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Drug problem - Desiree's story

November 11, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

Editor's note: Desiree's full name is not being used in order to protect her identity.

At age 20, Desiree set out to make up for the carefree, partying years she missed when she dropped out of North Hagerstown High School to become a teenage wife and mother.

Separated from her husband and son, she had a GED and a good job at Citicorp. She thought she had everything under control.

She started drinking. Then she started drinking too much. Then she started snorting cocaine. Her boyfriend was a dealer and she could get as much as she wanted.

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She quit her job. For six months, she did cocaine every day.

When they broke up and her source dried up, she started smoking crack cocaine, a cheaper form of the drug.

She starting working as a waitress, a job that gave her the quick source of cash she needed to fuel what had now become a habit.

She was deep into a downward spiral that eventually made her lose sight of everything else in her life - her mother in Smithsburg, her son, now 9.

"I just didn't want to do nothing but get high," she said.

She would leave her boyfriend to spend three days at a time in the Jonathan Street area to be near the drug dealers.

Eventually, she dropped out of society altogether and lived in a seedy world where she prostituted herself to buy crack cocaine.

"It was constant, all day long, until my body would completely shut down. I'm surprised I'm not dead today," she said.

She didn't like what she was doing to get the money so she spent it quickly - on crack.

She would stay up for days at a time and sleep whenever, and wherever, she could. She lost weight until her 5-foot, 4-inch frame only carried 103 pounds.

"I never thought, when I was a kid, that I would grow up to be like that," she said.

Her customers beat her up. One man robbed her and left her to walk two miles back to town in freezing weather.

"Just playing a guessing game every day. Russian Roulette, I guess you would say," she said.

She used crack for two years before she was arrested for the first time. She was in a crack house on Franklin Street when police raided it.

After six days, her mother bailed her out.

"I went right back down there," she said.

Twice, she was locked up for not paying child support. But even that wasn't enough to convince her turn her life around.

Although she wanted to leave the streets, she thought no one would ever accept her because of the things she had done.

Her attitude started to change July 2, 1997. That was the day she sold 20 pieces of crack cocaine to an undercover police officer.

She spent six months in the Washington County Detention Center, which gave her time to sober up and "clear her head," she said.

But if she hadn't been released to W House, a residential treatment facility for women, she said she probably would have gone back to the streets.

At the W House on Antietam Street, she had to follow strict rules and attend daily 12-step program meetings. She stayed clean.

Recovery has been tough, but worthwhile.

While at the W House, police found the body of a 19-year-old acquaintance, Clara Miller.

"That could have been me a hundred times over," she said.

Now 26, desiree has been on her own, clean and sober, for more than a year. Her bright hazel eyes and big smile belie the terrible things she's been through.

She works filling orders for a local manufacturer. She's pursuing a computer science degree at Hagerstown Community College.

She is engaged to man who is also recovering from a crack addiction. He works as a drywall finisher. They plan to buy a house.

She is trying to rebuild her relationship with her son.

If she saw the undercover officer who busted her, she would thank him today.

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