BUFFALO, N.Y. — When Liza Ryan first set foot on the Renaissance Campus in West Seneca, NY she was just 16. And like most teens, she did not want to come clean about her problem.
"There's not much someone can do for you when you pretty much just lie straight to their face,” she remembers.
Liza was using alcohol and other substances to help her cope with some family problems and the isolation and frustration she felt after suffering a head injury that kept her from playing on the high school sports teams she loved.
“Not being able to do that, and of course all of my friends at school, they were also my teammates. So, not being able to feel a part of and with my team like that, that was huge for me," she said.
Liza had tried a couple of outpatient-type programs and failed before she agreed to sign herself into the Stepping Stones facility on the Renaissance Campus. There she lived 24-7 with 15 other young women, who were also struggling with their addictions.
"It was difficult. My brother was at college. That was probably one of the hardest pieces for me. And knowing that he was also pretty concerned and scared about what was going on,” she said.
She ended up staying in the program at Stepping Stones for six months. What kept her there the whole time were the supportive relationships with the other girls, sharing their own experiences.
Along with the therapy, Liza also found the self-empowerment to take control of her life. She went back and finished high school and then went on to graduate from college.
Today, she works as a Peer Recovery Coach at a medical center in Vermont. She's enjoying sports again in her free time, and at work, she's part of a team of professionals using her own first-hand experience to help other people in crisis.
"Being able to be in the Emergency Department with someone and you know, just level with them, like, 'Hey, I get it. You know, there's no judgment here. And I get this is probably really scary. This is a scary experience for you. Let’s just lay out your options and see what we can do."
Liza is grateful to be able to use what she's learned to help others, and even more grateful that the help was there for her when she needed it most.
"To have a resource like the Renaissance Campus and have Stepping Stones, it really is, I think… Western New York is really happy to have that. And I hope that as many people that need to access that resource can."
Donations to the Renaissance Campus through Kids Escaping Drugs can be made by following this link.