I’m Lauren Spencer, born and raised in San Clemente. My addiction started during my childhood. I depended on other people’s approval because I wasn’t content with who I was. I wanted my jokes laughed at, and I wanted to keep up with the friends and family around me. I started sneaking alcohol from my parent’s cabinets when I was 12 or 13. I first tried smoking pot when I was 13 and expelled from Bernice Ayer Middle School by the time I was 14 for possession and sentenced to the JADE program. It was there where I attended my first (mandatory) NA meetings; I was ordered to sit in drug classes and 60 hours of community service. Because I was so young and set in my “need to be cool” ways, I didn’t take any of it seriously. It wasn’t until I saw actual photos of young adults who died from overdoses of heroin and drunk driving accidents. That scared the crap out of me! So I vowed never to do heroin and never to drink and drive.
Once in high school it didn’t take long to slip back into my desire to keep up with the older crowd. I knew a few seniors and jumped right in ~ their cars, ditching class, smoking pot, and dating older guys to feel accepted. I was then introduced to Valium as I snuck out of the house to escape to prom only to wake up the next morning at a friend’s house with my mom knocking at the door. Two weeks later, I was escorted to the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia, a wilderness program. As I lay under my tarp during a tropical storm my first night, I couldn’t help but cry. I was scared, alone, and mad as hell at my parents! How could they do this to ME!? Little did I know, at the time, I brought it all on myself.
Two months later, I walked out an almost new person. I ended up loving it! I came out with a childhood trauma I had buried deep inside and felt a complete relief, a whole new start. Apparently, my journey wasn’t over quite yet. I met my parents and headed to a residential treatment center in Utah for a year of hard core self-improvement. I mean 12 girls in your group calling each other out of your issues, family therapy once a week, individual therapy once a week, and equine therapy once a week. We were constantly evaluated over every action, emotion and how we treated each other. I learned to take care of myself, how to be aware of my actions affecting those around me, to have integrity, and how to have solid, sober fun. I learned things about myself I never knew. After ten months, I was ready to head back to San Clemente and start over as a 16-year-old. I was going to a new school and had things on lock! That was until I had a surgery and relapsed on Vicodin, which then started my whole Xanex and prescription pills plummet and started the entire cycle all over again! Started with my terrible attitude towards my family and having another older boyfriend who was no good, ditching school, smoking pot, sneaking out, and this time decided to venture into cocaine and ecstasy. By the end of that year, I was right back in Utah. This time I took things even more serious as I was going to graduate and turn 18 and wanted to head to college. So, I graduated and headed out to Minnesota where my cousins and aunt had a home, college classes, a job and positive environment waiting for me.
I was a year and a half sober when I met my boyfriend and let’s just say, he wasn’t the nicest guy, and things became physical and not in a good way! He had relapsed, so we decided to move back to Orange County together, where we both ended up relapsing. He attempted to cut my life short, and moments before succeeding, I said a prayer to my Higher Power and gained strength to escape. Even, after all, that, I continued to party hard, specifically with ecstasy and nearly overdosed.
I then reconnected with an old acquaintance, Isaac who I had known over the years. A year 1/2 later we had a beautiful son and were married. We partied for a few years and started to see our friends pass one by one, soon we had 14 friends together we lost to addiction. I held a memorial service for a close friend of mine, Troy Johnson and decided someone had to do something. I remembered my favorite quote, “Be the Change you wish to see in the world.” At Troy’s service, my mom had ordered wristbands for me to pass out, and a few days later I started a FB page, Save SC. At the time, I thought it would be the perfect place to post local resources, positive encouragement, and peep support. I decided, if I’m going to be providing support and encouraging sobriety, my side of the street better be clean. So I got back on the sober train and haven’t been happier!
Save SC then started reaching out to people in need- full force, hosting more and more awesome activities, helping people get into treatment, and making new and healthy friendships. And we will continue to do so!
I hope others can learn from my story, you don’t need to go that route. Accept yourself for who you are, take control of this moment and choose to live your life to the fullest in a healthy and positive way. Never mask your emotions, always face them head on. Face the problems that are going on around you, identify where they came from and solve them so you can take that burden off your back. You don’t need anyone else’s approval either; all you need is your own approval. If you have a past trauma, talk to someone about it. If you are struggling with addiction, alcohol, depression, anything ~ reach out for those resources. We as a community can reach out to one another and provide a caring and positive environment if we pull together and become willing to help one another. Together we can “Be the Change!”
Please join us! Lauren Leland