I tried many times to remove crack from my life. It was hard, very hard, because it was all around. My sister got high. My neighbors got high. Yes, I lived in the projects. With all 21 floors, I could get high in at least 15 different apartments.
People would come to my house asking me to get high with them, or yell from the window, “Robin, come upstairs for a minute.” Temptation would lead me to whomever was calling my name. Depression and misery were no help. They took me deeper and deeper into a hole filled with drugs and alcohol.
Often I thought about trying to get rehab, but I thought that if I told someone, “I’m using crack,” they’d put my kids into foster care. Once you let the system into your life they can do whatever they want to your family. Since I didn’t want to lose my children, I just kept trying to stop using crack on my own.
Eventually, I lost my kids anyway
and ended up in a shelter, where I learned about a residential drug treat- ment program called Willow Project Return. When they asked if anyone was interested in going, I raised my hand like I was in elementary school and said, “Ooh, ooh. I wanna go!”
I went to a neighbor’s to get high for the last time. Then I checked myself into rehab for six months.
At Willow, I began to recognize that my addiction was connected to my depression, and to pain I felt in child- hood. My parents were strict and hardworking, but they weren’t the type to say, “I love you,” and when
my mother got angry, she’d hit me with a belt and anything else handy. And for three years, starting when I was 11, I was sexually abused. That was a horrible experience for me.
At Willow, I learned that despite my past, I can cope without drugs or alcohol. I realized that I’m a loving person who has a lot to offer to oth- ers, especially my children.
I felt comfortable expressing my feelings at Willow. I could talk about what I was going through because the staff were ex-addicts. They kept me motivated and busy. When
I started to feel down on myself, the groups and chores took my
mind right away from my negative thoughts.
Sometimes I thought about the people I used to get high with and knew that’s what they were doing at that very second. I thought about the places I used to go to get high and knew that at least one person was there getting high. Then I thought about how getting high kept me from getting the things I needed and wanted—an apartment so my chil- dren would have a home to live in, and money in my pocket for things we needed.
When I graduated, we had a cer- emony. We lit candles and knelt to say a prayer. I said, “If I ever get high again, make this light blow up in my face.” Later, at times when I did want to get high, I’d picture that.