‘Why can’t they just let me get high?’
Appeal Staff Writer
Rehab sucks. She’s shaking and sweating, like she has a fever, and the pain – it hurts so bad. Sleeping is impossible. She falls asleep for an hour … more shaking … nausea. Another hour … more pain … sweating …. It lasts through the night – no more sleep.
“I don’t have a problem,” she tells counselor after counselor for the four days she’s there. “This is how I want to live my life.” She won’t tell them about the pain.
In that pain, she celebrates her sweet 16.
She doesn’t talk to anyone, until she gets an unexpected phone call from her mom who heard where she was.
“You gotta help me, you gotta get me outta here,” Raquel screams into the receiver.
The next day, she’s on a plane, headed to Carson City where she promises she’ll turn her life around. She’ll be back with her mom and sisters and won’t give another thought to the drugs that held her captive.
And, in a way, she means it.
Her body craves heroin. Her first day in Carson City, she walks to the closest grocery store, the Safeway on North Carson Street.
She stands in the parking lot, watching people go in and out of the store. She’s scanning the customers to find someone who looks like her typical dealer from Dallas: dirty, unkempt, usually black.
She waits for hours. No one fits that description. Finally, she approaches a white man in mismatched, disheveled clothes.
“Do you know where I could get something,” she asks softly, looking around to make sure no one’s listening.
“What? What do you mean, something?” he asks.
She returns home disappointed and desperate.
Raquel convinces her mom to let her go to Reno to “reconnect” with a friend she’d made a couple of years ago on one of her visits to Nevada.
She’s sure her friend will be able to help her score heroin. But when Raquel asks her, she only balks. “Are you serious?”
It’s a completely wasted trip … until a friend of a friend agrees to give her a ride back to Carson City.
“So what do you do for fun,” Raquel asks him, and the conversation turns to drugs. He uses cocaine.
“I got some right now,” he says. “You want some lines?”
“Hell yeah,” she smiles.
He hooks her up with enough coke to get through a few days, and it helps her get through the heroin withdrawals. She wants more, but cocaine is hard to come by, and expensive.
Standing outside the Eagle gas station, she meets a group of guys who agree to “kick it” with her.
They don’t have coke or heroin. Instead, they hook her up with something new: methamphetamine.
They go back to the Downtowner Motor Inn, where she takes her first puff from the pipe. It hits her immediately. Her mind races, her heart pumps. She’s high. What a relief.
She’ll always remember Oct. 18, 2004, as the first time she used meth.
But the old strategies for chasing the high don’t work here. Prostitution isn’t as easy, nor as lucrative – it took $4 to buy enough heroin to get high in Texas. It costs $20 to buy the equivalent in meth.
But it’s in ready supply, she discovers, at the Downtowner. She moves in, paying the weekly rent by dealing.
Weeks she can’t pay the rent, she bums with friends in apartments or other motels.
When she’s really hard up for money, she calls her old john from Dallas, who let her stay in his car, and tells him she needs money for food and clothes. She spends it on meth.
Twice he sends her $150 so she can return to Dallas. Twice she uses the money to buy meth.
Finding anonymity in Carson City is more difficult. Her mom reports her as a runaway and she’s picked up on Jan. 5.
On Jan. 11, she’s arrested on possession of paraphernalia charges and put on probation.
She doesn’t let that stop her. She goes to check up on a friend about a month later at the Cherry Creek Apartments on the south end of town.
When one of the guys leaves in the morning, he says, “Be careful. I’ve heard there’s detectives around here.”
She smiles. He’s tweaked out and paranoid. She knows that feeling. She’s heard footsteps and car doors slamming that weren’t really there.
But there really is knocking at the window now, isn’t there? Raquel grabs her friend, and they peek out a hole in the curtain to see a female police officer.
They freeze. They’re high and Raquel’s got a pipe in her hand. There’s banging at the door now.
Her friend opens it, and it’s over.
Raquel starts to cry. Not because she’s sad, but because she wants to get high and can’t.
“Damn,” she sobs. “Why can’t they just let me get high? I give up.”
Alone in her jail cell, it hits her. She’s really in trouble this time. She has no place to go and nothing to live for.
She drops to her knees and utters her first prayer in a long time. It’s different than her prayers of old when she’d call for a blessing on the plants and animals, for a good Earth.
This one is pure desperation.
“I’m sorry for what I’m doing,” she cries. “I need your help.”
And help comes. She’s sent to the Western Nevada Regional Youth Center in Silver Springs on March 18.
Her first impression is that it’s in the middle of a desert. She can’t run away from it like she did twice before in Dallas, where she only had to climb a fence and hitch a ride to be free.
It’s the help she asked for. But she’s not sure she wants it anymore.
“I just have to put up with this for three months,” she reasons. “I’ll get out, find my homeboys and get a good – no the best – high to celebrate.”
For now, she just has to go along with what they say.
They tell her to admit she’s an addict.
“I’m an addict,” she obliges.
And destructive, and in denial, and angry. … The list goes on and on, and one by one she half-heartedly confesses.
But somehow, throughout the repetition comes realization. Slowly, it begins to resonate.
She starts to listen. For the first time, she realizes she really is an addict, and she realizes she doesn’t want to be one.
“I love my mom, my sisters. Oh my God, I really scared my dad. I can’t believe I did that.”
“I’m so sorry,” she tells them.
Every day, there are cravings. She can taste the cigarettes, the feeling of a high. But there’s no physical withdrawals anymore.
“Am I getting better?” she wonders.
• Contact reporter Teri Vance at email@example.com or 881-1272.
Part I: “Running Away” – Raquel turns to drugs as a way to cope with loneliness and finds herself homeless in West Dallas. She is arrested and sent to rehab. Go to http://www.nevadaappeal.com to read what you’ve missed.
Part III: “I’m Raquel” – Raquel attempts to turn her life around.
• Meth is a synthetic drug that can be produced in home labs, making it relatively inexpensive and widely available.
• It is made by cooking pseudoephedrine products and common household chemicals that are normally used to unclog drains, clean car engines and fertilize crops, among other things.
• It is a powerful, addictive substance that affects the central nervous system.
• Meth comes in the form of pills, powder, clear crystals or liquid. It is most potent when smoked or injected, but it can also be snorted or swallowed.
• Street names include: speed, crystal, crank, chalk, ice, glass, tweak and others.
Indications of meth in your neighborhood
Vehicular traffic and automobiles
• Expensive vehicles that may seem out of place for the area.
• Regular car switching, especially at odd hours: People arrive in one car and leave in another.
• Vehicles stopping for short stays – less than 20 minutes.
• Frequent late-night deliveries.
• Significant increase in vehicular traffic.
• Suspicious vehicles: Clean license plates on a dirty car, damage consistent with the car being a stolen vehicle.
• House displays a different characteristic when traffic picks up – for example, a new light is turned on or a blind is left partially open to signal that drugs are available.
• People parking away from the premises and walking in.
• Unkempt, disoriented visitors or neighbors.
• People carrying in tools, electronics or other items that may be used to sell or trade for drugs.
Change in property conditions
• Accumulations of trash or junk.
• Deterioration of the premises or grounds.
• Dismantling of vehicles or machinery. (Often the high gives meth users the energy to start projects, but they lack the ability to concentrate enough to finish them)
Occupants’ appearance and behavior
• Unkempt, dirty appearance.
• Children show signs of abuse or neglect.
• Pets are unattended, neglected.
• Occupant is awake for days at a time.
• Occupant sleeps for days at a time.
• There is frequent partying in the home.
• There are many young visitors, even when the occupants do not have children in the same age group as the visitors.
• Increased crime in the neighborhood, especially crimes of opportunity such as vehicle thefts and burglaries.
• Other neighbors exhibiting unusual behavior – hanging out at the drug house or defending the occupants, for example.
Who to call
For help or treatment information, call the Community Counseling Center at (775) 882-3945.
To report meth-related crimes, call the sheriff’s department hotline at (775) 882-2020 ext. 6384 (METH).
To know more about the anti-meth coalition, or to obtain informational materials, call Liz Teixeira at 887-2101 ext. 1204; or stop by City Hall, 201 N. Carson St.