ANNANDALE, Va. (WUSA) - "I went into my parent's medicine cabinet and took a bottle of Percocet," described Caitlin Acosta, 24, about the first time she thought about taking drugs. She was 12 years old.
"I just remember the principal saying, this is bad, really bad," said Acosta who was charged with a felony for narcotics possession and suspended from school for two weeks.
"I started smoking pot in the 7th grade. And drinking," Acosta explained. She said that after she got in trouble, her self-esteem and self-worth fell. Her friends dropped away and she started hanging out with the "bad kids."
Acosta is a resident of Falls Church and a graduate of George Mason High School, where her alcohol and drug additions only got worse. She was a cheerleader in high school, but kept on smoking marijuana. Then she started selling her prescription Adderall.
"We would empty our capsules into baggies and take that. And then we would refill them with sugar so that if our moms would say, 'take your medicine' we would 'take our medicine,' but really we were going to school and selling it," said Acosta.
She says some kids would take the stimulant so that could drink more alcohol without passing out.
When she was 17, Caitlin discovered painkillers.
"I was addicted for a couple of years to OxyContin and Xanax as well as alcohol. I hit an emotional bottom. I knew that I was also damaging my liver," said Acosta.
When she was 20 years old, she told her mother.
"When I said, 'I have a drug problem,' when I told that truth, I think she was relieved to know the truth and to know the problem so that we could find a solution together. And that's what we did," said Acosta.
Now she's working with theUnited Prevention Coalition trying to make other aware of the dangers of addiction. The UPC is urging people to dispose of their unused or expired prescription medications at the upcoming Operation Medicine Cabinet Cleanout May 27 - June 1. Most Fairfax County Police Stations (Franconia, Mason, Mount Vernon, Reston, Sully and West Springfield) will be collection sites and disposal is free.
The UPC says more than 70% of those who abuse prescription medications get them from friends or family and often from the family's medicine cabinet.
Caitlin Acosta knows she's lucky. She says her family's love and patience, along with support groups helped her get off the drugs and alcohol and into recovery. She says she's closer now to her family, her parents and young siblings, than she has ever been. And she's grateful for their help.
"Nobody ever made me feel ashamed."
Acosta now has a full time job as an office assistant for a woman-owned architecture firm. She has a boyfriend and drives a pickup truck. She still lives with her parents but hopes to break out on her own soon.