Isabel Izar never thought she would amount to much. The former John Burroughs High School student struggled academically, and during her sophomore year, she said, she began experimenting with drugs. Casual marijuana use shifted into abuse of ecstasy, mushrooms, cocaine and Xanax.
“All I thought about was getting wasted all the time in that drug world,” Izar said.
But through intensive counseling, Izar was able to kick her addiction, and graduated from a high school in Valencia in May. Now 18, Izar Wednesday celebrated her sobriety with Burroughs students during an assembly called “Prevention Through Intervention — Students Teaching Students Why It’s Best to Safe and Sober.”
“I always thought, ‘I am a low-life, I am not going to do anything good,’” Izar said. “Now I can see that I can actually live for my dreams and go for what I want, and it can come true.”
The assembly, put on by Action, a Santa Clarita-based substance-abuse treatment program, featured Izar and five other Southland teens who shared personal stories of drug and alcohol addiction and recovery.
Studies have shown that peer-to-peer interaction is more effective in deterring dangerous behavior than traditional presentations by counselors or law-enforcement officials, said Action founder Cary Quashen.
And the panelists, all products of the Action program, bared all in trying to get the message across. They recounted first highs, insecurities, the desire to fit in, lying to parents, driving under the influence and run-ins with the law.
Cady Flores, of Glendale, said she was 11 years old when older friends showed her how to shoot heroin.
“Within 15 minutes I was in love,” Cady, 16, said. “You only have to do it one time to get addicted.”
Methamphetamines became her drug of choice, and at the height of her addiction, she weighed 87 pounds and had scabs all over her face.
“Let me tell you about meth breath,” Cady said. “Meth breath is disgusting. No matter how many times you brush your teeth, your breath smells disgusting.”
Insecure about her body, 18-year-old Brooke Faber said she first tried meth as a means to lose weight. She became hooked, and fell into a world that revolved around partying. She socialized exclusively with other users, and dated men more than a decade her senior.
“I thought it was totally normal,” Faber said.
The years she wasted on drugs could have been better invested in getting ahead in school and building a life for herself, Faber said. She urged audience members to take a different course.
“Let me have made the mistakes for you,” Faber said.