When West Salem senior Rayeann Jones is upset, she exercises. She hikes and, when she can’t hike, she goes to the gym.

As a child, she played soccer.

She said on the field she could clear her mind and block out her life, her family, and her feelings of isolation. Playing soccer, she was part of a team; she had a place and a purpose.

“I had a decent childhood I guess,” she said before admitting she didn’t remember much.

This month, Jones will graduate from West Salem High School early and begin working as a certified nursing assistant at Mulders Heath Care Facility.

A year earlier, Jones never thought she would be graduating early.

“I’m not quite sure how that happened,” she said.

The last few years have been hard for Jones, who’s grappled with drug addiction and alcoholism since she was 12 years old.

A little over a year ago, Jones was admitted to the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center near Minneapolis, Minn.

It wasn’t the first time the team had been admitted for treatment, but it was the first time she’d gone voluntarily and the first time she’d wanted to get help.

As a child, Jones experienced alcoholism and its consequences first hand. Her mother was rarely home and her own addiction eventually tore her family apart.

Jones remembered asking her father where her mother always disappeared to.

“She was at the bar,” she remembered him saying.

At the time, she didn’t understand why her mother left her father.

“I always though it was me,” she said. “I always thought I wasn’t good enough.”

The divorce and her father’s eventual remarriage left Jones feeling out of place and unwanted.

Her step-mother had children of her own, and her mother, who had moved away, had two children of her own from a previous marriage.

“They got all the attention,” she said.

Feelings of isolation tormented her.

Jones said she didn’t feel at home with either of her parents and their families. It was as if her parents had started over and left her behind, a cast off and consequence of their failed marriage.

Jones learned to block these feelings of inadequacy and isolation out. She found comfort in her dog Kato, a fluffy Akita she called her teddy bear, and in athletics.

She turned her pent-up aggression on the field, knowing, at least at home, she always had a friend in Kato.

She’d had him ever since she was a baby. He’d always been there for her, but after 12 years of faithful companionship, Kato eventually passed.

“When he died it was completely different,” she said.

Isolated from her family, Jones fell in with some, “not so great friends,” who introduced her to alcohol and marijuana.

She said the drugs didn’t bring her any closer to her mother or father, but they did dull the pain.

As she fell deeper into her newfound vices, she started falling behind in school.

“All that was important to me was using and getting high,” she said.

Jones said all she looked forward to was the weekend when she could use again.

Things didn’t get any easier for Jones, after a friend revealed her substance abuse on social media.

Overnight, Jones became a pariah.

“I was scared to go to school,” she said. “My reputation changed.”

Jones’ spiral into addiction continued as she became more isolated.

When Jones was 14, she began experimenting with methamphetamine.

She said it started to consume her life.

Jones soon started putting drugs before her family, a family she felt didn’t care about her.

“Drugs always came first,” she said.

As she became more and more removed from her parents, Jones’ parents started catching on to her addiction.

They sent her to Libertas Treatment Center in Green Bay for alcoholism.

Jones said, at the time, she felt as though they were punishing her. So, she rebelled.

She went through the motions and after two weeks she was released.

“When I got out, nothing had changed,” she said.

Having lost her family’s trust and feeling even more isolated, Jones turned to harder drugs.

Jones said her drug of choice became heroin, when she could get it.

Her friends became anyone who could get their hands on the stuff.

When she couldn’t get heroin, she’d do meth. If she couldn’t get meth, she’d smoke marijuana or drink, anything to forget about her family and her problems.

Things started turning around for Jones when she was sent to therapy for the second time. This time, Jones found herself at the Hazelden Treatment Center just outside the Twin Cities.

She spent 40 days undergoing treatment at Hazelden.

“It was a good experience,” Jones said.

After 40 days sober, Jones was released and returned to school.

She said her plan was to give up meth and heroin and stick to alcohol and marijuana.

“That didn’t work,” she said.

Not long after leaving Hazelden, Jones was back on meth and heroin again.

That all changed in mid-December, when something in Jones snapped.

She said she didn’t know what it was.

Just days before Christmas, Jones called her mother and asked to go back to Hazelden.

“Enough was enough,” Jones said.

She was tired of being in and out of rehab, tired of her abusive boyfriend and tired of being judged for her addiction.

“I can’t do this anymore, I need to go back to Hazelden,” Jones said recalling what she told her mother.

On Dec. 15, Jones began her three-month stay at the rehabilitation center.

She said it was a counselor, David Ducharme, who eventually reached her.

“He called me on my shit,” Jones said with a smile.

She said Ducharme helped her understand her emotions and express her pent-up aggression and feelings of isolation.

During her three months there, she dedicated herself to catching up in school, after falling far behind her classmates.

She quickly caught up and even got ahead of many of her classmates.

When Jones returned to West Salem 90 days later, she started taking her life back from the alcohol, meth and heroin.

She moved in with her grandparents.

“I thought that was great,” she said. “It was just me and my grandparents.”

Jones joined a 12-step program, Alcoholics Anonymous, where she could get support in an environment free of judgment from people who had stood in her shoes.

She said she’d never tried a 12-step program before.

“It works,” she said.

Jones became heavily involved in volunteer work and, shortly after leaving Hazelden, started working with WisCorps rebuilding hiking trails.

She said she enjoyed working for others.

“It pushed me out of my comfort zone,” she said.

More than a year free of meth and heroin, Jones is still fighting her addiction.

She said old friends make their way back into her life every now and then and tempt her. Sometimes she can overcome the urge, sometimes she can’t.

Jones said she wants to help others like her come to grips with addiction. For her senior exit project, a requirement of all seniors at West Salem, Jones formed a support group for women suffering from alcoholism.

She taught them techniques to deal with the temptation.

“I enjoy helping people,” she said.

Jones said she plans to continue helping others through AA and at Mulders, where she’ll begin working later this month and dedicate herself to reconnecting with her family.

She said she also hopes to spend more time with her half-sister and her 10-year-old nephew, who had supported her before and after her recovery.

 

 

 

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