When JuliAnn Crommelin was 13, she started sneaking beers out of her parent’s kitchen cabinet. “Drinking just put me in a different state of mind. It made me feel good,” she recalls. “I liked not being in reality.” Her favorite movies made alcohol look fun and exciting. And when her mother would stumble home drunk, she always seemed to be in a happy, giggly mood. “That type of crazy lifestyle looked good to me,” says JuliAnn.
Just as she began experimenting with drinking, however, her alcoholic mother decided to seek treatment for her own addiction. S her mother became sober, she became less tolerant of her daughter’s partying and warned her continually of the dangers of alcohol, making JuliAnn resentful and angry.
By the age of 15, she began drinking more heavily. She was struggling with school and felt anxious in social situations, so her family doctor put her on an antidepressant drug, as well as Adderall, an amphetamine used to treat ADHD.
Despite the doctor’s warning to avoid drinking while on these medications, she continued to get drunk on weekends.
“A lot of times I would black out because I would overdo it,” JuliAnn says. While working as a hostess at a local sushi bar, JuliAnn would drink as much as 16 ounces of sake, a potent Japanese alcoholic drink, every night that she worked.
“I kept blacking out and getting grounded when I was drinking alcohol. I really could not regulate how I would be able to act normal while drinking, so that’s kind of when I turned to pot,”” says JuliAnn, who had easy access to it thanks to her dealer boyfriend. “It didn’t smell as bad as alcohol did on your breath, so my parents couldn’t find out as easily.”
Her parents were divorced, so when she visited her father on weekends, she would steal his Vicodin, a painkiller he used for arthritis. She was also abusing the Adderall she had been prescribed, often trading does with friends.
“I just wanted to feel different, wanted to be dizzy, wanted to feel good, feel drunk,” she says.
Looking back, JuliAnn remembers a number of times when alcohol and drugs clouded her judgement: he let her 15-year-old sister drive her car without a driver’s permit. She stole money and pills from her parents and friends, and alcohol from the grocery store. And when drinking at parties, she sometimes put herself in compromising and risky situations with the opposite sex.
“There were situations that I would not have been okay with if I was in my right state of mind,” says JuliAnn. “It affected my self-esteem. I wasn’t really proud of myself as far as what I was doing in life. When you’re lying and cheating, you can’t really feel good about yourself.”
Frightened by her daughter’s worsening alcohol and drug abuse, JuliAnn’s mother took her in for an outpatient evaluation at a local clinic. She was 17.
“I really did not believe I had a problem. I thought I was just being a normal teenager,” says JuliAnn. “But I was so sick of my family life.”
After the evaluation, she asked her mother to drive her directly to Visions Adolescent Treatment Center in Malibu, Calif., where she began her rehabilitation.
“At first, I felt really relieved because for years, I [asked myself], ‘Am I bipolar? What am I?’ My emotions were up and down, and all over the place. I’d get really frustrated, really angry. I just thought maybe I was crazy. When they told me I was an alcoholic and I had trouble with drugs and alcohol, I was [relieved], because I know how to treat that.”
After undergoing treatment and counseling, JuliAnn began to feel more emotionally stable and developed healthier relationships with her family and friends.
“I’m somebody that my parents depend on and trust. They believe the things that I am saying now,” she says. “And I’m doing better in school, even though I’m not on Adderall now.”
Today, the 24-year-old uses her own personal struggles with drugs and alcohol to help others. For the last six years, she has worked as a counselor and outreach coordinator at Visions Adolescent Treatment Center in Malibu, Calif.
“The fact that I get to use this experience that I had as a way to educate other people is phenomenal… that I can work with teenagers and I can give them good, positive advice is mind-blowing.”
“I’m really grateful my parents did something when they did, before I was 18. Whether it’s drugs, alcohol, depression, anxiety, cutting, or eating disorders, the sooner you catch it and the sooner you do something about it, the easier it is.”