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Teen Recovering From Substance Abuse Wins Contest

Regina Graham |
February 13, 2012 | 2:42 p.m. PST


Amanda R. with Councilman Alarcon (Photo by Regina Graham)
Amanda R. with Councilman Alarcon (Photo by Regina Graham)
“I'd rather walk like an angel with wings, that can fly away from the problems that's breakin' my dreams," reads an excerpt from "Like a Phoenix," a prize-winning song by Amanda R., a 17-year-old recovering from substance abuse.

The local teen was honored Friday by the Los Angeles City Council for winning an annual music contest sponsored by the Grammy Foundation’s MusiCares Program and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

With song lyrics describing how she rose above it all, Amanda said her song has helped her reach new heights. 

“It’s like a dream come true for me,” Amanda said. “Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to become a singer, but with the drug problems I had, I hit rock bottom and I felt like I would never get out.”

The teenager wrote and recorded the song at the Phoenix House Academy of Los Angeles, where she is involved in a substance abuse recovery program.  

She said she never imagined winning the Substance Abuse Awareness Through Music Contest. The contest is open to teens who create a music video or original musical composition that either celebrates healthy and creative living or that accurately portrays the dangers of drug abuse.    

As a prize, the Ventura County native privately viewed artists’ rehearsals who performed Grammy Awards Sunday and also got a private tour of the Grammy Museum located in downtown Los Angeles. Amanda will also present her winning song and attend various public events throughout the year. 

“Winning this competition is inspiring for me and hopefully for others who you know have gone through what I have,” Amanda said. “This is just crazy and I never thought I would get to this place.”

City Councilman Richard Alarcon honored the teen along with representatives from Phoenix House Academy, NIDA and MusiCares.

“This is an avenue for some young kids who sometimes have trouble expressing themselves in a way that they appreciate and enjoy,” Alarcon said. “We want to thank the Grammy Foundation."

Alarcon presented Phoenix House Academy with a donation from the City of Los Angeles. 

“The city donated $1,000 to the Phoenix House Academy from the general city’s purpose fund,” Alarcon said. “It will help their music program and they can purchase things that they may need like sheet music or equipment to enhance the recording studio that they have.”

Alarcon also promoted National Drug Abuse Facts Week, aimed to educate the public with accurate substance abuse information.  

Dr. Susan Weis, acting director of NIDA, said the institute receives thousands of questions each year about drug and substance abuse. 

“We try to conduct different activities that reach all aspects of the public, including parents, teachers and physicians,” Weis said. “We especially try to reach out to physicians so that they can recognize drug abuse among patients that they serve.”

Weis highlighted the staggering number of youth who get involved with drugs. NIDA attempts to help prevent that by providing an outlet for teens to ask questions they may not feel comfortable asking family or friends.

“Last year alone we received over 30,000 questions online from teenagers,” Weis said. “We try our best to answer the questions and encourage teens to check out the frequently asked questions portion of our website to get accurate answers.”  

For Amanda, music has proven to be her outlet and acts as a form of therapy.

“I’m always writing music and playing the guitar and piano,” Amanda said. “It’s kind of like keeping myself sane.”

Music has become a way for the teen to not repeat her past of abusing drugs and allowing her to move forward.

“I want to go to college and am excited about that,” Amanda said. “I want to pursue my career with singing and music, that’s so huge for me. I would love to work with other addicts in the future, just to give back what I have been given.”



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