Former drug addict uses Hinduism to turn her life around


Elena Perez

Photo credit: Elena Perez

The night was a blur from taking a mixture of drugs that included alcohol, marijuana and meth. All she remembered were the red and blue lights and crying, with her friends and father outside trying to get her out because she locked everyone out of the car.

Earlier that Friday, she walked to the liquor store after school and stole the cheapest vodka bottle she could find because it didn’t have a censor on it.Then her friends picked her up to head to the party.

Her long dark hair was curled and dyed red in the front. She pinned it out of her face with a flower. She wore black combat boots, a black tight mini skirt, a black and white top with a black leather jacket and red lip stick to Narbonne High School that day, already dressed for the Wilmington flyer party that was being promoted around school.

By the time they got to the party, she was already intoxicated on a mix of meth and alcohol. Her friends describe her as “rowdy” that night as she tried to fight the bouncer at the door.

Her friends calmed her down before they entered the party. Crowd-pleasing mainstream synthesized beats and sounds roared to fill the rooms and even reached the neighbors. She doesn’t recall much of what went on that night.

Her friends told her she fell off a brick wall where she’d been sitting. They didn’t think it was a harsh fall because she didn’t react. But they soon discovered that something was wrong after she couldn’t lift herself up.

Her father picked her up and took her to the doctor where she was told her arm was broken. She is now scared for life on her arm.

That was back when she was in high school. She will always have the scar to remind her of her former life as a drug addict and alcoholic. Today 25-year-old Karla Orr is a yoga instructor and sociology major.

Throughout her life, Karla has experimented with alcohol, marijuana, inhalants, ecstasy, pills, vicodin, percocet, xanax, oxycodone, shrooms, cocaine, crack, meth, methamphetamines, heroin, and ketamine. However, she only used methamphetamine, alcohol, and marijuana daily.

Karla began taking drug in the fifth grade when her parents divorced.

“There was no structure for me anymore,” Karla said. Her father was no longer living with the family. Karla describes her mother as an “emotional mess.”

Karla wasn’t used to her young, energetic mother, Maria new behavior. She wasn’t being the “normal” mom she used to be. Her mother would take care of Karla and her siblings, but was always sad and depressed. Karla and her siblings could feel the shift in their mother’s energy and demeanor.

“Even I could feel it at that age. It’s actually kind of depressing watching the person that’s suppose to be taking care of you, and they can’t even take care of themselves,” Karla says.

She is the eldest of her two siblings. She has a 25-year-old sister and 20-year-old brother.

“We put our parents on a pedestal,” Karla says.

Growing up, Karla was very close with her parents.

Photo credit: Elena Perez

“When I saw them split up, that really messed me up mentally, especially emotionally. I was isolated a lot,” Karla says.

She grew up in Lomita with her mother as a stay at home mom, while her father was the “bread maker” and had a job in construction.

Although they didn’t go to college, her parents were raised in two different backgrounds. Her mother attended school through the third grade because she had to begin doing farm work at the age of 5. She grew up in Jalisco, Mexico on farm and her family was very poor. They would only shower once a week, and didn’t have shoes so they would be barefoot.

On the other hand, Karla’s father grew up in Guatemala, Mexico with more opportunity and privilege as his family was wealthy and well-known around his community. He attended boarding school and graduated high school. His family even had a housekeeper.

After Maria’s father had an affair, he stopped providing the family with money. As a result, Maria’s mother gathered all 10 of her children and moved to the United States. While Maria was working at a restaurant, she would go to English school in the evenings and she met Karla’s dad as he was learning English there as well.

Now that she is older, Karla understands and sees life her mother’s perspective. She started drinking and learned that she enjoyed it because it allowed her to express.

“I always wasn’t allowed to express myself because everything was always a secret. Even in the family. ‘Don’t talk about anything that happens here. What happens here stays with the family.’ I always taught that. What ever happens at home stays at home,” Karla says.

Karla wanted to express her honest feelings and emotions that she bottled up. When she would use drugs and alcohol it was to help numb her. She was a emotional drug abuser and would take them to block problems or let go of something she was struggling with. It was her “coping” method

In middle school drugs were her “escape.” She used alcohol, marijuana, naz, computer duster and inhalants. She got these from her friends or their older siblings, or she would have someone buy it for her.

When she got to the sixth grade she realized she could get away with drinking and started to do it more often. She stole alcohol from her mom and put it in her water bottles and would get drunk at school.

Teachers began to notice and brought it to the attention of her parents. Any consequence given to Karla didn’t faze her. “I just didn’t care,” Karla says.

Photo credit: Elena Perez

She changed schools several times. She moved from alcohol, to marijuana, to pills and was a drug addict by the time she was in high school.

Karla would sell candy and stolen jewelry from Forever 21 to get money for drugs. She wanted the drugs so bad that she sold the jewelry for much lower than it was actually worth. The faster she got the money the faster she got drugs.

“Selling it for cheap? Oh you must be really desperate. That’s an addiction,” says Karla.

Karla has been to jail several times for petty theft, violating probation, making scenes in public, public intoxication, disturbing the peace, battery against police officers, batter, and trespassing.

A significant event that brought awareness to Karla to make a change in her life was when she and her little sister went to jail together. Her sister had a DUI and Karla didn’t show up to her court date. Karla turned herself in so her little sister wouldn’t go alone.

Her sister was someone she considered innocent and a “good” girl who didn’t belong in a place like jail. Karla believes her sisters skin wasn’t “tough” enough to be in such a place.

In 2015, Karla began doing yoga when she started getting sober. Her therapist introduced her to yoga.

“I was really intrigued. I was surprised how much of an impact it did to me. I know if it worked for me, it can work for other people, so that’s why I got more into it,” Karla says.

Yoga has introduced Karla to Hinduism which is the religion she practices.

“I always felt like there was a higher power and I know there was always someone I was talking to when I was younger and throughout the years.”

She never knew yoga would go past stretching and meditation and lead her on a spiritual journey as well. Karla says yoga has brought her closer to God.

“I feel like he showed me a vision and from there I was like I have to move on, I have to jump over this. There’s a bigger picture. There’s a reason why he’s doing this. There’s a reason why I’m going through all of this. There’s a reason why I’m an addict,” Karla says.

Building her relationship with God had a lot to do with ending her drug addiction as well as her family becoming more educated on her drug addiction and mental illness.

Karla goes to support system meetings twice a week at minimum. She does yoga, tries to stay positive, and do things that keep her focused.

Her mission is to teach others that there is a way out especially with mental illness and drug addiction. She wants to teach yoga and help people get through issues with the tools she has learned throughout her life.

She also wants to help build people’s confidence, expression and vulnerability. Karla feels like confidence and boundaries are important. She believes that with confidence you’re able to express how you feel and in a “proper” way.

She describes vulnerability as “more relatable. Being vulnerable, you’re able to connect with others. you’re able to be authentic. It just shows the rawness of human beings.”

She teaches on El Camino Library Lawn, and other yoga sites.

With her sociology major, she wants to be a social worker, drug counseling, and work to help improve the juvenile system. Karla wants to help people who have went through similar issues she has throughout her life. She wants to be the helping hand to others she wishes she had.

She understands her journey was to be a help to teach others.

“I just want to be able to help people, especially young people who don’t have a support system,” Karla says.