Napa teen Melissa Reyes remembers the last time her friends tried pressuring her to drink. The beer was in her hand, and she was promising herself “just one sip.”
But Reyes knew where that one sip could lead, so she put the beer down. Her friends insulted her, called her names, but she still refused to drink.
“My friends knew I was changing,” Reyes said. “So I lost most of my friends.”
The friends she’s kept are Reyes’ “true friends,” she said. They’re the ones who also chose to get sober.
On the last day of February, Reyes was among several Napa-area teens who graduated from the Wolfe Center, which provides treatment programs for teens struggling with drug and alcohol abuse.
Reyes was a middle school student at Harvest when her father was arrested and sent away. In her father’s absence, Reyes said she began feeling rebellious.
She mostly drank beer — whatever bottles she could sneak away during family get-togethers, she recalled.
Meanwhile, Reyes’ grades were sinking in school, and fights with teachers were becoming more common. By her eighth-grade year, Reyes said she began getting bullied and “picked on by everybody.”
But her freshman year at Napa High School proved to be even worse, she said.
Reyes was suspended twice — once for being drunk, and a second time for fighting. Reyes was drinking every day, sometimes with friends and sometimes alone.
When her mom caught her once, drunk at home and smelling of alcohol, she searched her daughter’s room and found at least 20 empty beer bottles in a dresser drawer.
“She got mad,” Reyes said. “She, like, screamed at me. She gave me this look — I knew I was in trouble.”
As part of her punishment, Reyes was no longer allowed to close her bedroom door. She lost almost all privileges and privacy at home, she said.
For the next three summers, Reyes landed in juvenile detention for various drinking and battery charges. It wasn’t until her third time being locked up that Reyes knew she had to get her “priorities straight.”
A week before she was to be released that summer, Reyes’ mother — who had avoided visiting her in detention — came to talk. That visit would prove to be life-changing.
Sitting in the visitation room, Reyes heard about her two younger sisters. Her mother spoke about how much they had admired their older sister, but now they wanted to move to Mexico so they wouldn’t end up like her. Her mother then told Reyes to “turn around.”
Through the frosted glass of a nearby window, Reyes said she could see her sisters’ small silhouettes as they waited outside. “It broke me down,” she said.
Reyes cried as she listened to her mother and watched her sisters’ shadows on the other side of the glass. After finding a counselor she felt comfortable confiding in, she began attending the Wolfe Center daily.
During her year and a half at the center, Reyes said she experienced ups and downs, but she managed to never give up. She’s been sober since Aug. 7, 2011.
After meeting her boyfriend in a high school biology class, Reyes said she felt even more motivated to stay away from alcohol.
“With him, everything changed,” she said. “He was always there to talk to.”
Reyes, now 18, is currently a student at Valley Oak High School. She hopes to attend Napa Valley College and work toward becoming a nurse — although that plan may be put on hold.
Reyes recently discovered that she’s two months pregnant, and the news makes her smile from ear to ear. She said she hopes to become the type of mother her child will trust enough to confide in. She hopes such a strong and trusting relationship will prevent her own child from wasting time with alcohol or drugs.
“Using isn’t going to get you anywhere,” she said. “It will only cause you more problems.”
After some reflection, Reyes said she feels thankful for what she’s achieved over the past couple years.
“I’m happy,” Reyes said. “I’m proud of myself.”
For more information about the Wolfe Center, visit WolfeCenter.org.