Barbie Settle was “floored” when Carson City Juvenile Services Outreach Specialist Michelle Entz unscrewed a plastic top off a bottle disguised as a Monster energy drink to show parents how easy it is to hide drugs or other contraband.
“My kid has 20 Monster cans in her room,” she said. “I thought I knew it all. I don’t want to say I’m the professional. I’m not.”
An information night July 19 at the CCJS office to help parents with high-risk youth behavior – peer pressure, substance abuse, social media – provided tools to adapt healthy responses to situations or take control of them. It was an “eye-opening” evening for Settle, a mother in recovery with a daughter who’s starting to experiment with drugs at 13.
“I used to be ashamed,” she said. “I have realized, unfortunately, what I went through, but I feel like what I went through was to help others. They’re not trash and they’re not lower than anybody else. They went through a phase, and all they can do is to try to be better. I was thinking I was not a good parent, but I’m still working on it. I just want people to know it’s a bad stigma.”
When Settle left Virginia – and an abusive relationship – in May 2018 to come to Carson City, she needed to start fresh. She had been using methadone, a habit that started when her younger daughter Sarah (not her real name) was 1 year old. She had served time in jail. She wanted to do better for her children.
“The reason we moved to Nevada, I was going to continue down the road of addiction, and eventually I was going to die,” Settle said. “We were going to move across the United States, me and my two girls. We were going to be homeless. We were hungry and tired.”
She found solace with an aunt and started getting clean in Carson City. She previously went to a methadone clinic to keep her cravings under control and she said she found a new path.
“When we got (to Nevada), my aunt had a home for us and a car,” Settle said. “I just got another job, and I’ve been working full-time.”
Now Settle is facing a new set of problems. Sarah is vaping and, more recently, drinking. Settle is worried she’ll end up addicted, too.
“With the addiction in my family and her father’s, she’s got a double whammy,” Settle said. “I said, ‘You have to work harder than most people, and you have to be the one to say no.’”
Settle said Sarah, 13, has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, the latter of which stemmed from a school bus incident more than two years ago in which Sarah had been bullied by an eighth-grade male. Settle said she eventually took away her phone during school hours but felt she couldn’t remove her from school.
“I needed her to keep trying (in school),” she said. “This was after years of her being bullied and it got worse, and she got to the point she was numb and she wanted to hurt herself,” Settle said. “She went into Willow Springs in January 2023, and things had gotten worse. Willow Springs didn’t help.”
Willow Springs Center is a residential treatment facility for ages 12 to 17 in Reno. Sarah was at Willow Springs for her mental and social needs; Settle said she didn’t know about her drug habits at the time. But as she began investigating her daughter’s phone, she said she found videos of her vaping in her living room with a friend.
“I asked her about it, and she said she had been doing it for a while,” Settle said. “There’s only one friend who has stuck by her side. She’s had one friend and, unfortunately, she’s doing it with her, and I found a picture as I started going through her phone, and she had a vape in her hand, and she said, ‘Please, we’ll never do it again, we’ll never do it again.’”
Settle said she only recently found out about her daughter’s drinking.
“I said, ‘I don’t believe anything you say anymore,’” Settle said. “‘(Your friends) might think it’s stupid for you to have to say no, but you have to do it. You can’t question why you have to say no, but you have to do it. You have to work hard to be a better person.’ And we just keep wanting it. It’s like you can’t stop. And it sucks.”
Settle said her daughter fell behind at school, but she wanted her to keep going and make the right kind of friends to help her. She said she might need to consider other therapy or a psychiatrist for Sarah.
“I’ve been very open with all of my kids about my addiction and my withdrawals,” Settle said. “And you feel like your life is over, and that’s how I’ve felt. I’m addicted, and I don’t know what else to do. I can’t let my kids see me sick. I said, ‘I don’t want that for you. I’m not supposed to bury you.’
“I’m just lost. The meeting (with Carson City Juvenile Services) opened my eyes. … I feel like now I have people behind me.”
Entz said often “the hardest part is walking through the door.”
“We want to help those families,” Entz said. “My biggest goal and my role is getting them that help. We know from the various stories that they genuinely do care about their kids and they need extra help.”
Christie Perkins, director of grants and special projects of the Carson City School District, said it offers resources for all students and families, including licensed social workers. Hotlines such as SafeVoice are available to help students remain anonymous in cases of bullying, Perkins said.
When a family is considered high-risk, there are options to place the student elsewhere.
“(Families) can work up the chain, such as the principal,” Perkins said. “They can go up the next layer and set up a meeting and find a different placement or schedule a correct meeting.”
Settle said she wants the community to know resources are available.
“Kids are so good at hiding things,” she said. “It’s been a road, but I feel like we went through this road for a reason. … Whether you think your kid is doing something or not, you need to go (to these classes). It’s just a pay-it-forward kind of thing.”
Carson City Juvenile Services
Carson City School District