What I Learned From Attending the Natural High Gala

What I Learned From Attending the Natural High Gala

Author’s Note: This article discusses drug and alcohol abuse.

I sat on my bathroom floor, grasping the cold, glass bottle. My fingers were wrapped around it so tightly that I could see them beginning to turn a bright red through my tears. When I started losing my self-worth, turning to drugs and alcohol began to seem like the only way out. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reports that teenagers who feel like they don’t fit in and struggle with low self-esteem are at risk of developing serious drug and alcohol problems. In my case, I was thankfully able to get the help I needed. For several others, however, the link between substance abuse and self-esteem remains a serious problem.

This issue became so personal to me, because I knew what it was like having my self-esteem hit an ultimate low. So when I got the call from Natural High, a nonprofit organization inspiring youth to discover, amplify, and pursue their natural high so they have a reason to say no to drugs and alcohol, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

I was chosen to be Natural High’s 2015 Youth of the Year at their gala in San Diego last weekend. Instead of turning to drugs and alcohol, I found my natural high in inspiring others. Just a few years ago, I was in a very bad place. Through my passion, however, I found a way out. Being an honoree at the gala, I was able to meet so many individuals and learn so many life-changing lessons.


Find your fire

Whether it’s singing, drawing, running or solving equations, everyone has something that makes them light up inside. At the gala, I learned about the importance of finding that passion and the impact it can have on your self-esteem. Find the thing that makes you the best version of yourself, and when you do, make sure you never let go of it. If you haven’t found your passion, don’t worry— just keep searching


Be inspired

The incredible women I met at this gala left me motivated to make a change. Instead of comparing yourself to others in a negative way, allow them to inspire and encourage you. When entering the gala, I met the Natural High team, a group of individuals passionate about their cause and longing to make a difference. I then got the opportunity to meet superwomen and educator Marcia Waitt, whose curriculum has influenced 20,000 educators across the country. You can learn more about her story here.


Understand that it gets better

I think the most important lesson I learned at the gala last weekend was to never give up. As I clutched the glass trophy in my hands, I thought back to the time I was clutching a glass bottle… the negativity, the pain, the hurt. I thought it was never going to pass. It did, however, and I couldn’t be more grateful that I kept fighting. The moment I received the award and the audience roared with applause, I knew all of the negative emotions were worth it. I understood that overcoming challenges and adversities are a part of life. If you’re going through a hard time, it’s so important to know that it gets better. You will feel okay again, you will learn to love yourself, and you will get your moment in the spotlight. I know, because I got mine.


Life is all about learning from your mistakes and experiences. In my experience with low self-esteem, struggling with the urge to turn to drugs and alcohol became a real problem for me, like it is for so many others. There are so many resources out there for those struggling, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Find your passion, stay inspired, and know that even the most negative emotions will soon pass.

Cover image courtesy of Sanah Jivani.