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Kimberly Schliekelman started with alcohol and marijuana, graduated to cocaine and crystal meth, overdosed twice, became a heroin addict, then got clean after two stints in rehab.

All before age 18.

The Simi Valley resident hopes her harrowing journey to sobriety can serve as an example and give hope to other young people struggling with heroin addiction.

"It's just a matter of kids being willing to listen," Kimberly, now 18, said recently while sitting in her family's home. "Because I know what it's like to be stuck in heroin addiction. Nothing gets through.

"If kids have that chance to actually withdraw, you get that moment of clarity where you can start thinking clearly again. That's kind of what happened to me."

Kimberly has been clean for more than a year, recently graduated high school through an independent studies program and is taking online classes to become a drug counselor.

Last month, she addressed a packed community meeting in Simi Valley, recounting her descent into addiction and eventual recovery. The city has been gripped by a public outcry over growing heroin use in the area. Four people in their 20s and two in their 40s died of heroin overdoses in the city last year, police say. And at least two other young people whose parents live in Simi have suffered heroin-related deaths this year in other cities. The city has formed a multiagency task force to try to tackle the problem.

A lifelong Simi resident, Kimberly said she had a normal upbringing with her parents, two half-sisters and one half-brother. In sixth grade at Crestview School, she won a D.A.R.E. award for an essay about how she was never going to use drugs.

"It's kind of ironic how that worked out," she said with a laugh.