Growing up, I wasn’t that little girl that dreamt of being a princess or marrying prince charming. I was a different kid; I wanted to check out your cheek cells with my microscope or use my kiddie table saw to build miniature furniture.
Quick background story… I grew up in Camden during the 80’s, strict church, no earrings, no pants, just never good enough for Jesus. I remember one time my Sunday school teacher told me I dressed like a prostitute because my skirt wasn’t past my knees while sitting. But that stayed in my mind for a long time.
I was an introvert most of my high school years, until my Junior year someone asked me to the prom! Gained confidence, more friends, and trust. I felt like I finally found my clique! Partying followed along with drinking. Two friends of mine invited me to a party. I just went because it was something to do. We had a blast, so I thought at first! Until the next day only to wake up to blood everywhere. My first time with anyone. I didn’t even remember a kiss or touch. In shock, I got dressed to find out my friend stole a beeper from one of the guys, so we got kicked out the house. Blood still dripping down my shorts. My head hung in shame and I tried covering up the blood as I walked home. My dad had just given a speech about my purity for my sweet sixteen a few months before. I felt so ashamed like I deserved it.
Fast forward to college, my friend asked me if I wanted to join her to meet some friends. We get into the house, glanced up the stairs, and saw this 6’4” dark-skinned strong beautiful man with a Floridian accent, Israel. I was infatuated for the first time. I stalked this boy. He didn’t even invite me over and I would just come over. His mom was so over me. I wanted to get away from the religious environment I lived in, so I ran away from home for a week to be with him. Day 6 he was like “Ummm… are you going home yet?”. Crazy right?! He introduced me to weed and I would smoke all the time. There were times I would wake up in his room naked with a friend walking in like, “oh Hi Raquel”. I really wasn’t embarrassed either. Drugs make you think differently. So that become an okay thing for me.
Israel had a girlfriend in Florida, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to borrow him. He was so different from all the guys in my church and school. Israel gave me attention. We fed off each other’s brokenness and shared terrible habits. That was another high for me! Through the years I took on lovers, not traditional relationships. Not discriminating age, religion, sexual orientation, tall, or short. Just saw these beautiful beings with so much hurt me. I wanted to share a piece of me to help them feel complete. At the end to only feel empty, over and over again.
Later, Israel introduced me to other drugs, he came in and out of my life for years. From “wet” ( a type of drug) to Sherm sticks. I remember going to North Philly in his friend’s car. We went there to purchase Sherm sticks. SHERM is a cigarette dipped in formaldehyde, which is embalming fluid. I took one hit and OMG my body felt like it was floating. Like the atoms in my body separated and I was a part of everything. I told everyone, I am an atom, just in case they couldn’t see me. We sat in the car for hours out of our minds!
I enjoyed taking extasy and doing it along with cocaine. Worked three jobs at one point and spending all my money on my habits. Got a hotel room to chill with my friends and used extasy along with coke. My one friend found out I didn’t like him. He was so upset and started flipping out. He had a terrible trip. I thought his heart was going to explode out of his chest. I grabbed him and started singing to him and just caressed his head to calm him down. I didn’t want him to OD. To me, this was a normal life.
Later, I met another good-looking man from Florida. This one is Native American and French; I will name him French. I called out of work for a week one time just to visit French. He had cow poop in front of his apartment and would water it and sing to his growing magic mushrooms. I remember how epic Treasure Island felt to my senses. The warm sun on my skin, the ocean breeze airing through my hair, the feel on my skin, the view of the Gulf Ocean. The bars were on the beach and friends in walking distance of each other. Singing and dancing. Living care free. It was magical to me.
I attended many parties where I would mix pills and alcohol. Go to Shampoo Night Club with my one hitter pipe with weed and coke I got from friends. During this time, I became pregnant. I didn’t feel ready, so I aborted my child. It felt right. This was all before the age of 20.
Once I met my older son’s father I calmed down for a while. Through the grape-vine, I found out within the first couple years of me being drug-free, two of my friends overdosed. Ricky was so sweet. There is nothing bad I can say about him. Then Kristie. She was a doll. Both had stories. Loved ones. Last night I just lost another old friend. But I am still here.
In 2008 I got into a car accident. A few years later I started eating opioids. I was so skinny because it gave me little hunger and I smoked a pack of Newport longs a day. I met my younger son’s father. With him is when my addiction stared spiraling out of control. We were seeking the best high we could attain. My pills and alcohol. I had the tablet taking method down to a science.
I was tired of just living. Waking up only to do the same as yesterday. But God. He had Katherine Dudley hand me a cd, that I later gave to my sister, but that word had me wanting more. My pastor once said, “Your scars can tell where you have been, not where you are going.” I found out Jesus doesn’t care about my past. Jesus doesn’t view me by what I am labeled. God genuinely loves me! He reminded me of all the times He saved me. I didn’t die. I am still here. I appreciate my family’s fasting and praying for me throughout the years.
My life didn’t change overnight. It took years. He allowed different people to intercede in my life. Took out the people who fed off my drama and had me in what I felt like isolation. I learned to put God first in my day before anything I do. He is my new addiction, and I love it!
Sisters, there will be challenges coming back. People won’t believe you because of your past. Keep pushing! God knows your heart. I learned to love the one who loves me most. But Him first above all. He will never break your heart. You were prepared on purpose.
When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so good to me
When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me
You have been so, so kind to me
O, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God