SOFIA (*not her real name) wasn't always as bright-eyed and happy as she is today.
The 16-year-old North-West girl is excelling at school, enjoying some new hobbies and saving up her money to go to university.
But less than two years ago, she was depressed, confused and addicted to alcohol.
``One time, I remember I drank a huge amount of vodka and got alcohol poisoning, and was vomiting for days,'' she said.
``I got told that if I had one more glass of vodka I would have gone into a coma.''
From a very young age, it was just Sofia and her mother.
And at the age of 12, she had to take on the role of being her mother's sole carer.
``We moved to Tasmania about eight years ago and my mum became mentally ill when I was 11,'' she said.
``Being mentally ill, she caused a lot of embarrassment and confusion in my life because she was the only person I had a strong relationship with.
``Nobody really told me much about what was going on or what was wrong with my own mother. Doctors diagnosed her with multiple things over the years. There were signs before that, but I didn't really know what they were because I was so young.''
Sofia was bullied for a number of years through primary and high school and from the age of 11, she began going from home to home through the foster care system.
``I never had a stable house or a loving environment, so I turned to alcohol as my support,'' she said.
``My family was already quite traumatised. My mother, her sister and her brother grew up with their mother having a severe mental illness, and having a parent with a mental illness in the 1960s would have been 10 times worse than in this time.
``I went to my first party at 14 and had so much fun; it was this huge distraction for me, so from then on I began drinking most weekends and weeknights.
``It was such an easy habit to slip into, and drinking is accepted as such a cool thing these days.
``I used to go to school drunk, not knowing I was even failing school until my youth worker told me she didn't think I was going to pass high school.
``It was hard at the time, I really had no clue who I was or where my life was even going.
``Drinking was a quick escape for me. It was sort of like visiting wonderland for a few days and it was so I could escape being sober and dealing with everything in reality.''
The binge drinking lasted about 2 1/2 years.
During that time, Sofia lost a lot of friends, who couldn't stand seeing her the way she was.
``Because most people I depended on abandoned me, I was eating a lot and then developed depression and an eating disorder. But then I lost the weight I had put on. Eating and drinking was my comfort.
``I then had a really toxic relationship with a guy and I started hanging out with people who wanted to have just as much fun as I did, influencing me and making my life worse than it already was. My life was just a mess.''
But it's been more than six months since Sofia has had a drink, and she said the cravings are gone.
``After breaking up with my toxic boyfriend, I looked at my mum and re-evaluated my life and realised my way of life was stopping me from fulfilling my dreams. I said `I'm not going to keep doing this; I'm going to waste my whole life away'.
``I realised it was bringing so much more pain to my mother as well. It was making her even more ill than she already was.
``That's the most painful thing to remember - I loved her so much yet I was causing her to become more unwell.
``I started by cutting down my drinking a bit. I slowed it down and then went cold turkey.''
Sofia committed to a number of hobbies and went back to some that she had forgotten about.
``I made plans to go out and do something with no alcohol and no drugs involved, replacing what I usually would do with something that I would still love doing, like going out for dinner or going for a drive, distracting myself and taking my mind out of that place. It was a long, hard process but I finally got my well-being back.
``I needed a place to stay away from mum's for a bit to take a break. We both used to stress and argue with each other so I went and stayed at a close friend's house.
``It was like a second home to me and with theirs and others' support, I chose to take out all the bad people and the activities that weren't healthy for me.
``I replaced them with new amazing friends and family who support and know the real person I am.''
SOFIA is in grade 11 now and is preparing to be a volunteer for the Save-A-Mate (SAM) program, which travels to music festivals and teaches young people about partying safely.
She is concentrating on fashion design and saving up her money to enrol at university in Melbourne, where she hopes to further her education and travel around the world.
Sofia sees her mother daily, who is doing much better now.
``Our relationship has become so much stronger,'' she said.
``I have so many wonderful people in my life now and I'm so grateful for finally breaking out of my old life.
``I want to thank all the people who have come into my path and say thank you to the people still standing next to me, including my counsellor - she's been amazing.''
Sofia was referred to North-West drug and alcohol services, where she worked with her counsellor for 2 1/2 years.
``I've watched Sofia move from one end of the scale to the other,'' her counsellor said.
``She's like my shining star - coming from a place of addiction and not a great mental space, to making some really important and pertinent decisions around her direction and future, and then to see her actually act on them and make them happen - that's been very fulfilling for her.
``The Sofia I met when she was 14 had no idea where she was going and had no real care, to a person that's driven. The passion was always there - it was just about unlocking it all.''
The counsellor said drugs and alcohol were very prevalent among young people on the North-West Coast and that trend had increased over the years.
``Sometimes young people struggle to recognise that maybe their binge drinking or weekend partying is or has become an issue, and are often a bit lost about where to go or who to talk to,'' she said.
Sofia wants other teenagers and adults to know that anyone can change their situation.
``You have the power and decision to make your life how you want it to be and the best part about falling apart is the opportunity to rebuild yourself how you want to be,'' she said.
``No matter what your age, colour or life position, everyone has a different story and we make mistakes, but we're human.''
Community Connections Incorporated is a not-for-profit organisation that provides counselling, case management, information and education, health promotions, outreach and support to families and significant others around drug and alcohol use. It's free and confidential, and is located at 129 Wilson Street, Burnie.
* The Sunday Examiner has agreed to change the girl's name to protect her privacy.