemic, and tell us about your own personal experience, here.

This story featured music by Utah, licensed via Musicbed. The Voices of the Pandemic theme song was writen by Alec Cowan.