Secrets of a teenage drug addict - what parents should know

A recovering teenage drug addict is sharing her story in hopes of helping families. (WHAM photo)

(WHAM) - She was an A-plus student who had everything going for her. Carlee Hulsizer then saw her life spiral out of control as she descended into drug addiction. She's now been clean for three years and is sharing her story - and the warning signs parents can spot before it's too late.

Hulsizer first tried alcohol when she was just 12 years old.

"I was starting around with the wrong people, and started dabbling in substance use," she recalled. "I don't exactly remember what it felt like to get high for the first time, but I remember that it took me outside of myself."

The experience led to years of hiding drug and alcohol abuse problems from her mother.

"I would hide things in my closet, underneath my clothes," she said.

Addiction took over her high school years.

"I was a shell of a person," she said. "I just didn't feel anything."

She was stealing from her mother and obsessed with her phone.

"You want to respect their privacy," said Carol Hulsizer, Carlee's mother, "but there's something unhealthy about somebody that's hiding their phone from you."

Now 21 and sober, Carlee walked 13WHAM's Samantha Miles through her old bedroom, showing how she would hide getting high. She would smoke out the window and put towels under her door, blocking smoke from the hallway. In the thick of addiction, she stopped taking care of herself.

"She wasn't dressing the same way, she didn't care so much about her appearance anymore. Her hair was a couple days not washed, with a little bit of grease and kind of a layer of perfume," said Carol. "She wouldn't look me in the eye."

"There were definite bags under the eyes," said Carlee. "Just a dirty face of half-worn makeup and greasy hair, baggy clothes."

Counselor Stephanie Rago says it's tough for parents to see that these red flags may be signs their teen is battling addiction.

"Middle school is kind of that crossroads where there's some experimentation that starts even in seventh and eighth grade, which is scary for parents," said Rago. "You see these little guys walking down the hallway, and you can't imagine that that would be a choice that they would make."

"We see parents that are terrified out of their mind and not sure what to do," she added, "and that kind of fear is really paralyzing them."

Rago says the first step is to talk to the teen about their behavior.

"Know that it might be baby steps in the beginning, initially," said Rago. "It's unrealistic to go into that first conversation expecting that that's going to be the only conversation. The idea is to that you have to slowly have to start this conversation and recognize your teen may not be willing to have that conversation right away."

Today, with their insight, Carol and Carlee Hulsizer are part of the growing support groups that are helping other families break teen addiction.

"Don't blame yourself," said Carol. "Don't be afraid to have the conversation with your kids, either. If you see something that doesn't seem right, take a minute, sit them down and say, 'What's going on?'"

Most school districts have counselors working with teens and substance abuse, and they urge parents to reach out and get help.

If you or someone you know are in need of help for substance abuse addiction, resources are available:

Specific to local treatment providers:

Specific to recovery based supports:

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