Recover out loud | Tara Conner | TEDxUniversityofNevada

Translator: Ellen Maloney
Reviewer: Mile Živković If you would have told me, back in 2006, that my boss would become
the President of the United States, I probably would have told you
you were crazy. (Laughter) Most people came to know me in 2006
when I won “Miss USA,” and even more people
got to know me later that year when I tested positive for cocaine. But what they didn’t know was that I had been silently suffering
from a nasty addiction from the age of 14. I want to share with you
a bit about my journey with addiction. My life was the perfect storm
for addiction to manifest. I survived incest at three,
my parents had a rocky relationship, and alcoholism and mental health issues
were very present in my family. I grew up in a really small town
in Kentucky with a church on every corner, like the type of town
where you could throw a Bible, and probably hit a pastor on the head, and what was impressed upon me was that
if I drank, smoked, or had premarital sex, I was going straight to hell. And I remember thinking
how unfair that seemed, because my uncle didn’t give me
a choice in the matter. So, fast forward to 14, my parents
are going through a nasty divorce, my papa, my protector, and the only person that ever
showed me unconditional love, dies. And the pain and loneliness
that I experienced were truly unbearable. So, when I am on a cheer leading trip –
an away trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee – and the juniors and seniors score a gallon
of vodka from some nearby college boys, I was elated when they offered me some because I desperately needed
to feel a part of something. So, I mixed my first drink. And it was 75 per cent vodka,
25 per cent orange juice, and I chugged it
like I’d seen my family do. Then I went back to the counter and I mixed 75 per cent vodka,
25 per cent orange juice, and I chugged that because I wanted
to seem like, “I’ve done this before.” Right? My next memory is of me coming too,
making a deposit to the porcelain gods, (Laughter) and I’m in the middle of this room
and the room looked like this: There were two girls
fighting in the corner, some sexual acts going on on the bed, and there was this poor girl
in the bathroom and she was crying, and she was cutting herself,
and I was just like, “Woah! I have found my people.” (Laughter) Because the chaos in that room
looked just like the chaos in my mind. Until the next day when I woke up
with the worst hangover of my life, and I was sweating vodka from my pores. And I was a little nugget
they would throw up in the air that would do back-flips,
and I was terrified that I was going to Exorcism-style spew
all over the audience. And my cheer leading coach
was the president of the Fellowship of Christian
Athletes, so God was there. (Laughter) And I was so afraid that I was going
to get caught so I prayed to this God, that I truly believed wanted
nothing to do with me, and I said, “Hey big guy. If you can get me out of this one,
I swear, I will never do it again.” And I meant it. I made a firm resolution that day
to never touch another drop of alcohol. And by the end of that year.
I was hooked on morphine. See, I didn’t know that by me
having my first drink at 14 was making me close to 40 per cent
more likely to become dependent. I didn’t know that my brain
was going through rapid development, so when my parents would look at me
and say, “What were you thinking?” “I wasn’t!” My brain wasn’t fully developed yet. Right? And they would bring officers
into school and try to scare us straight, with eggs on frying pans,
and that wasn’t scary. That looked like a good time to me. (Laughter) The average age that kids
are drinking these days is 11. They’re playing Russian Roulette with
their lives and they don’t even know it. And there’s no effective government-funded
prevention program, nation run. So, now I want to paint a picture for you. If an old man is strung out
on heroin, living on Skid Row, people assume that he made that choice. When Charlie Sheen
is cracked out of his mind, “There goes an entitled celebrity!” Right? When Miss USA fails
a drug test for cocaine, what a bad role model she is, right? But when a 14 year old
dies of an overdose? Now, that’s a tragedy. So, now I want to talk about
how we stigmatize this disease, When I failed a drug test for cocaine
and Donald Trump chucked me into rehab, I faced the stigma head on. People were calling me,
“Disgraced Miss USA.” TMZ coined “Mess USA” which is very witty, and I’m going to use that
as the title of my first book. (Laughter) Thank you. (Applause) Side note: It is also
my gamer tag for Call of Duty for all the gamers in the room. (Laughter) And when I left treatment, I had to do
a media tour because that’s normal, and I had this man ask me,
“Do you think you tarnish the crown?” (Gasps) And all I could see was that
14-year-old version of myself, who was molested by her uncle,
whose parents were divorcing, who just lost the only
example that she has of love, who sought refuge in drugs and alcohol, have a muzzle put on her mouth, because she just saw Miss USA be shamed
on national television for being sick. I wasn’t a bad person, trying to act good; I was a sick person
that needed to get well. And that was the fire that started
my journey to advocacy. I knew there were so many people out there
that were suffering just like me. And I suffered for most of my life because I had no idea
what it was I was suffering from. I was so excited to get out there
and share my experience with what I had learned in treatment, because I really felt like I’d found
the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Right? Addiction is one of the top
healthcare issues in this country, and it kills more people than diabetes,
heart disease, and cancer combined. There’s an airplane full of people
dropping from the sky every single day, and it’s the most under-funded
healthcare issue. People are being
incarcerated for being sick; 80 per cent of inmates suffer
from substance use disorders, and almost half of them have been
locked up for drug-related offences. They don’t need to be held captive;
they need long-term recovery. (Applause) Thank you. In schools, where our children
spend the majority of their time, there’s no government-funded effective
prevention program out there. And addiction starts in adolescence. Science tells us that prevention
and treatment work. It’s estimated that substance use
costs our society around 442 billion dollars a year. If more people had access to treatment, and if there were better
prevention programs, mandatory, that were in place, we could take a chunk
out of our national debt. We don’t need to lock
people up or build a wall; the drugs are already here. (Laughter) I found mine in my parents’
medicine cabinets. (Laughter) In November of last year,
the US Surgeon General made an unprecedented report
on drugs, alcohol, and health. And he issued a new call to action. There are currently 20 million Americans
that are struggling with addiction, far more than those diagnosed with cancer, and only ten per cent of them
will receive treatment. We all have just
sensationalized the problem. I’ve been guilty of it, right? But rarely do we hear that Miss USA
just celebrated ten years of sobriety. (Cheers) (Applause) Thank you Dr. Vivek H. Murthy said that
how we respond to the addiction crisis is a moral test for America. There are over 20 million people
in long-term recovery. That’s a lot. I mean, I will share my dirty laundry,
to whoever will listen. But I challenge those
who are in long-term recovery and all of the families whose lives
have been recreated because of recovery to join together and recover out loud. Then maybe, we can take the shame away
from those who are in the shadows, and encourage them to step into the light. I know I will. Thank you. (Applause)


  1. I don't get the point where ppl have to treat the other person and associated there past and feeling's and be so judgemental about it and see it as a tabboo

  2. thank you!!! great talk! i have 32 days clean after 11 years in addiction and i want to be an advocate for girls going through this disease when i am able! <3

  3. If you told me a beauty queen associated at one time with cheeto would open my mind and have me crying at the end of her talk, I would not believe it. Thank you, Tara Conner.

  4. Bad example these days. I heard this tweaker rambling on at a meeting. Nobody knows what she talks about. Space case, conceited, selfish liar.


  6. Thank you for your bravery and congratulations on your sobriety! I agree about recovering out loud. Thank you for speaking out about such a stigmatized subject.

  7. De stigmatize addiction!!! Was it a secret you were a drunk/addict? Why should it be a secret that you now are not.

  8. Had to thumbs this up, if only for seeing 666 "Likes," which bothered me. So, for now, it's 667. And I'm an Atheist, for chrissakes.

  9. Great episode. I have a music video here that is creating awareness for drug addiction and overdose. It is called,"Fallen Angel". Just click on to my channel. Thank you for watching.

  10. People Stay Away from meds, you don’t need to be dependent on anything.. Ask me and I will help. I can help you stop being dependent on any substance for free. I nearly use the knowledge Jesus’s Christ has bestowed on me. Let me tell you I use to drink , smoke , and was addicted to other forms of addiction. Now I have stoped loss weight and got into the best shape of my life. I actually at the age of 30 play for a semi pro team. All you have to due is ask .

  11. I honestly believe the cure for addiction is self love. Self love should be taught in school at an early age. When your an addict and make the wrong decision you shame yourself all the time and then you can’t deal with that shame so you use more to not feel that way. The #1 gate way drug is prescription meds.

  12. Addiction does not kill more people then CANCER! 800,000 people died from cancer last year in America. 800,000! 75,000 died from Overdose. There is no comparison. AND as a cancer survivor – I think you aught to check your numbers. Those who get cancer did not go and buy it at a liquor store. You are Not Powerless.

  13. The madatory therapies are often terrible places; they would have to improve them so they could be sure no torture is perpatrated by these places…

  14. Thank you for your work, Tara! You didn't have to make this your life's mission, but you did. Bless your kindness and generosity! I am with you. I have the same disease

  15. The problem is even worse than this because even treatment fails 90% of the time. I believe the reason is that it ignores trauma, and rather than utilizing effective low cost treatments, some such as EMDR is that have been around for at least a decade. 12 step programs have a place, and should be available and encouraged for those who want it, but it is not working as the foundation of most treatment programs because it ignores trauma. I was glad that Tara Conner included her trauma in the story of her addiction,but it ends without telling us what broke the cycle.

  16. this was a great watch. Congratulations on your 10 years of sobriety MIss America… continue to recover out Loud… I'm with you.

  17. much respect to you but don't bring illegals into the picture. Do I have empathy? yes. But, they are ILLEGAL. Im sorry if that offends you but not really. Our country can only handle so much. Let's tackle our homeless population before we take on other nations. Prayers for all.

  18. i want to be her. i’m not an alcoholic, but i abuse alcohol to the point i make awful mistakes. i want to be able to walk into a party or an event & be so confident i don’t need alcohol. i want to be free from it. i’m so done.

  19. Wow! Love the honesty. Recover on. What an inspiration you are. It's about time for our voices to be heard! I agree completely. God bless you

  20. PLEASE TELL ME…… HOW do we help the ones we love who are addicted?? It is torture to watch the one you love dearly walk through addiction, or molestation..

  21. Most inmates who had substantial substance abuse state that prison saved their lives. Sad but true. Forced treatment sucks but it works in very extreme case when a serious crime was committed.

  22. Love when people share their story to help others. I was bulimic for 10 years and see SO MANY parallels between your story and mine. Recovering out loud makes you feel FREE. Thank you Tara! xo

  23. True development! Love her presentation. Great speaker! This is what the real Miss USA 2006 is in her full potential still making her mark of being relevant in 2019.

  24. I loved this. Now, go talk to your ex boss and get him to begin government funding in assistance for this nationwide, I bet he would listen.

  25. This is something that I can relate to on so many different levels. Congratulations Tara on your sobriety, I am now 22 years sober

  26. Why oh why do that generation talk in such screetchy whiny voices with meaooooo at the end of some sentences ….. so many pretty faces about but all with these umpa loompa type voices … it grates on me … like chaulk on a board … sorrieeeee … but …

  27. Let's not forget that Donald Trump lost his only brother to alcohol when his brother was 43. I've seen him talk about it many times. No, we addicts are not treated right or with compassion. But take a moment to give that man just a tiny amount of compassion. He's lost one too. He may not know how to respond to it correctly which is why this woman's talk is so valuable.

  28. She's so amazing I love that she can laugh about something so painful with such grace and sincerity.

  29. I personally went to school with Tara. I am glad to see that she overcame these addictions and is able to talk about it. Maybe her speech will help the next 14 year old little girl who is struggling with life. Make KY proud sis.

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