My stepdaughter Katherine’s high-school years were like most teenagers. She was a good student, had great friends, acted in school plays, and sang in the chorus. She was the center of laughter with a creative mind.
We shared her excitement when the University of San Diego accepted her and we sent her off beaming with pride for what we thought would be some of the best years of her life. We wanted to believe she was going to experience everything positive that comes from a college freshman’s first time away from home – dorm life, new friends and feelings of accomplishment.
But at some point she deviated from the normal college experience and entered a fast-paced world of addiction and chaos.
It began with hair variations (many colors), weight change and body piercing. In the beginning these behaviors, by themselves, did not appear to be anything other than experiments with her new-found independence. Her father and I were not happy with any of these decisions but we rationalized it as typical freshman behavior. Looking back on it now, it’s clear that these were early signs of her drug use.
On another visit we noticed bolder actions. This time, not only was her hair an issue, but more body piercings were on display. I will never forget the shock on her father’s face when he first saw her flashy tongue piercing and bright blue hair. Katherine routinely asked for more food money because she was always running low. She responded to the discussion of grades with resistance (we later found out that she was on academic probation.)
Visits home during the holidays became confrontational with new “friends” showing up at our door – we later discovered that she used her computer to network and meet dealers and meth users online. The neon lights were flashing as we began to notice this new Katherine.