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Melva Q., Youth Treatment
Melva Q used to think that alcohol use—sometimes heavy alcohol use—was a normal teenage pastime, just another way to have fun. “I was going to parties all the time,” she says. “I thought I was just enjoying life, living it to the fullest.” That changed in 2009 when Melva, then seventeen, was charged with underage drinking and ordered to undergo drug and alcohol counseling. “I didn’t want to go,” she admits, “but I knew I had to change.”
Despite her initial skepticism, as Melva continued to participate in individual and group counseling sessions at HAS, she began to see herself and her drinking in a new light: “I realized that I was really drinking because I needed to deal with my emotions. I drank when I was feeling sad, when I had problems with my family or my boyfriend. I needed to let it out, and I didn’t really have anyone to talk to. Nobody ever asked me how I felt, not even my mom or dad.” Melva’s counselor, Julia, provided her with a healthy outlet for her feelings, helping her to understand and process her emotions without alcohol.
HAS Youth Treatment staff also provided education that Melva says has helped her make better decisions. “I didn’t know how bad abusing alcohol is for your body,” she says. At Youth Treatment, however, the focus is not strictly on drugs or alcohol. Participants are encouraged to consider factors in their lives that can lead to their abuse and develop constructive strategies for addressing them.
Melva and her boyfriend, Adrian, who recently became the parents of a son, Alexander, have been able to use what Melva learned in the program to become a stronger family. “We used to fight about everything,” Melva says. “I remember telling Julia about how my parents treated each other and how that made me feel, and she told me that if we kept it up, we were going to end up the same way.” Now, she says, she and Adrian communicate much more openly: “we let each other know how we’re feeling, and when there’s a problem, we sit down and talk about it instead of blaming each other.”
Melva and Adrian admit that parenthood can be challenging at times. “Sometimes it’s hard,” she acknowledges. “Sometimes there’s not enough money, but you still have to buy diapers.” “It can be hard to figure out what he wants when he’s crying,” Adrian adds, “but I have to find out. He can’t tell us about it.” They feel confident, though, that they have the knowledge they need to raise a happy family. “Parents need to be open with their kids,” says Melva, “show them love, talk to them, ask them how they’re feeling.” She and Adrian plan to talk to Alexander about smoking and drinking while he is still young: “I don’t want him doing that!” she states.
Both Melva and Adrian are now planning actively for their futures and for the future of their family. Melva is currently studying to be a medical assistant and expects to graduate from college in 2011; Adrian is planning a career as a pharmacist’s assistant. Melva feels confident that, in her new role as a mother and given the skills she has learned at HAS, she will continue to make healthy choices and achieve her goals. “Having a baby changes everything,” she says. “I have to do it for him.”