Alexis Neiers star of the hit E! Reality Show Pretty Wild shares her story and explains how her addiction started and how she brought herself to get the treatment which saved her life.
You’ve got to just do it. There are resources for you. Find a community of people who understand where you’re at, who are non-judgemental and there to help.
Highlights from the Podcast
Where has Alexis Neiers Been? What’s going on Today?
I have four years sober which is pretty incredible and I am a wife. I’ve been married for three years and I have a two-year-old daughter, which is incredible. I’m starting my doula practice. I think I found my calling. As a doula, I support women with their physical, emotional, and mental needs during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum period. I work as a blue birth doula right now, so basically I support moms with labor preparation, for prenatal visits and then I assist mothers during childbirth, which is such an honor and an incredible experience.
I took training from this woman, Anna Paula Markel and she’s incredible. She’s kind of like the doula of all doulas in Los Angeles. She’s like the celebrity doula. She’s very, very popular and she owns a center called Beanie Birth and actually I did my childbirth education classes when I was pregnant with Harper through her. My birth of Harper was pretty traumatic, not so much in the fact that I was having a home birth. I ended up having to transfer to the hospital. It wasn’t so much the experience that was so traumatic as it was the way that I was treated when I came to the hospital. And the shame that I felt for having a home birth and the way that I was treated in the OR, not so much by the doctor. It was just like the whole experience just went from like really beautiful, like a loving environment to all of sudden this really cold and sterile environment.
What happened was when I got pregnant with my daughter, Harper, there were two reasons why I chose a home birth. The first was because as a recovering alcoholic and addict, I really wanted to have a drug free and medication free birth. That was really, really important to me and then the second reason is I started to research birth in America and the statistics are quite shocking. One in three women have a C-section and so when I saw that statistic, I was kind of in shock and I started to dig deeper on why this could be.
The truth of the matter is that birth in America in pregnancy in America is seen as a problem by most doctors. It’s seen as a medical situation. It’s not. It’s a totally normal life experience that many women go through. I started doing my research and I was just kind of shocked and so I was planning this home birth and I did end up needing a cesarean, which in my case is absolutely necessary. For a lot of women it’s not.
I like to say like the doula in me was born, the activist was born through this experience and then I was helping a girl last July. She was having some issues with some substances and I talked to her throughout her pregnancy and she was doing really well but she had no birth support and she really wanted to have a natural, drug free birth and so I said, “Well, you know if you want my support I’d be totally happy to support you” and this is before my training and she achieved a glorious, just beautiful drug free birth at Cedars Sinai. I called my midwife and I was like, “How do I become a doula?”
It came right after. I was on this high, this birth high. Then I did my training and Dona International is the certification that I chose. They are the oldest certifying organization of doulas and so are held to a pretty high standard.
How Many Women Have You Helped?
Since July, I’ve attended I think five births, so that’s pretty great. I just finished my training to become a childbirth educator, which I’m really excited about because knowledge is power and informed decisions and informed choices can significantly improve the outcome as far as what your birth looks like. I think that people kind of, they don’t really fully understand how much birth affects women on every level. It doesn’t just transform you into a mother or a woman, it can have serious mental and physical side effects that can impact you for the rest of your life.
You can really only take two births a month and so if you choose this as a career, it has to be sustainable and doable. What I would like to do this for every five paid births that I do, donate my services to teen moms or moms that are in foster in foster care system or addicted mothers That is really what I would like to be able to do.
How’s Your Non Profit Organization Coming Along?
Well I became a mom. It’s great if you have like the time to do that but it is such a commitment. For me I’m able to give back in my community in small ways, in ways that a lot of people I don’t see and that’s what’s working for me right now. What my initial idea was to create a community for homeless youth. The last time I saw a statistic it was ten thousand homeless kids living on the street between twelve and eighteen years old and the majority of them are addicted to drugs and that’s like our backyard. It’s not some third world country. That is right down the street from my house. I live in the Studio City area right now.
My goal was to create a community and to create a center where people could come and meetings would be hosted. There would be like a laundry service where people could do their laundry. There would be a GED program, basically it would be like a one stop shop for all of your needs and the services would be free so long as you could drug tests clean, working with another nonprofit profit G-Talks to be able to help these real youth get off drugs and then to help hopefully place them and to give them resources because the thing is and this is my issue that a lot of treatment centers, it’s one thing to house people for a year. They say, “Oh you have to stay in treatment for a year. That’s like how you get the best results.” Wall if at the end of that year you have no job, no sense of independence, no housing, no plan and no life skills, your chance of survival are like slim to none.
Creating an environment that will help give these youth a sustainable future is something that was really important to me and that I had felt like I had a calling for and then I got married and I had a baby.
I always say self esteem is one of the biggest lacking factors in an addict and alcoholic’s life. They have no self esteem and how do we build self esteem? By doing esteemable acts and self esteem is what’s going to give you the motivation to get out there and to live a better life. It’s not like the golden ticket but it’s really important and if you have no self-esteem and no love for yourself or anybody else for that matter, it’s just nearly impossible to go out and get a job and to live a life that’s happy, joyous and free. It’s hard.
When I was nearly sober, I was doing three meetings a day and I was doing outpatient and I was living in sober living and you just become accustomed. It’s almost like recovery becomes your life and that didn’t work for me. What I realized is that eventually the principles of the program that I chose to get sober in would be woven throughout my life. However, it wouldn’t be my life. Now I went four years sober, I go to one to one to two meetings a week. I have a pretty good meditation routine and prayer meditation routine and I do work with others often.
I’ve got a few sponsors and such but AA is not my life anymore. I’m a mother. I’m a wife. I’m a doula. I’m like an active member of my family and my community and so just doing AA is just not sustainable in my opinion.
How Did Your Addiction Start?
Well, I had been using substances on and off since I was pretty young, middle school and maybe than before and that just kind of like the experimental phase where I was trying different substances. I had a surgery when I was 14 and I was prescribed pain medication and that kind of started my love affair with opiates. However they were hard for me to obtain so I used other drugs in the meantime, pot, acid and coke, those types of drugs, Xanax, what I could get my hands on in high school, alcohol.
I just noticed, “Oh, I like this feeling” and now I know why. Because of a ton of really horrible early childhood abuse and trauma and so people who are severely abused as children normally like opiates. Why? Because it shuts down our system. We don’t have to feel any more. That was that was something that I noticed that I liked. It wasn’t a big shock to me that when I smoked and I got an 80 mg OxyContin with a friend and I smoked it when I was like maybe 15. It wasn’t shocking to me that I was hooked right away and I was hooked. By the time that I was 19 and arrested in 2010 for possession of heroin, I was like a full-blown heroin addict for a few years by then.
E! Reality Show “Pretty Wild”
The show was in 2009. At that point I was smoking like 20-80 mg Oxys a day with my sister, Tess. I was living this kind of dual life where like when you see the show and I was like so glamorous but I was living in a Best Western on Franklin and Hollywood and smoking crack and copying heroin and just living this like polar opposite life.
My drug addiction definitely took off because my financial means substantially had grown but I blew through that right away and I had a moment of clarity. I ended up taking a plea deal in June 2010 and I went to jail, or was that 2009? No, it was 2010, so June of 2010. Okay, so my show was 2009-2010 and then June of 2010, I accepted a plea deal and I went to Lynwood and I was put in protective custody. When you’re protective custody, you’re by yourself in a cell twenty three out of twenty four hours a day.
After I got to my detox period, I started having some awareness of where opiates had taken me. I guess I didn’t really understand that pot … No one has really ever tried to help me get sober. I don’t know if they were like scared of me or because I was crazy and I really was like insane or if it was because they were afraid I would hurt myself if they confronted me. I don’t really know. I definitely wasn’t that great at hiding it. You can’t be when you’re doing as many drugs as I was doing and so I guess I kind of had some clarity that summer that I spent in jail. I recognize that opiates were a problem for me. However at that point like alcohol hadn’t bee. We definitely had been stable in my life for many years but I didn’t see it as a problem and I had no understanding of the fact that I was an addict and so when I got out of jail, I got super drunk that night and I was smoking weed the next day.
Did You Detox in Jail?
It was the most horrific experience I’ve ever been through. The second time I probably could have gotten help because I was on Xanax. I was detoxing off of Xanax as well. However I wasn’t really ready to accept the … I didn’t want them to know that it was my heroin. I was trying to go with the whole it’s somebody else’s type of deal. I told them that I was detoxing off of …If I told them I was detoxing, then they would drug test me and they would find crack and heroin and Xanax and weed in my system and I didn’t want to have that happen. That was definitely the worst detox. That was ten times worse than the summer because I had started to wean myself down knowing that I was going to go in and so it was much less painful.
The Xanax detoxx just is worse than the opiate detox in my opinion. I got out and then I don’t really know how it happened but I am pretty sure that it went down something like this. My sister, Tess was like, “I have nowhere to go. Can I come and stay or place?” At this point I had like a shitty little apartment in Burbank that like I couldn’t even pay water or gas at. It’s like this little apartment my mom is helping me pay for and so I said, “Yeah well I’m not doing heroin anymore.” She said, “Oh Well me neither” and I was like, “Well, you can’t bring opiates to my house” and then that night I walked into my apartment and she was smoking heroin and it was over like that quick. Within that two or three month period, so from August to December, that was three months or four months, I was panhandling for drug money. I was considering prostitution. I was just lower than low, just my life. I really hit like a bottom. I’m like, “What’s up with this?” I’m some nice young girl from West … I’m like, “What the fuck? What happened in this time period?”
The drugs are like so elusive and so powerful that I couldn’t really see clearly. I knew that it sucked but it sucked and it was everybody else’s fault but my own. I literally could not go to probation because I spent every day trying to get drugs all day long. My mental health was like trying to be really affected because I was now doing like a lot of coke and I was just kind of going crazy. I ended up hitting this bottom at my mom’s house. It was right after … It was the first of December. I think I was arrested on the third, maybe the third of December. The first or second of December and I went to my mom’s house because I had no heat at my apartment and it was freezing and I was detoxing and I had barely any heroin, 0.08 of heroin to be exact, which is not even a 0.1. It was like a smidgen. I went to my mom’s house and I just say that I was going to crash there and wait for my friend to pick me up in the morning so I could go panhandle to get more drug money and do the whole process over again.
At this point, I was smoking heroin because I was really trying to stop and I just saw it how destructive shooting up was and so I was trying to slow down and I was in my mom’s bathroom and I looked up at myself in the mirror after I took a hit and I was just like, “Holy crap.” Isaid another word but you know what was.
I was like, “What has happened?” I had a moment where I was just like, ”What has my life come to?” I just had like this moment of clarity and that was kind of like my bottom right then. You know it’s different for every person. It’s like this very spiritual, overwhelming experience and it is different from every person. Nobody can recreate it. No one can make that moment happen for you.
When Does the Moment of Realization Come?
I mean I think of it as this like spiritual moment. I think it’s highly spiritual and it’s very personal and it’s different for every single person and so basically I ended up having that moment. I went to sleep and I had that 0.08 of heroin left and I said, “I’m just going to leave this for the morning to get me through so that way I can go do my thing in the morning.” I woke up at six full on detoxing, the sweats, shivering feeling like I was going to throw up and I looked at my watch and I was like, “It’s six and ten my dealer opens up.” My dealer did not deal before ten o’clock and so I was like, “I’m going to try to go back to sleep for an hour and I’ll save this last little hit so that way I can get myself up and out of bed and go to the gas station to panhandle to do the whole thing.”
An hour later the cops showed up at my house. I don’t know if it was that moment where I was like, “Okay, in the bathroom whatever you are out there, I need some help or give me a sign.” I don’t know if that was my sign. I guess it was my sign but I was arrested and I was facing up to six years imprisonment, three to six years for violating my probation.
By the grace of God, something in me I was willing to take responsibility. There was an incredible attorney, Mike Nassater. He came to me in the form of an attorney but really he was like a messenger of AA in recovery and he works well in the drug courts. He was like, “Are you ready to take responsibility for your life?” and I was like, “What hell are you talking about?” I had no idea. He was like when, “You’re going to go and throw yourself at the mercy of the court and beg to be placed into treatment.” I was 19 at the time and so that’s what happened. I took full responsibility.
Celebrating Four Years Sober
You may be asking why I just celebrated four years a few weeks ago when that was December 2010 and that would be because I did a whipit March 8 of 2011. A whipit, a freaking whipit. A lot of people would be don’t restart your time for a freaking whipit but I felt like I needed to restart my time. What it was a lack of surrender? I went to treatment and I fought everybody, I was opiate dependent. I was not an alcoholic or addict. Nobody understood me because of the amount of abuse that I had incurred as a child. I was listening for the differences and the similarities. I was that angry person and group that ruined everybody else’s experience a lot of the time and so when someone offered me a whipit, I had no defense. If you’re an alcoholic or an addict and you don’t have some sort of defense lined up, you’re going to use again.
That’s just the name of the game. If you’re an alcoholic or addict, which I am and so I did a whipit and that whipit brought me to my knees. I had an emotional bottom that was so intense in recovery and thank God that happened. Thank God because what that did wasrocketed me into like reality. I had this moment the second I let it out, the whipit, I said, “Enough is enough. I can’t live like this anymore” and I went to a meeting the next day.
That whipit brought me to my knees. I said I found an amazing woman, y sponsor Deborah Oh and she had like twenty plus years. She was a recovering heroin addict and I just felt like I just need help but I’ll do whatever it takes and I literally like went into hiding and I worked the steps harder than I’ve ever done anything in my life. I enrolled in the KDAC program and my life really started dramatically … I started seeing changes and I started experiencing like freedom and real happiness.
I don’t know how effective the therapy was in the beginning. I think that what was so important to me in the beginning was community and having relationships with people again, relationships with people that understood me and that I could say, “I understand where you’re coming from.” I never had that before. I just I feel really grateful that I didn’t necessarily have to get honest about that because it’s a whipit. It doesn’t show up on a drug test or anything. Anybody can go buy a whipped cream thing.
It was so important for me to get honest and I’m grateful that I did and because of that experience I can’t tell you like how many people have related have really just reached out to me because of my experience and said , “Listen, I was like you. I didn’t know that I wanted treatment and I fought everybody in the beginning.” Really, why do we fight people in the beginning? It’s because we’re in an immense amount of pain and so you take away the thing that’s numbing us and you put us in the situation where all of a sudden we’re supposed to talk about our feelings but we hate our feelings. We didn’t want to feel our feelings for years and that’s why we used. It could be extremely uncomfortable and those defenses come up.
Openly talking about that experience that basically brought me to a place where I was basically forced. I’m either going to grow right now or I’m going to get out of here and I’m going to go get high and I’m going to ruin my life. I’m really lucky that I had that experience.
Could Anything Have Been Done to Prevent Your Addiction?
Different parenting. So many parents like to blame the addict or the alcoholic. Well, you should be looking at yourself. I’m not saying that and it’s all your fault or that you are the worst person in the world. Maybe you didn’t have the skill set or the knowledge or you had old belief systems or tools that your parents used with you. There’s a whole list of things that could have gone wrong but like I said, I had a very, very traumatic childhood and alcoholism and addiction runs in my family.
What we know now from like incredible doctors like Dr. Deborah Matej, who talks a lot about the brain development, early childhood brain development and how addiction forms in the brain and other mental health issues. It’s that when you are an addict or when you are abused as a child, your brain forms differently than other people. As far as what my mom could have done, I had to have the surgery, right?
But I was using substances before then as a means of escaping. The truth of the matter is that my mom was never the most present attentive mother. My dad was homeless for ten years and was like a severe alcoholic when I was a child. There are a number of things that could have been done different on their part but there’s not really much that could have been done differently on my part because I was a child.
I had no skills. My parents didn’t give me like life or coping skills and so I was basically left to fend for myself. I’ve had to do it a lot of re-parenting work on a lot of growing up in my sobriety and thank God that therapy exists and that the work that we do with our sponsors happens. What I could say … What I would say for parents who are dealing with children that are maybe suffering from alcoholism or addiction issues is first take a look at yourself. Get into Alanon, get into therapy. Start working out your own issues.
The other thing is to try to detach with love.
Helping My Sister Tess Taylor
I love to give this example in my experience with my sister Tess. Tess did not get sober anywhere near when I got sober and we were using buddies and for the first year and a half of my sobriety I tried really hard to get her sober. I would put her in treatment centers. I would try to basically force sobriety on her and when I was eight months pregnant with my daughter, I got a call from someone saying that she was in really bad shape and that she was shooting meth and heroin and that she really needed help and so what did I do?
I was planning an intervention and I was going to go and swarm in on her at her house with her dad and our family and read her these letters about why she can’t do this anymore and by the grace of God, a very brilliant man named Bob Forrest came into my life right around this time. I I called Bob and I said, “Bob, what do I do?” He was like, “I’ll help you but I will have no part in an intervention.” I was like, “Well what do you mean? That’s the only way that we’re going to get her sober.” He was like, “First of all I think that forcing someone to get sober” these aren’t his words verbatim but the way that he says all that is one way cooler than the way that I can communicate it because he’s a very cool dude with tons of knowledge. But basically the gist of it was I said to him , “She’s going to die. She’s going to die” and he goes, “Probably not. She’s going to die. Addicts die when you force them to go to treatment when they’re not ready and then they go and they relapse then they die.” She’s not going to die right now and he was like,” I really suggest that you take a look at your relationship with Tess and look at some of like the unhealthy co-dependence and behaviors” and basically like the conclusion that I came to down to is how selfish of me to be basically telling Tess over and over again, “I’m not okay because you’re not okay.”
These messages behind the things that I was saying puts all of this guilt and shame on her and if you’re not an alcoholic or addict maybe you don’t understand this but the amount of guilt and shame that we walk around with every day just for using in order to survive is like astronomical. I’m just sitting there putting more guilt on her and telling her, “How dare you use to make yourself feel better because it’s killing me.”
I had all of these like subconscious, by the actions and the things that I was doing and and it was really toxic and harmful and he was like, ‘You know what you can do to help your sister, you could sit down with her. You can offer to take her to breakfast and you can sit down with her face to face and you can apologize and you can make a heartfelt amends to her and you can offer her treatment but if she’s not ready then you walk away and in a week later you go and you offer to sit down with her for lunch again and you don’t talk to her about anything else except for how are you? What’s your life like? Tell me all about it in a non-judgmental loving way because when she is ready, when you’re putting all of your crap on her, do you think that she’s going to call you? No, she’s not going to call you because she knows that it’s going to be another I told you so or you better do it this way this time or you better do it my way because clearly you’re incapable.” You know I mean?
She was never really able to have that bottom, that bottom that I had, that spiritual moment that was like, “Oh my gosh. I can’t live like this anymore.” It’s not right for me to try to create that experience for her. I did just that. I took you to breakfast. I sat her down and I made the most heartfelt, loving amends that I could possibly make. She cried and cried and cried like a little baby like this sweet little girl. She was completely twacked out, totally high but I was loving her in a very non-judgmental, compassionate way and she hadn’t felt that in years and years. A week later she got sober and who is the she called to tell her that she’s getting sober that she’s ready for help? Me.
Drug and Teens
I’m not saying that youth treatment centers don’t work. That’s not what I’m saying at all. When they’re under 18, they’re your responsibility. I still really highly encourage you to take a look at your life because your kids don’t turn out oppositional or defiant or angry for no reason. There is a reason and most likely it’s because of their childhood or something that happened to them. I do really encourage parents to work on themselves and to look at themselves.
Here’s the thing though great families, here is a great point that Dr. Deborah Matej makes, children do best and thrive in community that is surrounded by adults and the culture that we have today, children raise children. Why? Because in most families both parents work and when they come home from work, they’re overly tired and when they get up in the morning, the family time is not there anymore. We know based on research that children do better in communities and that they find their community. If they’re fighting in their community with other neglected kids at school, you can pretty much guarantee that they’re going to dabble in drugs.
I’m not saying that being a stay at home attachment mother, attachment parenting mother is going to save your child’s life or make your child an awesome kid but I think that it is pretty interesting that with both parents working in this like crazy hectic lifestyle to try to succeed and push yourself to your breaking point for your family’s benefit and work two jobs, the whole thing easily leads to children being emotionally neglected. Even if you’re physically present and this is something that I even suffer with, especially in the age of technology it’s like am I really present with my daughter or am I sitting on my phone texting my friend? You know what I mean? How present are we actually?
A girlfriend of mine just told me the other day that her friend tries to spend an hour a day on the floor playing with her kids; an hour a day and you think oh it’s just an hour. It’s hard to get in more. Even as a stay at home mom, we go to the park and we do all these things but one-on-one connection time now that I am not nursing and my kid is turning into a toddler, that’s hard because I’ve got to clean house, do the laundry and make the dinner and blah, blah, blah or work a job or whatever it is and it’s hard. I think that’s pretty interesting, looking at the trend of kids basically raising each other.
What’s the First Step to Getting Help In Your Opinion?
It’s so individual. There are different sets for different people. I would say the great thing about Obamacare is that people can get insurance coverage and get treatment now, which is just remarkable and so incredible. Everybody deserves great care and everybody deserves treatment if they’re looking for help. I mean at least that’s my opinion. If you have insurance, I would call around to different residential facilities and see if they have a detox and hear about their program and research, research, research, research. You can walk into a 12-step meeting. They’re all over the world. Find a meeting in your area that you can go an intoxicated. W will love you anyways. You can talk about what’s going on with you and there will be a ton of people after the meeting that are willing to shake your hand and offer you support and help or resources.
Also always check your insurance and lastly are hospitals, county funded detox centers and if you really want it, they are there to help. I know of a number in Los Angeles, a number of them in Los Angeles they do all have long wait times but hey, if you want to get sober, get on that list.
You’ve got to do it and then there will be resources for you and then just find a community, find a community of people who understand where you’re at who are non-judgemental, there to help and they will be there to help you.