RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Christian Villadsen is celebrating his sobriety. It's been one year and seven months.
"Sometimes you have to hit a bottom and face the hardships of life to realize how much it's worth and how much they can gain," Villadsen said.
He reached rock bottom very early in his life. He's only 18 years old.
"It all began for me in like, middle school. This shift from elementary to middle school," he said.
Early in middle school, Christian started vaping, then smoking marijuana and heavily drinking alcohol. According to a new Talk It Out NC survey of North Carolina students and parents, almost two-thirds of students tried alcohol during their middle school years. In fact, 35% of students who tried alcohol say they did so by the age of 12.
"At that age, we didn't really expect that we needed to have conversations," said Peter Villadsen, Christian's dad.
Peter, like many other parents, waited to talk about alcohol and other substances with Christian. About 51% of parents surveyed say they would wait until their child is 12 or older to talk to them about underage drinking.
"If you start the conversation and have conversations with your kids every day, 'how was your day? What's going on?' and listen, it's a lot easier to have the more difficult conversations," said Joe Marks, Talk It Out NC ambassador.
Fortunately, the Villadsens were able to eventually have those difficult conversations. Christian and Peter got the help the family needed to move forward in recovery.
"We're just thrilled that we can see him being on this better path. Parents just need to be open and communicative about that and the issues that arise when you start that young," Peter said.
If you want to have a conversation with your child but you're not sure where to start, go here for tips and resources.