SAN ANTONIO – Tara Conner might be one of the most controversial figures in the beauty pageant world, but for Rise Recovery, the home of the Palmer Drug Abuse Program, she's the perfect person to spread the message of addiction prevention and awareness.
Conner won the Miss USA crown in 2006, but after only a few months, she became known more for her public scandal involving drug abuse, underage drinking and inappropriate behaviors.
She tested positive for cocaine, heroin and crystal meth and was inches away from having her crown taken from her when Donald Trump, whose brother died from alcoholism, intervened and got her into rehab.
"He saw me as a sick person, not a bad person," said Conner.
Conner said she has been drug and alcohol-free since her treatment. She is spending her days hosting events and telling her story to children and parents.
"I say that I had a divine intervention, because it's one thing when you have one person pointing a finger at you and saying, 'I think you have a problem.' I had an entire nation saying, 'Hey, you need to look at yourself,'" Conner said.
She said without that intervention, she would probably be in prison or worse, instead of helping others.
Conner spent Thursday morning speaking to children at St. Mary's Hall, some of whom made a point, she says, of telling her of their brush with alcohol and drugs.
"I think a lot of people think that it's the old man who lives under the bridge drinking from the paper bag. Truth be told, it's your family doctor, it's your lawyer, it's your principal, it's Miss USA. It doesn't discriminate," Conner said.
Rise Recovery and the Palmer Drug Abuse Program are designed to help children and their parents find the help and resources they need to lead sober lives. At no charge, Rise Recovery offers individual counseling, group therapy, workshops, youth leadership programs and more. It also has programs in eight school districts, offering children the education to resist drugs and alcohol.
"Addiction is a neurological disease and 10 percent of the population has it. It doesn't know a zip code. It doesn't know an income. It doesn't know an education," said Carroll Jackson, chairman of the board at Rise Recovery.
Conner is scheduled to be the guest speaker at Alamo Heights High School Thursday at 6 p.m. for "Recovering the Crown". The event is free to the public.
For more information on recovery programs, visit riserecovery.org.