Here is the full transcript of Miss USA 2006 Tara Conner’s TEDx Talk presentation: Recover Out Loud at TEDxUniversityofNevada conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio: Recover out loud by Tara Conner at TEDxUniversityofNevada
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.
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. And 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 — it’s 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% vodka, 25% orange juice, and I chugged it like I’d seen my family do. And then I went back to the counter and I mixed 75% vodka, 25% 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, 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.” 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 that 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. 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.”