Born to a teenage mother, Aquia, an African American female who is now 23 years old, started abusing alcohol at age 12 when she felt her mother loved men more than her and her brothers. That opened the door to drug abuse. Aquia started using Methamphetamine at the age of 18 and was living either on the streets or in jail. At age 22, Aquia was using heroin but all of her drug and alcohol use came to a stop when she came to Santa Cruz to get recovery. Now Aquia is living at Gault House in Santa Cruz, California and working a 5 Guys Burgers. Listen to Aquia in her own words explain how she is loving life and building a solid recovery for herself. She shares her grueling experiences under the influence of drugs and alcohol and the steps she’s taking to staying clean.
I will be talking with Aquia about her addiction and her recovery from addiction. Aquia started drinking at twelve years old. She started to do meth at the age of eighteen, lived in the streets, in and out of jail and continued to use drugs. Then she used heroin at age 22 until she came to Santa Cruz and started her recovery process. Aquia is 23 years old and works at Five Guys Burgers and loves it.
Listen to the podcast here:
Aquia, A 20-Years Old Female, Started Abusing Alcohol At Age 12
Welcome, Aquia, to the show.
I’m Aquia Smith and I am most definitely an addict. To start off, I’m from Santa Barbara, California. I’ve been in the Santa Cruz area for the last seven months. My birthday is August 29, 1995. I was born to a teenage mother. She was lost in men and addiction herself. Not really addiction, more of money, fast life and everything. I was adopted, me and my brother, Anthony, who is two years older than me. We were adopted by our great grandmother when I was about four years old.
Growing up in her house without a mother, and my mom being around, no father figure, nothing, it was hard because I always wanted to be with my mom and I was always wondering why I couldn’t live with her. It’s very hard. I always got in trouble in school, didn’t want to obey anybody. I was very rebellious. I was abused by my great grandmother most of my life up to the age of twelve and that was hard. She treated me differently than she treated my own brother. She had a lot of hatred in her heart because she said I reminded her so much of my mom and her daughter, which is my grandmother. My grandmother ended up dying in 2003 of heroin overdose. She had a lot of hatred in her heart for me because I reminded her so much of them. Holding that burden was hard growing up. My mom ended up having three more kids later on. I have another little brother and twin little brothers. When they were born, they turned my life. Those were my little brothers. I wanted to be more to them than anybody else can because my mom sold drugs most of my life.
She loved men more than she loved us. That was our life. She did that to make ends meet. She didn’t have a high school diploma. Nothing’s going for her, but the drug life. She ended up losing them a couple of years later after having them, and that was a hard thing for me to deal with because I felt like when they got taken away, it was like a piece of me was missing. When I first started drinking alcohol, I remember I was about twelve years old. My grandmother, I don’t remember what I did, she ended up beating the shit on me pretty much and she tried to kill me in front of my little brother, Anthony. I remember getting up, I ran away from home, and I told her, “I’m never going to come back.” I left, took off, and didn’t look back.
I started drinking and from that time forward, that was my everyday thing. I wake up, drink all day until I fell asleep or passed out, drinking with a drink in my hand and woke up with that same drink in my hand. That’s how my life went for a very long time. I remember we ended up getting my little brothers back while my mom was in jail and I took on the responsibility to take care of them. I wouldn’t go to school. My brothers were my number one priority. I went to school one day and got suspended. I was on house arrest at that time and my probation officer came by and arrested me in front of my little brothers. That was the last time I had seen them and for a while after that, I got the call from juvenile hall. I begged that my grandmother keep them. I begged her, and she said that she wouldn’t. I called her a couple days later in juvenile hall and she had turned them over to CPS and that crushed me, so I got out with a lot of hate in my heart.
I didn’t like people. I hated everyone. If I couldn’t trust my own mom, I couldn’t trust my own grandmother, how can I feel about other people around me? It was hard dealing with it. They sent me back to my grandmother’s house and so I kept going on the run after that. Every chance I got, I went on the run, I went to go drink, and I turned to drinking every chance I got. I remember when I was fourteen years old, I attempted suicide because they put me on house arrest in my grandmother’s house and I couldn’t understand why they kept sending me there. My grandmother used to act like she was grandmother of the year in front of everybody else, but behind closed doors, I was getting my ass beaten every single day. I couldn’t take it anymore. I’d rather be on the streets or in jail or dead than to be in my own house, so I ended up attempting suicide. I went to a psych ward for a little while and came back to my grandmother’s house once again. I couldn’t understand. I ended up going back to school and kept rebelling and they sent me off to a group home. From there I went from Santa Maria, Fresno, Clovis, Hanford, up and down California, rebelling on the run. I ended up in Oakland at one point at fourteen or fifteen years old in Oakland. I liked that better than anything else. I didn’t want to go back home.
Still drinking, partying, smoking weed and that was what it was. I remember I missed my friends, I missed my people back home, and I remember I was staying in Hanford, California. They finally sent me to a program in Hanford. The judge looked at me and he said, “Aquia, all I want you to do is graduate high school. If you graduate high school, you have three months to do that and I’ll send you back home.” What did I do? I went back to Hanford and I graduated high school and I came home, went back to drinking and partying and hanging out with my friends. I fell into gangbanging at fourteen. I went back to that same lifestyle, gangbanging and hanging out with the homies, posting the hood. As soon as I turned eighteen, I ended up catching attempted murder case and ended up facing a life sentence at age eighteen, not even a month later. I remember the local PD coming to get me from juvenile hall because I got a probation violation of juvenile probation and they came with a warrant saying I was pretty much going to jail for attempted murder. It sucked. They didn’t scare me. I didn’t cry. It was more of shocked.
I remember that night that all that happened. My life was almost taken from me that night and I’ve looked death in the eye millions of times. You don’t get scared one bit. I don’t think I fear death. I didn’t mind it. I used to look death in the face and I’m laughing. You think you’re scaring me cutting in the way? I wanted to die. I put myself in so many life or death situations and people used to look at me like, “Aquia, what’s going on? You have so much potential,” but the potential that everybody’s seen me, I didn’t see in myself. I looked down upon myself for so many years because that’s what was installed in my head. My grandmother’s not only physically abusive but emotionally, mentally abusive. She used to always tell me I wasn’t going to amount to anything. I was going to be just like my mom. I was stupid, I was this, I was that, and so that’s what I started to believe for so many years. Honestly, I felt like that my whole life.
I ended up going to jail for attempted murder. I remember the first time I went to court, I looked at my attorney, I was like, “How much time am I looking at?” He was like, “You’re looking at fifteen to life.” I was eighteen years old and I looked at him, looked in the audience, my grandmother was out there, couldn’t shed a tear, and I was shocked. It didn’t hit me. I was like, “Here we go.” I ended up going to county jail at age eighteen. Everyone in there, everybody’s partying. All my friends growing up, they used to be addicted to meth. I used to always look at them like, “Why are you guys addicted to meth? Why are you guys doing that? Why? Let’s drink. Let’s party. Why do you guys have to do that?” I was always anti-meth growing up. Missy, my best friend, was a meth addict when we’re growing up when we were teens. I used to always look at her and it used to break my heart to see her be sick and suffer, and I’m like, “Why do you do that to yourself?” I couldn’t wrap my head around it.
When I was in jail, I was introduced to meth. That was only thing that ever came in. I wanted to be on everybody’s level. I wanted to be up there with everyone else. It was, “Why can’t I try it? Let me do it. I want to be on everybody’s level. My life was taken away from me already. I’m looking at fifteen to life. What’s the deal? I might as well.” I remember I got high in jail. I was higher than a kite and it was pretty much game over from then. I stayed in county jail for about a year. They sentenced me to three and a half years. I got a strike, had gang enhancement, and I went to prison for a little while, and got out in 2014. I promised myself when I got out of prison, I was not going to go back to the things I was doing before, but I not only went back to the things I was doing before, and I got worse. I started doing meth, started getting high on the streets, ended up being homeless right when I got out, and it was game on. It was the same thing.
I remember back in the tenth grade, I met this girl. Her name was Mia. I met her in art class after I attempted suicide. The way she looked at me, she looked at me with the biggest smile and she was very interested in what I had to say. She wasn’t the cutest girl in school. She was the nerdy girl in school, just moved into town. No one knew her but there was something about the way that she looked at me because I found her in a time when I was feeling low about myself. She gave me that look that no one has ever given me. My own mom hasn’t given me that look or my grandmother, so for so many years, I wanted to be around her. I ended up catching and running into her a couple times after I came back from Hanford and going to group homes and stuff. I always made it a point that I was going to be with her one day and that was something I worked for.
When I got out of prison in 2014, I went and looked for her and I got her. I got what I wanted. A week later, she found out she was pregnant by her baby’s dad. He had put her on the streets and she’d rather be on the streets with me than to have anything, running around hotel rooms. I was getting high and she chose that. She left everything. She had everything, and she left to go with me that had nothing. I appreciated that because no one has ever made that sacrifice ever for me in my life. I promised her I was going to take on that responsibility and be there for her. She seems so much into me. She fought for me to get clean. She fought for me to try to get my stuff together. She was seeing so much good in me that she may try to help me see the good in me that I couldn’t see myself. I was holding a lot of guilt in my heart for a lot of things. I was holding guilt for my brothers getting taken away and I never understood what it was that she sees in me. I lost one of my best friends when I was fourteen years old. Her name was Destiny Myers. I hold a guilt in my heart for that one because I was supposed to be there with her that day and I missed it by a phone call because I’d rather ran off and go get high and go get drunk. Then I did go and take a phone call and that was my phone call to go. A couple days later I hear her on the news that she got killed.
I hold a lot of guilts my heart because I feel like if I was there, I could have saved her life, but who knows? If I was there, it could have ended my life, too. That’s something that only me and God will know. God knows. At that time when I got with her, I recognized I still held onto that guilt in my heart for her, for my friend, Destiny, dying. I was very hateful. Being in a prison scene, the things I’d seen and being around things I was, I was the friendliest person you’ll ever meet. Mia, she held it down. She was there. She was there by my side and the only thing she wanted me to do is to get cleaned. It was crazy. The one thing I worked for so many years, from sophomore year until I was nineteen years old, I fought so hard to have her in my life and I couldn’t even stay clean for her.
We had a very chaotic relationship, very toxic, very violent. I hurt her in so many ways. I put her in situations that I shouldn’t have ever put her in. I should have sent her home, I should’ve sent her to mom, but I was so selfish. I was very selfish in my addiction. I didn’t care who I hurt or what I did. I did not care about nothing. All I wanted to do was get high and sell dope and do whatever it is I wanted to do. I’ve lived in trap houses, brought her along with me, baby and all, and I didn’t care. We were together for about a year. She had the baby on August 17th, 2016. She told me one thing, “When the baby is born, Aquia, and you get high one more time, I’m going to leave you.” She said that a million times before, and so I’m like, “She says she is going to leave me.” The day she had the baby, I looked at the baby’s eyes and I got clean. He looked at me and he looked at me with the biggest smile. I felt like that was my obligation to be there and show that baby that I can stay clean and I can do it for him.
My mom ended up getting out of prison after doing five years around that time. She went back to doing the same old her, back to her selfish ways, not caring. We ended up doing crimes together. I remember one time, as I’m trying to stay clean for the baby and everything, my mom comes over one day and she runs through the house I was staying at and she parts the door, she dropped some dope on the table and she was like, “I need you to get this off me.” I was like, “Whatever,” so I do what I have to do. A couple of days later, she calls me and she’s calling me all these tweakers. I’m like, “How are you going to sell your own daughter and have half ounce of meth, and then later on call her tweaker?” It hurts. It sucked.
I ended up relapsing after the baby was born. I kept it a secret under wraps for awhile. I remember in November 30, 2015, I had her meet up with me and she asked me if I was getting high and I looked in her eye. I knew in my heart that I cannot continue to lie to her and what I’ve been doing putting her through for the last year. I felt like “If I loved her and if I wanted her to have a better life, I need to remove myself no matter how much it would hurt. I needed to stop being selfish.” I finally let her go, tell her the truth for once because that’s what she would deserve. I told her the truth and she kept her end of the deal at that time. She left me and for a whole month, she wouldn’t pick up the phone, wouldn’t text me back and that killed me more than anything.
I always smoked dope. I never used needles and I always said I wouldn’t, but after that it felt like a piece of me was missing and I went to slamming dope. When I started slamming dope, I fell into a deeper tunnel down a cold and empty dark path. I remember one day, I was stone cold homeless, sleeping on the streets, lost pretty much everything I did have, which wasn’t too much of anything, I lost it to the point that I didn’t have anything, no friends, nothing. One day, I was walking, and I was going to meet up with someone to go buy a sack off of them. I think it was only ten. That’s how bad I was doing. I don’t know what it was. I lost faith in my higher power, which is God. I lost faith in Him so many years ago, when my brothers got taken away, my mom got taken away from me, after getting beaten every day. I grew up in the church, my grandma raised me in the church. I always went to church every Sunday. That was something that we had to do, but when I got old enough and I started running away and I said I’m not going, I stopped going, I lost all contact with Him, and I not even believed in it.
One day that day, it was the craziest thing that when people talk about reaching to their higher power or feeling how they talk to Him and they get answers, I never believed that ever in my life until that day. I remember walking, and something came. I remember particularly it was a Tuesday. I remember walking, and something kept telling me “Go straight, go straight.” Where I had to go was somewhere in the vicinity of my church. Something kept saying “Go straight, go straight,” and I was like, “no,” and I kept trying to fight the urge to turn to go pick up my sack, to go get my fix. I don’t know what it was. I closed my eyes and I kept walking. It was something so powerful within me that I couldn’t break it. I couldn’t turn, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t do anything. I remember walking with my eyes closed. I even remember the whole walk. That’s how fast and how intense it was. I got to the corner, I opened my eyes, and I looked to the right. I looked at my church and I was praying the whole time that there was somebody there because it was Tuesday, who knows if there’s going to be anybody out there. I was hoping that at least one person was there.
I turned to the church when I got to the corner and the parking lot was full and the pastor was there. I hadn’t seen the pastor’s car there, and so I walked to the church and I went. I was going to knock on the door because I didn’t want to walk in. I don’t know why. I didn’t want to walk in. I was going to knock on the door, but I was like, “No, I can’t do it,” so I walked away, but I couldn’t. It’s something that I cannot walk away from. It was so intense. I walked around the church three times and then finally, I sat in the front. Something said “Aquia, knock on the door. If you don’t want to walk in, knock on the door.” I knocked on the door and someone answered. I looked at the person right there, and I was like, “Is one of the deacons here?” I started naming off people and they got one of them, “Miss Smith, how are you doing?” I looked at him and I was like, “I need prayer. I need somebody to pray for me. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t do it by myself, I have nothing. I need somebody to pray for me.” They said, “We’re having a prayer meeting.” They told me to come in and as soon as I stepped onto the red carpet, I started crying. I started bawling.
It felt like I had nothing but bricks on my shoulders. I was just beat. They took me to the back and they started praying for me. The whole time he was praying for me and they have their hands on me, I’m crying and bawling and bawling. As soon as they said Amen and took their hands off, it’s like everything that I had on my back when I walked into that door was instantly released off me. I stopped crying. I looked at them and I said, “Thank you.” One of the deacons said, “Are you hungry? Do you need any food?” I was like, “I’m hungry,” and he shoved me $20. I was like, “Okay.” He’s like, “Just go right with it.” If I had that $20 before I walked into that door, I would’ve been like “Cool, $20, I’m going to get you know. Forget a ten, I’m going to get a dove.” but I went and got me some food. I went to my aunt’s house and I went to sleep. I couldn’t wait to tell everybody. I called my grandma. I called everyone, like, “Guess what happened to me?” It was the craziest thing to me. It was wild. I couldn’t wrap my head around it and I felt like he was there to save me that day. I remember, I didn’t care, I went to work the next day with a smile on my face, greeting customers, laughing, smiling. I didn’t laugh like that in forever. I soon relapsed right after that and ended up going to jail on New Year’s Eve and it sucked.
I went to jail on New Year’s Eve. They got me right before the party started and I went to jail. I called Mia when I was in jail and she was like, “Are you going to get out and do what you’re supposed to do?” I’m like, “Yeah,” so I did a three-month violation and I kept hearing things and I got out. The love of my life, the person that tried so hard to get me clean, that was there, never did drugs, nothing like that. I got out to find her addicted to meth and hanging out with the people I introduced her to and hanging out at the places I took her to. To see her, look in her eyes and to see her skinny, looking sick as I ever did, it hurt. I felt responsible for that because everybody would tell me like “She always likes to talk about you when she was around.” She will always wonder why you wouldn’t come home, what it is. She was trying to figure out what it was that you were seeking to this that you couldn’t find at home.” I have to carry that burden since then.
I’m still working on letting go, but I’m more at peace with it now than I ever was. I always promised myself I wasn’t going to use drugs with her, but later on down the road in my addiction, I started using drugs with her. She came with it, I was like, “I’m doing it.” I remember the first time I ever smoked dope with her. She’s looked at me with her eyes, “You said this is the one thing that you wouldn’t,” and that’s how she knew I was far gone. It was all bad from there. We ended up moving and going to jail a week later, got out, we ended up moving in with my mom. We started getting high with the roommates and it was all bad. We ended up with my mom kicking us out. It was all bad. I ended up going on the run for four months, hotel hopping with her and the baby, and it was crazy.
My mom got out of prison. Eventually, she stopped selling drugs and then she started getting on the right path. She was working three jobs, working nonstop every day, going to church. She started getting her life together and it was crazy. We hadn’t laid eyes on my little brothers and I haven’t seen them for about three years. I hadn’t talked to him, hadn’t seen him, nothing. She hadn’t seen them. They raided her pad and they got taken away as she was about to rock them to sleep. My grandmother was the only one that was able to have a relationship with them. One day, she let us be a part of that. After five years, the family that they were adopted by, doesn’t like me and my mom. My grandma put it in their head that we were horrible people, but at the end of the day, they don’t know that those boys were my world. It hurts that that they think so horribly of me. My grandmother, after so many years, she let us be a part of that. My mom got us to sit in the same roof, all five of her kids, after so many years, which is amazing. We got another opportunity after that. It hurts because me, being an addict, I couldn’t enjoy it. I wanted to get off and run off and go get high and I wanted to run off and be with my friends and chase a girl and everything, and I didn’t care, because eventually, me and Mia were using together.
You can’t drift us apart where we both became scalawags. We both didn’t care. She would cheat on me, I would cheat on her and it sucks. It turned into a very hectic relationship. The last time I ever got to lay eyes on my brother, I was on the run. I had a warrant for my arrest. I was looking gross, beat up, too ground. My mom called me and she said, “You want to come see your brothers?” I was like, “Yeah, sure. Whatever.” I came over and hung out with them. Mia was staying at the hotel room still. She was at the room by herself, and I had heard that there was a dude in her room. I ditched my brothers pretty much to go fight with her at the hotel room and to go get high. My mom was like, “Are you going to come back?” I was like, “No, I’m not coming back.” She’s like, “You’re going to leave your brothers?” I was like, “Yeah, I’m going to leave. I can’t do it.” That was the last time I’ve ever seen my brothers. It’s a little bit over a year since I’ve seen him or even talk to them.
I’m starting to get on the right path. That hurts more than anything I’ve ever done, like “How can I ditch my brothers for a girl or to go get high?” I was messed up in my head and at this age, they don’t understand that. They see that Aquia is absent and every time they come around, Aquia is absent. I was one of those people that they once looked up to and I was everything and their mom’s gone and now their sister’s gone, and it sucks. That was the last time I ever got to lay eyes on them, but it didn’t stop me at that time. I didn’t care. I wanted to get high. Mia and I fought. I got high right after, and it was that and I would forget all about it in a way. I ended up getting arrested outside my friend’s house. It was devastating. It was not the time I wanted to go to jail, me and my girl fighting, but it was the time I needed to go to jail and ended up going to jail. They’re like, “Aquia, you can do 180 days, or you can go to a program.” I’m trying to get high. I’m trying to get out. I’m going to a program. Forget this 180 days, I’m getting out. I ended up getting out and ended up going to a program that costs money in Grover Beach. For the first time in my life, I tried.
Everybody thought I was going to go to the program and run and I didn’t. I went, and I liked it. I got a little taste of sobriety, not having to be high to function or whatever. I stayed there longer. I didn’t stay there too long but I stayed there longer than anybody ever thought. I stayed there longer than I thought. I started working on my steps. I got a sponsor and I started getting to the root of all my real problems. I started letting go of some of the hate. Before I went to program, my grandma ended up in the hospital because she broke her legs. My great grandmother, she’s 80 something years old now, and I remember I went to her hospital bed and I looked at her and I sassed her. I had questions to ask her. I was like, “Why did you treat me like shit for all these years? Why didn’t you love me? Why did you do this? Why did you do that?” I cried and I poured out everything I ever wanted to say there. I poured it out and I was like, “What is it? I need answers.” My grandma never told me she loved me, and that day, she told me she loved me. She told me that she knows. She said that she was sorry.
That’s all I ever wanted, which was like, “I’m sorry and I love you,” and I never got that. That’s why I held so much hatred in my heart. That day, I got that and when I walked out of that hospital room, all that hate I held in my heart before I walked in there was gone. I had no more hatred in my heart towards my grandma whatsoever. She might still not be the best person in the world. She probably still sometimes can be mean, but our relationship is closer than it ever has been before. Right after was when I went to a program and I attempted to stay clean and since I ever put in that attempt to stay clean or I can call my grandma right now and ask her for anything and she’ll give me the world if she can. My grandma now speaks highly of me.
I went to a program. I was doing good, working on my steps, got on step 4, ended up relapsing. First time I went to town, went on a home pass, smoked some weed on my birthday, it was my 21st birthday. I was sitting there playing sober with a shot pong at my residential. I was like, “Forget it. I’m going to go off and go smoke some weed.” I went to my program and I thought I’d got away with it the first time, came back within a week because he’s on the couch and got away with it, and the next weekend I wanted to go back home again. I remember at this time me and Mia were separated, and I was “I’m done with you at this time. I’m over it,” and ended up finding Mia with somebody else. She was pregnant. She was in the program, and because of my bullshit and the shit that Mia put me through, this other girl, she was eight and a half months pregnant, she ended up getting involved and stressed and Mia came after her. Me and this girl ended up having a stillborn. The baby ended up dying. When the doctor said it was from stress and the shit that me and Mia were putting her through and what Mia was doing. It was crazy like one day, the baby was fine, heartbeat was there, and then after all this stuff had happened, I had to put her through and I put her in, the baby died right after.
Right after that, I relapsed. It sucked. I didn’t understand why everything good I touched turn to ash. I can’t wrap my head around it even though when I did try, and I was trying to work on myself and trying to be a better person, everything I still touch was turning into ash and I ended up relapsing after that. I went on there for another three-week run, ended getting caught outside of Motel 6 in a stolen car, and got locked up again. I was like, “Just my luck.” It was crazy. I ended up doing a year, a good deal of the year from September to July. I got on July and that time they’re trying to send me back up to prison because I’m still on parole for a violent case. I have a strike. This strike is going to fuck me over for the rest of my life. They’re trying to give me seven years for a hooptie, and I couldn’t understand. I was like, “You’re going to send me to prison for a hooptie?” Still, my addiction ways, I still try to justify my actions and I got lucky there like, “Aquia, we’re going to give you one more chance. We’ll give you seven-year joint suspension. We’re going to give you three years’ felony probation, but if you violate one more time, go for a year, then you’d go back to prison.”
I was like, “Cool. Where do I sign? I’ll take that. A get-out-of-jail free card. Yeah, I’m down. I’ll take whatever you can give me a twenty-year joint suspension, I’m with you right now.” I’m going to get out and do it, totally milking the situation. I got out of jail, went right back to the same old Aquia, out there in the street, getting high, right in the muck, doing whatever it was I was doing. I remember being at Joe. Everybody was coming in strung out on heroin, and I was trying to understand, “What is it that everybody likes with that freaking heroin?” I got on and I tried it. I started with one or two and I started slamming heroin. I am not a smoker, because I didn’t go to smoking heroin. I hate the taste of it. I hate the smell. I hated everything about it, but I started slamming and I ended up losing money and ended up almost dying. On my birthday, my home girl shoved me ten Klonopin’s and I did a shot of heroin and I OD’d on the back of a bus. I ended up getting back to her house after that and she told me to shoot up like a shutter speed. I almost died. I almost got kicked out of my Sober Living. It was nuts. My thing with heroin didn’t last that long because I was too scared to die at this point.
I remember my mom was always telling me like, “Go back to a program. You were doing so good. Go back to a program, Aquia.” I was like, “I’m not going. Hell no. I’m not going back to a program. I’m not doing that. I refused.” Me and Mia ended up getting back together. I was faking the funk, going to meetings and everything, acting like I was clean, smoked some speed and didn’t smoke a blunt right after, so I don’t look that high and that I did that for a minute. It was taking my chips, taking my 30‑day chips, totally faking the funk and trying to have everybody fooled. There’s this white family that lived a couple doors down from me. They raised me pretty much. The mom took me in. Her name is Tanya. She took me in. Her family took me in and I lived with them for a little bit and they tried to get me clean. The sister, Tammy, and me used to run a muck together. That was a trap house I lived in. Me and her, we ran up to this house and we all stayed there. We turned it into a trap house and her sister ended up getting into recovery not that long ago, about over a year ago. When I went to jail, she got into recovery and she started staying clean. I always came to her, come see her when I was going through or didn’t want somebody to talk. I remember I came to her house just spent out of my mind and she’s looked at me and I was in a car full of people. She’s like, “You’re spent out of your mind.” I was like, “Yeah.” She’s like, “You’re probably going to go to the meeting later, are you?” I was like, “Yeah, sure am.”
I came, did my daily routine, smoked a blunt, went to the meeting, and didn’t look that high. She’s like, “I don’t understand how it is that you get high, smoke a blunt, and come over here and look normal. You think that’s okay, Aquia?” She put me on blast in front of my girlfriend, everybody I was trying to fake the funk to it, and I left. I was like “I don’t need this. I’m out.” I took off. My girl ended up leaving me. She’s like “This is it. She knows you.” My girl Mia, she finally ended up going into program when I got out of jail this last time, she was in program going to meetings, doing the damn thing. She’s like, “I don’t need this in my life.” She was fighting to get her son back and she’s like, “You should be doing this too. He looks up to you and you should be doing this but you’re letting them down. This is what you’re going to choose, and this is the life you’re going to live. I don’t want to be a part of it no more.” She ended up leaving me. She ended up leaving me for good. It’s been about seven months now. We’re not together anymore. It still hurts sometimes, and I still like to use that as an excuse to use and get high and everything.
I was staying at my grandmother’s house because my grandma has gotten to the point where she was like, “You’re going to do what you do. Go in your room, do what you do. I’m not going to argue with you anymore. At least I know you’re here.” My grandma’s old and I took advantage of her being old and not knowing. I started letting my friends come over to the back because I was like, “My grandma’s not going to get up. She’s in the back.” I was able to do it, so I didn’t care in the world. The joint suspension that I had over my head went out the window. I didn’t care about that no more. I wanted to get high. I don’t care. I remember my mom kept begging me, “Go back to program, go back to program.” I didn’t want to go. I was like, “No, I’m not going. You’re out of your mind. I’m not going to program. I don’t need a program. You know I’m not a drug addict.” I’m in total denial. I got this under control. I’m okay, I’m looking for a job. I got a place to live. I’m not on the streets anymore. She set me up. I remember I was sitting at my house. I’m on parole and probation. My parole officer comes to my house and I’m wondering why the hell is my parole officer at my house. Me and my parole officer have a good relationship. We’re close. She watched me grow up. She used to be juvenile supervisor. She moved her way up and she’s watching my case.
I’ve been on probation now for about almost eleven years. August will be eleven years I’ve been in the system. She came to my house and I’m wondering, “Why are you at my house, lady? You don’t ever come to my house because you know I’m never here.” She looked at me, “You’ve been doing heroin. You look like fucking shit,” and I was like, “That’s rude.” She is like, “You’re going to a program. I don’t care. You’re going to Sober Living. You are at least Sober Living tomorrow.” I was like, “Cool, whatever. I’ll go.” I cried because I didn’t want to go. I cried like a baby. You would think somebody died in my family the way I was crying, and I ended up going into Sober Living. That’s when I overdosed on heroin on the back of the bus. It was crazy. I have the best of luck in everything. They didn’t test me for the longest time. I was in Sober Living nothing, but as soon as I overdosed on heroin, they wanted to test me. They called me in like, “Aquia, we need you to test.” I’m like, “I can’t be in right now. Can I come back tomorrow?” They’re like, “Yeah.” Usually, I’m always like duck a dodger, but they called me the next day and was like, “Aquia, are you coming into test?” I was like, “Damn.” I went in, tried to pop a bottle, and I was super scared. I was sitting there nervous. I don’t do this. I never popped a bottle. I usually go on the run, but I didn’t want to go in run.
What does pop a bottle mean?
Use somebody else’s urine. I went on a search for somebody’s urine. I was in Lompoc early in the morning, took a bus at 6:00 AM to find urine, because I had to pee by noon. I was in search of urine and my best friend ended up getting a bottle. She ended peeing in the cup for me, my best friend, the one that used to be a meth addict. I ended up sending her to a program for my own selfish needs. I’d send her to a program down in Pasadena, Walter Hoving Home, and I was like, “You have to go to a program. Go to this program, take this letter to somebody down there for me. Go on the run because you’re not going to pass it and graduate the program. Come back packing and bring me back drugs.” She’s like, “All right.” She ended up going to the program, ended up graduating, and she’s clean up to this day. She has a baby and she’s clean and she’s doing a damn thing and that’s been my best friend since high school. She doesn’t like the fact that I’m doing it, but she knows what hell it is. She knows how I feel, so she helps me as much she can. She tried to help me pass that drug test that day and she ended up giving me some urine. I went to go test for them and I was scared. I didn’t put the bottle in right and it fell in the toilet and I was like, “This is the best luck I ever had.”
I looked at him, I was like, “I’m dirty. I overdosed on the bus the other day. I’ve been doing a lot of opiates and a lot of heroin and popped a couple of Klonopin’s the other day.” My parole officer pulled my case manager at the program. My parole officer pulled me into the office and they’re like, “Aquia, you never told the truth ever in your life,” and I was like, “Yeah. I know.” He was like “You don’t have to go to the group today. We’re going to take you to Target and go buy your $90 with the stuff.” I was like, “I need to start telling the truth more often.” He took me shopping, let me go, but the next day, they called me back in and they’re like, “Aquia, you need help.” I was like, “No, I don’t. I don’t need help.” I cried. “We’re going to send you to a program but it’s totally voluntary. If you don’t want to go, you don’t have to go,” but my parole officer looked at me eyes and she started crying. She was like “Aquia, if you keep going, you’re going to die” and everybody around me kept telling me and looking at me. They’re like “Aquia, if you keep going, you’re going to die.” They see it on my face and to see it, I started getting sick. I get so high and get so sick that I start fainting everywhere. I can be walking down the street in the middle of the street and just faint or pass out. “That’s not normal, Aquia. No one just faints. What is wrong with you? You’re sick.”
“I was having heart problems,” and everybody was like, “If you don’t get help, you’re going to die.” Everyone cried and looked at me. I’m very known in my town. I grew up there, always had been the class clown, always puts smile on people’s faces, always making people laugh, and everybody was crying, “Aquia, we don’t want to see you go. Get help.” It sucked that even my friends were telling me, people I was running around with, getting high with, when I told them that, usually they’re the ones who are like, “Fuck that. Let’s go on the run,” but when it was my friends telling me, “Aquia, no, you need to go get help,” I’m like, “You are traitors. How do you get to tell me I need help? You guys need help.” It hit me. When my parole officer looked me in my eyes and started crying, that day, she didn’t act like a parole officer to me. She more acted like a friend or somebody that cared. She took off that badge and she’s looked at me as a real human being, like somebody that cared about me, and was like, “Aquia, you need help. I don’t want to see anything happen to you. I feel like if I don’t send you to this program, if you don’t agree to go, you’re going to be dead, Aquia, and I don’t want to see that.”
My mom was the one that called her and told her I was at home that day because I talked to my mom. She called my parole officer, and she’s like, “Don’t answer your calls. She’s going to be mad. Just leave her alone. Let me deal with this. Let me be her parole officer and let me deal with it.” My mom had to tie her hands and put her hands up and hand me to somebody else because she realized there’s nothing she can do for me and they gave me the opportunity. They gave me the option to either go or you can die. I was like, “What are you guys saying? You are giving me permission to kill myself or to go get help?” They’re like, “That’s pretty much what we’re saying.” I was like, “Let me think about it,” and she’s like, “You don’t have that much time to think about it. The offer is right here.” I was like, “Give me until tomorrow.” She called me the next day. She was like, “Are you going to go?” I was like, “I’ll go,” and she jumped in joy. I made her whole week. I made her life a lot easier.
Before I came up here, I had to go score some dope, so I can bring up here with me. I’m like, “No, if I’m going to this program, I’m coming back in,” The next day, they came to my front door to come pick me up from my Sober Living, and I looked at them as I was coming down. I was like, “Fuck, I’m not coming, I’m not going today.” I slammed the door in their face, went back upstairs, and went to sleep. I can’t go without scoring and I ended up scoring. They picked me up the next day and I was like, “Whatever, I’m ready. There’s no more fighting. You are just going to come, keep coming every day until I go. You’re bugging the hell out of me, so I’m going to go.” I slept the whole way up here, didn’t think about anything, but I remember coming up here, I had no intentions on staying clean, none whatsoever. I’m like, “I’m going to complete this program. Get everybody off my back and I’m going to go back and be the same old Aquia. Let me go gain some weight real click, eat some food,” that’s what I was going to do, but when I got up here, I went to SCR, and I started working the program. I ended up meeting somebody new and she was in recovery. I cried because I didn’t want to leave Mia and Roman behind because she was a drug in herself, that was an addiction in itself right there.
She was a huge part of my addiction, of me using. That was a big factor in it. Not even for the drama, it’s the quilt I held in my heart for that and my brothers not being a part of their lives. I held a lot of guilt, so the way I cover that guilt was by getting high, so I don’t have to think about anything because I can be an emotional wreck. As soon as I did that shot, I was like, “Whatever. What are we about to do?” I didn’t care anymore about nothing. I didn’t care about anyone’s feeling. I didn’t care about your feelings, your hurt feelings, they’re feeling; I didn’t care. I didn’t care about how much trouble I was going to get into. I’ll do a crime and then think about the consequences later. That’s the type of attitude I had. I didn’t care about nothing.
Coming to Santa Cruz and working the program and finding new relationships and new friends and everything, I ended up deciding to want to stay clean. It was rebellious at times because my parole officer told me if I got to the program and I didn’t want to stay, then I could call them, and they’ll come pick me up. I call them every day like, “Come on, please come get me. I don’t want to be here anymore. I’d used to call her crying every day.” Then it got to every Monday. She knew I was going to call every Monday because they seemed like every time things happened, it was on a Friday when she was not there or Saturday when they’re not in the office, so I had to wait all the way until Monday, so by the time Monday hits, it was over. She was like, “Why would you call me crying on Saturday, Aquia? I heard my messages. Now it’s over.” I’m like, “Why do things have to happen on a Saturday when you’re not here? When I can’t have you to pick me up?” She’ll talk me through it, like “You’re going to get through it, Aquia.” She gave me an opportunity, but at the end of the day, she talked me through it and got me through SCR. I left once. I bounced, I was like, “I can’t do this.”
I run for a week. Then a week, I stayed clean. I was surprised, and I didn’t leave to get high because by that time, I had already put in my mind that I didn’t want to get high anymore. I left because I couldn’t take it. No talking about things, expressing my feelings to people, and putting my heart out there and everything. I didn’t feel comfortable with that. I never got a chance to put my feelings out there. It seemed like no one really cared and no one took the time listening, so being somewhere where people were listening, and I can speak my mind and people give me feedback and care about what I have to say, it was weird to me. I’ve never had that ever. My mom’s barely starting to get better at that and she’s still needs work on it, so I left. I can’t do this. I left my girlfriend when I took off. She kept me clean. I want to smoke weed, I’m not going to lie but I didn’t even do that. My parole officer got me back on the program within a week and I ended up graduating. I worked through it, started working, started working the program, and started going to meetings and ended up graduating the program, went to SLE right after. I had no intent on staying here in Santa Cruz when I got here.
I’ve been here seven months and I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon. It’s crazy how the fact that I came up here with no intentions of staying clean and I ended up staying clean. I’m not saying everything’s perfect and I’m not saying everything’s easy. I still have my bumps in the road. I still have things I’m dealing with but people, like my family back home and my friends back home, they look at me now and they are like, “Aquia, you might be bullshit sometimes, you might have your ups and downs,” but this is the best I’ve ever done in my whole entire life. I couldn’t stay clean for the life of me. You cannot get me to stay clean. You could put me in here, you could put me there, you could put me here, you can arrest me, you could do this, I was not staying clean at all whatsoever. I was going to find a way to get high even if I had to go huff paint. I sit in the bathroom at places and have Glade air freshener and get high. Anything that could get me a head shot for a little bit, I was in there, I didn’t care. Popped any pills, if you gave it to me, I was doing it. Now, my life is so much better. No one’s ever seen me work so hard to keep a job ever in my life or get a job. I can’t stop getting called back for a job interview. I get emails or callbacks all the time. I had a job interview at T-Mobile. They want to hire me. This is crazy, the opportunities being put in my way.
Aquia, what’s your opinion of the twelve-step program?
I’m not doing my steps. I need to start working on them but before when I’ve worked them, it worked. It helped because there are things I didn’t understand and things that I didn’t know. I didn’t understand about myself, but when I started working them, I didn’t get that far. I’m not a hateful person. Before, I was so hateful, didn’t like people. People still irritate me but I could tolerate them better. I let go. I don’t hold grudges anymore. I’m probably one of the chilliest people you’ll ever meet. I don’t care about things. You can come talk to me about anything. If you need to get things off your chest, I’m the person to come talk to, come yell at me, come vent, get it off, “I’m venting to you.” “Are you done? Are you okay? Is everything all right? All right then. Cool. Go.”
Tell me what does your future look like to you?
I want to get stable. I want to have a stable job that I like. I want to have a stable place, whether it be here in SLE, my own spot. I want to go to school for the summer but if I’m not at that spot, it’s probably not going to happen that soon. I want to be a computer engineer. I like computers. If you put something in my hand and tell me to work on it, I’m working on them and fixing them, figuring it out. That’s what I like to do. I want to do it in a positive way that can help people and not ruin people. That’s my number one dream, I want to be some type of engineer. I want to be a computer engineer, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer. I want to go into graphic design, programming, all that, anything to do with computers or work with my hands, I’m in there. I want to do it.
Aquia, thank you so much for joining us on the Stories of Addiction podcasts. To the audience, I wish you to stay happy and in recovery.
Aquia, an African American female who is now 23 years old, started abusing alcohol at age 12. Aquia started using Methamphetamine at the age of 18 and was living either on the streets or in jail. At age 22 Aquia was using heroin but all of her drug and alcohol use came to a stop when she came to Santa Cruz to get recovery. Now Aquia is living at Gault House in Santa Cruz, California and working a 5 Guys Burgers. Listen to Aquia in her own words explain how she is loving life and building a solid recovery for herself.
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