When she was just 13 years old, Tara started turning heads in Russell Springs, Kentucky, the small town where she was raised. On the advice of a family friend, she began entering beauty pageants.
Tara's beauty and poise won her crown after crown, but beneath the smile, her world was unraveling. At age 14, Tara's parents divorced, and soon after, her beloved grandfather died. "I feel like I was crying out for help, but no one could hear me because everyone was so concerned with their own life," Tara says.
In high school, Tara found a way to mask the pain. "I started using when I was 14 years old. I had my first drink when, I think, I was 14," she says. "It wasn't me moving to New York and becoming Miss USA that thrust me into the spotlight and put all this pressure on me. It wasn't that at all. I had the disease of alcoholism from the get-go."
Tara also discovered that she could numb her feelings with prescription pills like Vicodin. "I started taking Percocet, Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, morphine pills, methadone [and] OxyContin," she says. "It consumed every minute of my day. There would be times where I could do 30 pain pills in a day."