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Recovery Week: Teen shares her story of recovery

Clarissa Vail began abusing drugs and alcohol at age 12, but is now in recovery and is raising her daughter.

KUSA – All this week, on 9NEWS at 6 a.m. we will be featuring stories of people who have beaten addiction and are in the process of recovery.

Though she’s only 19 years old, Clarissa Vail doesn’t feel like a teen. She began using drugs and alcohol when she was 12.

“I definitely don’t feel like I’m just 19. I feel a lot older,” Vail said. “It feels like I’ve lived more than 19 years because that whole period of my life seemed like it just carried on forever.”

The period she’s talking about is when she abused drugs and alcohol.

“We lived in hotels and we never like stayed in one place for more than a year,” she said.

Drug use was something that seemed normal in her unstable environment.

“My mom was around but she had her own issues,” Vail said.

Even after years of using, it was hard for Clarissa to admit that she had a problem.

“I was in denial for a long time,” she said. “I just thought ‘Oh I only use every once in a while. I’m good’.”

But when Clarissa was 14, she got pregnant. After having her baby she found it difficult to stop using.

“Social services knew that I was using, but of course I didn’t admit it to anybody,” she said. “I failed drug tests and they took custody away from me and were like if you don’t clean yourself up you’re going to lose her forever.”

Vail entered rehab half-heartedly, thinking she could just fake her way through it. She ran away from the facility. But, after being brought back, she had an awakening.

“One day I just remember being like… I can do this,” she said.

Since that moment, there’s been no stopping her. She participated willingly in therapy as part of her rehab. She now has custody of her daughter and balances parenting duties with school.

Vail attended Florence Crittenton High School and Community College of Denver at the same time, working toward her diploma and her associate’s degree—all the while thinking about her daughter.

“She would’ve had a whole different life if I’d left her where she was and kept on the path that I was going,” Vail said.

When she was addicted, she didn’t hear very many stories of recovery. She wants her story to be an encouragement to others and an example of what’s possible.

“Just knowing other people’s stories,” she said. “And recovery is a thing that people can do.”


Options Treatment

Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous Colorado

UCHealth Center for Dependency, Addiction, and Rehabilitation

Colorado Crisis Services

Narcotics Anonymous Colorado

Office of Behavioral Health

Advocates for Recovery Colorado

Below is the contact information for some of the counselors who have answered Recovery Line9 during Recovery Week:

Andi Pusavat, PhD, Director, Counseling Services Clinic – University of Denver Morgridge College of Education



Sarah Prager, MS, LPC, LAC - All Health Network

And Evan Rupp, MA, LCP, CAC2, EMDR – All Health Network

5500 S. Sycamore St.

Littleton, CO 80120

303-730-8858 (Information and Appointments)

303-730-3303 (24/7 Crisis Intervention)


Corey Candelaria, M.A., LCP, LAC – Owner/Provider Options Treatment

1068 S. 88th Street

Unit A

Louisville, CO 80027



On Tuesday, Pam, a mother of two children who have battled addiction shared her story. Her son is in recovery, after overdosing twice, while her daughter still struggles.

“You really need to reach out and not be secretive about it. And I was for quite some time,” she said. “You need to find support for yourself in order to support anyone else.”

You can watch her full story below or read it here.

On Monday, Denver DJ Senen "Slim" Rodriguez shared his story. He's been sober for about a year and a half and is now inspiring listeners with his progress.

“Sharing our Stories is a program I do on the radio. It’s a program where we share stories about addiction and, most importantly, about recovery,” Slim said. “We’re just people who have gone through addiction. We’re on the other side of it. And fighting for our recovery.”

You can watch his full story below or read it here.

On Wednesday day, Ray Vigil shared his story. He's now 7 years sober but had struggled with addiction for 3 decades. When he finally sought help, a therapist helped him realize his excessive drinking was tied to his abusive childhood and other past trauma.

You watch his full story below or read it here.

On Thursday, Spencer Snow shared his story. The 29-year-old abused alcohol for nearly a decade and has been sober for about 7 months.

You can watch is full story below or read it here.

One of the organizations providing experts to answer questions on recovery is Mental Health Colorado. That organization often links people to the following recovery programs in the Denver Metro Area:

CeDar – (private) Center for Dependency, Addiction and Rehab (Aurora- part of UCHealth)

(877) 999-0538

Centennial Peaks (Louisville) – 303-673-9990

Cedar Springs (Colorado Springs) – 719-633-4114

Youth, adult – residential and outpatient

Denver Springs – (private, Englewood) -- 720-575-3772

Medical detox for alcohol or benzodiazepines (have referred/helped with opioids)

Arapahoe House was absorbed by:

Jefferson Center for Mental Health (opens at 8:30 a.m.): 303-425-0300 or 303-463-7400;

Withdrawal management and a walk-in clinic

Aurora Mental Health Center/East Metro Detox: 303-617-2300

Teen and adult outpatient, Detox withdrawal

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