Nearly a million people have watched Chiara de Blasio describe her journey of recovery on YouTube since the video was released over the holidays last month. Chiara wanted to speak out to help all those who are suffering in silence.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 3.1 million Americans need treatment for a substance-abuse problem.
Chiara sounds like so many young people who struggle with belonging, or who hide feelings of depression or anxiety. Chiara has used pot and alcohol to manage emotional pain that she didn’t know what else to do with. Her parents care, and so do so many parents. But alcohol and drugs are out there, easy to get, and they do the job. They make uncomfortable feelings that threaten to become overwhelming just sort of go away. They make sliding into a group feel smoother. When you feel insecure, they shore you up, at least for a while. They provide a sense of closeness, albeit a drug-induced one, that takes away that sense of separateness that we all carry somewhere inside. They drug you. They are a synthetic solution to a very human problem. And they work. But not for long. Eventually the solution becomes a problem that eats away at the infrastructure of your life as you feel yourself slowly slipping away from “normal,” slowly becoming someone you no longer recognize as you.
“Every kid who grows up in New York grows up pretty fast,” Chiara says in the video. “It’s astonishing.” She continues, “I’ve had depression, clinical depression, for my entire adolescence. … [Drinking and doing drugs] made it easier.” She goes on to describe how pot and alcohol gave her a sense of being a part of something, how they helped with her insecurity at college, being so far from what was familiar. “It didn’t start out as a huge thing for me, but then it became a really huge thing for me,” she says. “When I went away to college, I didn’t really do the proper mental and emotional work to prepare myself. I kind of just thought that all my problems would go away if I just got on a plane and flew 3,000 miles.”
In describing how drug and alcohol use kept creeping into her life, she says, “I kind of just kept reasoning, using this really fake rationale that was so justified to me….” She’d decide to just smoke pot, or to just drink, which, at the time, made complete sense to her as a way to manage her use and eventual abuse of drugs and alcohol. She didn’t know that she was slowly losing her grip on reality, that she was becoming another person, that drugs and alcohol were taking over her life, that her solution to make pain go away was just creating more pain.
She was one of the lucky ones. Her therapist made the right call, realizing that she needed to get sober in order to get better, and she referred her to an outpatient treatment program in New York City. Chiara says, “I was looking for an institutional, group-therapy sort of thing where I could just work with other people around my age on these issues of depression and anxiety that I was facing.” She adds, “Removing substances from my life has opened so many doors for me. … Now I’m doing well in school and actually getting to explore things that aren’t just partying.”
Chiara says, “I think it’s just important for people to realize, anybody who’s watching this, that if you’re suffering, and if you’re depressed or dealing with mental illness, and you think that it might have something to do with your drug abuse or drinking, or if you’re just suffering from both of those at the same time and you think that they’re completely unrelated to one another, that getting sober is always a positive thing. And it’s not easy. By no means is it easy. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But it’s so worth it.”
In Chiara’s words, wise beyond her years, “Nobody can do sobriety on their own. You really just have to keep on relying on those that have been there, finding people that have gone through it, being honest, open, and willing….” And if you are willing to tap into the collective wisdom of those millions who have gone before you and found sobriety, she says, “you will see the most immense change that you’ve ever seen before.”
Tian Dayton, MA, PhD, TEP, is the Director of the New York Psychodrama Training Institute and the Program Development for Breathe Life Healing Centers and executive editor of the Journal of Psychodrama, Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy. She serves on the board of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics and is the author of 16 books, including her latest book, One Foot in Front of the Other: Daily Affirmations for Recovery. Dr. Dayton is the creator of the Internet’s first interactive self-help website, www.emotionexplorer.com. Learn more at www.tiandayton.com.