“I remember the hope just leaving me. I remember sitting there and getting ready for someone to shoot me up because I didn’t know how to inject myself at that time. I remember thinking, ‘This is it. This is what my life has come to.'”
I will say that I had a lot of the behaviors that accompany addiction way before drugs. Way. I was a very strong-willed child. I did not listen to anybody. Very impulsive. I did whatever I wanted. I really did not care about consequences at all until I got them, and then I cried like a big baby. For the most part I really could not care. I always felt less than everybody else in school. My grandma raised me for the most part. I did bounce around a lot between my mom, my dad and my grandmother. As I got older, part of the reason was because I just didn’t want to stay in one place for too long. I created chaos and then I would leave. When I was at my grandma as a younger child, she didn’t have all the fun, so I didn’t do all the sports like everybody else did. I didn’t run with the in crowd, I wasn’t very popular. I was popular but for not the right reasons. I always felt less than, and that carried with me. I started getting arrested when I was thirteen.
I was also really big on fighting, it was physical altercations. Very explosive. Very angry. I just remember always just being so angry. This inner rage inside of me. I got in the juvenile justice system, which is why I’m really passionate about helping the juveniles, because I remember those moments in my life. Eventually went to group homes, was expelled from school. This is all before drugs and alcohol came into the… I had a lot of bad behaviors. The ends justified the means. However, if I wanted something, it didn’t really matter what it took to get it and I did it. I had a lot of promiscuity as a teenager, hoping that if I engaged in some sexual act with a boy that he would love me. It never works out that way, because no one wants to get married at fourteen. I was just a very sad little girl. I took it out in anger, because nobody was ever going to hurt me. There was abuse in my background, physical abuse, sexual abuse, all that stuff.
My first substance was alcohol. I remember drinking in the wine coolers and I wanted to drink all of them to show how badass I was. I drank them all and I got very sick and I blacked out. A real indication that there was a serious problem about to arise. Like I said, I had been on probation from the age of thirteen to the age of twenty-nine. A lot of my drug use probably was stunted because I was in group homes, so I can only use, and then I have to be all put back together because I had to see my probation officer. I got in a massive car accident with my grandmother when I was seventeen years old, as a result of getting high for a few days on ecstasy and having to go pick her up the next day. I don’t call it withdrawal, but the day after using ecstasy, your brain’s really messed up. I had to go pick her up and I was very angry. I had to leave a party and leave the boyfriend and I ended up getting in a massive, very severe car accident. I almost killed my grandma.
I got arrested for my first felony at that age. I still didn’t see drugs as the problem. I saw the anger as the problem. I couldn’t see that it was a mixture of both. I was out on bail for a few years and that again stopped my drug use because I don’t want to be out on bail/probation, you know what I mean? All this stuff, fighting a pretty big court case and using. I got convicted of that and I did a little jail time. I’m nineteen and I did a little jail time. Then I was in an abusive relationship with a boyfriend. He left and I was working. I was doing really well. Then some girl came in and she was an exotic dancer and she made that life seem so glamorous. I used to hang out at the club. Every Tuesday was 18+. I was nineteen, so I would go. They beat you. They just beat you. “You would do so good, you’re so pretty,” blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I went up and I made $160 in six minutes and I was, “Yeah, this is it, this is the life for me.” Eventually along with that comes the cocaine.
I remember my first line of cocaine and I remember at the time I was in college. I was an exotic dancer who was dancing through school, that whole spiel, and I remember thinking that after I do this line I just knew it wasn’t going to turn out right. I just knew in my heart. Something. Now I’ll say it’s God told me, “This is not a good idea.” My thought was, “This is going to be one helluva ride.” I had no clue how bad it was going to be. I started doing cocaine, but I was on probation, so I did it for twenty-four hours straight. I got sick I did so much. It was crazy, but I still couldn’t see. I just couldn’t see. I did get off probation in that sixteen-year stretch for two years, and the day I got off probation I started snorting cocaine. I loved it. I loved every moment of it. I loved getting high and went from, “Let’s do it every weekend,” to “Let’s do it whenever possible” in about a month’s period. I just dive in. I dive into anything really. I got to be real careful.
I started doing that. I had a boyfriend at the time, he was doing it. It was just really crazy, but I loved it. I tell you right now, if I could get high today and not destroy my life, I’d do it. Some people don’t have that desire. If I could do cocaine on one night, “Let’s get together for a Friday,” I’d do it. I don’t know why I still feel that way. It’s probably because I have the disease of addiction, but I loved it. I didn’t know what was in store. At the time, that was the dancing at the clubs, getting high at night, the guys buying you things, I still had money. Everything wasn’t going all towards drugs. It was the beginning. The good times, I guess you could say. I’ve moved around a lot because I was a dancer. I was in Maine dancing and I met this guy. I was doing so much cocaine that I was not going to bed for days at a time. He introduced me to oxycontins. They don’t tell you when they give them to you, what they’re going to do to you.
All I know is that I could get high on cocaine, and when I needed to sleep I could come down on oxys. I was, “Oh, this is perfect, this is the best now. Now we’re really doing well.” I moved to Rhode Island because I met a girl at the club and she said there was more money and cheaper drugs. “All right, let’s go.” I packed up. I had a dog and my clothes and I left. I came down here. Then it started to get mad. Then I started saying, “If I just don’t do the cocaine I’ll be okay.” Because the oxys you can function on, cocaine you can’t. You’re too geeked up, so I stopped doing cocaine but not the oxys. I got a very bad oxycontin habit. I was up to $500 a day oxycontin habit. It was massive. I couldn’t get out of bed without 160 mg of it. Slowly the bills stopped being paid, and the oxys. I picked up cocaine again. Within a matter of two months the sheriff was knocking on my door saying, “You need to leave.”
I didn’t know anybody down here really except for my drug dealer and he’s not going to let me move in with him, so I got into a cab driver’s car that I knew. He used to drive me back and forth to work, and he said, “Oh I have a place you can go.” I was, “Let’s do it.” It was this guy’s house and he was shooting heroin. I’ll never forget that day. I remember the hope just leaving me. I remember it. I remember sitting there and getting ready for someone to shoot me up because I didn’t know how to inject myself at that time. I remember thinking, “This is it. This is what my life has come to.” All those dreams I was going to be a lawyer or a doctor, a psychologist, were gone. I just decided at that moment, “This is probably just what’s going to happen. I’m just going to die this way.” I started shooting heroin and shooting cocaine and once I found the needle, it’s like for anybody who’s every used IV drugs, they know it’s like a whole different demon.
It’s just a different rush. I started having cocaine-induced seizures. My arms were horrendous because I was practicing on myself, practicing how to shoot up on myself. It was just really bad. I lived with this guy that I barely knew and I just got high. That can only last so long. I wasn’t dancing anymore. I can’t dance with track marks on you. It just was really bad. I found the streets of Providence in the summer of 2007 and I went out and I started making my money on the streets, a working girl and prostitute. I didn’t hate it. I mean the drugs had me really messed up. The disease had me thinking that I wanted to be out here. That I enjoyed it. It didn’t bother me that summer, but then I started getting arrested. It’s not so much fun anymore when you’re trying to fight your way out of prison. I started going in and out of the ACI. September 2007 was my first time going.
I would do the whole, “Please let me out of jail. Please let me go out of jail, and I promise to go to rehab. I’ll sign whatever you want me to sign.” I would sign these things promising, “Oh, if I don’t go to rehab I’ll do eighteen months.” It’s called a state sentence in Rhode island. I would leave the courthouse and go get high. Then I would be picked up. They kept making me go for a few more months and then letting me out in a few months. I signed the same exact state sentence four times. I did two months one time, I did six months another time, I did eight months another time. I was doing it on the installment plan. I contracted hepatitis C. They tell you in prison. They don’t tell you very nicely. They sit you down and say, “So, you have hepatitis C and you’re dying.” In the meantime while I was in prison I was clean from the drugs and the alcohol. I was on the drug wing they called it, I did the drug program in prison.
I got a twelve-step fellowship come in to see me, and so I was getting little snippets of recovery. I couldn’t stay long enough. I did that for about five years. Between prison, little bouts of being drug-free and being out in the streets, I did that. I had a lot of really bad things happen to me out on the streets. I’m sure people can imagine what happens to a young girl out on the streets. Lot of bad stuff. I really thought I was going to die out there and I didn’t care. I really didn’t. There was a detective that used to drive around, he had my mom’s number. I told him, “When I come up dead just please call my mom.” My family couldn’t find me. It was just really bad. So much has happened, I could go on forever. I got married to another addict. I tried that whole, “We’re going to get married and stay clean” thing. I always tell the girls that. I met him in rehab and that whole thing and it didn’t work out that way, let’s just say. We’re divorced now.
I got arrested on a violation in March 2012 and I did a few weeks in jail. I was just really tired. I got out and I started using for five more days, and I woke up one day, in this house I’ve been getting high in for years, around the people I’ve been high around for years. My drug dealer was three blocks down the road on the same block I made my money. I woke up one day, I got up to go get high. I went, there was no, they call it a “wake-up”, to get high. There was nothing around. Nobody had any money, nobody was coming. I went out. I’ve been very high, I didn’t shower, I didn’t do anything. I just got high. I walked outside, I went to walk down the road and I just stopped. I was, “I can’t do it anymore. I got to go home.” God. I just feel like God just touched me. I just feel like He put His finger on me at that moment, because there’s no other explanation for it. There’s no other reason as to why someone would get up and just walk away. It doesn’t make sense.
I called my dad and I went home. Mind you I’m on probation in Rhode Island, my dad lives in Massachusetts. I’m up there and my dad doesn’t want me to leave to come back. I was, “Dad, I can’t be on the run.” My dad’s, “Don’t leave. We’ll get an attorney, we’ll do something.” I’m, “No dad, I can’t. I got to do it.” I came down here and I wanted to use one more time before I quit. It was May 3rd 2012 and I did a shot of heroin and it was almost my one more time. It was my one more time. My one more time for anything really. I overdosed. Somebody ran from the car. The other two met the ambulance halfway. They gave me Narcan and here I am. On May 4th I had court. I woke up and I was home. After I left the hospital I went home. I was living somewhere else with a friend and I got on my knees and I said, “I just need your help God, please. Please God, please help me.” He brought me to some scriptures.
I read my Bible in prison and stuff, about not being afraid, “I have you, it’s going to be okay.” Isaiah 41:10 I believe it is. I went to court. They were going to put me in jail and they didn’t. I had to visit a superior court judge once a week. Every Friday I had to go see her. I will say that when I got off drugs, for anybody that might read this, I had nothing. I had nothing. I didn’t even have underwear when I left that block, when I left the neighborhood. I had nothing. I had no food stamp card because my husband at the time had it. I had no toothbrush. I had nothing. I was dying, I had hepatitis C. My liver levels, my liver function was through the roof. I was basically one foot in prison. They were just waiting to put me away. I had nothing other than God. Slowly things started coming. I started just doing the right thing. I prayed every morning, “Please God keep me clean, just for today.” I started going to meetings, twelve-step fellowship.
I started taking suggestions. I had come to the realization that anytime I ever used drugs, nothing went well. It wasn’t, “Well that was the best week crack run that I did. My life got so much better.” I’ve never said that. I’ve never heard anybody say that. “That was the best year of shooting dope ever. My life is just fabulous now.” I came to the conclusion that no matter how bad it is at this moment, getting high is not going to fix it. I started going to meetings every day, I got friends, I had to go to treatment and ju-ve rehab. I had to do that whole thing. I had nothing. My family was not sending me money. Not even that they could afford it, but even if they could they were certainly not sending me money. They were not paying for anything, which I’m grateful now. I’m grateful. My family, by not helping me, was the best thing they could have done because it forced me to fight for it. I took the bus everywhere, I had recovery housing.
At the time they had a grant and they helped me. I got a regular job. I had to leave that life behind, which is hard for a lot of women to leave that type of money behind. I will say I had a few slips and I went in, not using, but I went in with a guy to make money in the beginning of my recovery, because I just was afraid. I didn’t know that God was going to provide so much more for me if I just let Him do it. I got a regular job. I came to Anchor Recovery Community Center in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and I started volunteering there. I’ve been there now off and on volunteering my whole entire recovery, which I have over three years now. I really started getting connected with God. I really had to really give Him a lot of things.
Do I want to use? I wake up some days, I just want to use. I have a beautiful life now. I am remarried, my husband’s an amazing guy. I have a stepson who I love. I go to school full time now, I’m back in college. I’m a straight A, 4.0 student.
I’m going for, I haven’t quite decided, social work or psych, but I’ll be in the field I’m sure. I am still at Anchor Recovery Community Center working on maybe getting a job there. My family’s back in my life. I have a license, which is amazing, and insurance and a car and all that good stuff. I don’t get arrested anymore. I got off probation, that I couldn’t even believe. My judge actually took all the fines away that I had. I had a lot of fines and I did a lot of work and she wiped them clean, that I had put in my service. I still want to get high. I still want to. Two months ago, right after I celebrated my thee years, I was, “I just want to get high.” It’s the beast, it’s the nature of the addiction. We’re never cured. I realize that now more this year than any other year, that it doesn’t matter how many meetings I do, how much step work I do, how much I talk to them, I have a sponsor in my network, I’m still an addict.
Yesterday I had an off day. My husband [said], “You’re off.” My thinking wasn’t right. But the cool thing is that I’m aware that it’s not right now, more than anything else, and I can go, “Okay I know I’m not thinking straight.” Then I slow down and I take it easy. I go to a meeting, I call my sponsor. I do things like that. When I was out there, I could have never imagined this life now that I have. Ever. I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t see past anything. I went through the hepatitis C treatment, I went through the Interferon and I am now, viral load will be free. They can’t detect my viral load. It will be two years in November. So they call it cured. I guess they say I’m cured. It’s amazing. I had to get out of the way. I had to get out of the way of myself and I had to do things, the right thing, even when I didn’t want to. I had to go to a meeting even if I didn’t want to. Sometimes I just don’t want to go, but I go.
Those are the times I really go. I have to pray when I don’t want to. I have to walk away from an altercation, because I still have that anger. People want to push my buttons and you know, whatever. A lot of times people are just having their own bad day. I’m so self-centered, I tend to think that everybody’s bad day is a reflection on me, but it’s not. It’s their stuff. I have to be honest in all my affairs, all my affairs. Just keep doing it. Most importantly, God. I always say God. I pray so much, I find God through my own way. Everyone can find God through their way. I go to church. I’m a Sunday school teacher, if that won’t blow your mind. People trust me with their kids’ spiritual education, it’s crazy. I give back. I just don’t use no matter what. No matter what happens. I just don’t use. I miscarried in recovery, lost a baby. I was ninety days clean and I just went to a meeting. Using wasn’t going to bring a baby back. I’ve lost a job in recovery. It’s not going to bring it back.
I broke up a relationship. I had a boyfriend for a little while, we broke up. It’s not going to bring us back. I realize now that if I just ride it out, it’s going to be all right. Anything I’ve ever gone through in recovery has done nothing but make me a stronger human being. I’m very grateful. It’s not through the easy that we get strong. It’s like weight lifting. You don’t get strong by just sitting there lifting a five pound weight. Eventually you going to graduate to ten pounds. That’s how you get strong. By the resistance and sticking to it. That’s what I do. Like I say, anybody listening that happens to hear this, God, man. God is the Way. For me twelve-step fellowships and doing the right thing, even when the right thing sucks to do, can do it.
Photographs taken at Anchor Recovery Community Center in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.