Survivor writes memoir of drug abuse, recovery


As a single mother of three kids working two jobs, snortingcrystal meth made Debra Collins feel like she could “climb a mountain.”

“I felt like I was a fully charged light bulb.”

But then Collins lost her job. Bills went unpaid. Checks bounced. She racked up hundreds of dollars of bank overdraft fees.

Eventually, Collins had to give up her three children.

She became homeless. Her addiction worsened.

“I was in such a black, black place,” said Collins, who, sitting in a downtown Los Angeles office building in black slacks, chic glasses and a flowered blouse, seemed light years away from being a rail-thin meth addict with skin drooping off a sunken face.

Collins began cleaning up her act nearly a decade ago, but this year, the Glendale resident self-published a memoir sharing her darkest secrets. It can be difficult to read about the sexual and physical abuse she endured as a child, about her spiral into drug addiction and her homelessness, but for Collins, writing about the tragic experiences was effortless.

At 3 p.m. on Sunday, she plans to talk about her redemption and her book, “Crossing Over Boundaries,” at the Central Library so others suffering like she once did no longer feel alone.

“To me, it’s not going to do any good inside of me,” said the executive office assistant. “I don’t want people to feel scared.”

Growing up, “scared” is exactly what Collins was. She was afraid of her father, who began sexually abusing her when she was 6. She was afraid of her stepmother, who made her sit in her room alone for hours with nothing to do.

She moved out of their Costa Mesa house when she was 19. She dropped out of community college and quickly married a military man. Two children and seven years later, the couple divorced.

Six years later, Collins had an unexpected pregnancy. She was now a single mother of three.

Then Collins said her husband stopped paying child support just as her rent increased by about $200. During the week she worked as an account representative for the accessories retailer Brighton, and on the weekends she was a waitress at Denny’s.

Then one day in January 2002, her friend found meth in her son’s room. The two mothers who made cupcakes for bake sales, who volunteered with the Boy Scouts, were now snorting meth together.

After that, Collins couldn’t live without it. She started to buy it at bars for $20 a pop.

Eventually, her drug addiction got so bad that she lost her job at Brighton. She stopped paying bills. She gave her youngest children to her brother and her oldest daughter, who was a senior in high school at the time, stayed with a friend.

Eight days after losing her children, Collins was evicted from her apartment.

“Everyone was telling me I had to get myself together, but no one was telling me how to get myself together,” she said.

She lived with her drug dealer in La Puente for awhile, having sex in exchange for meth. Then one day, he kicked her out. She slept in her green Mitsubishi for some time, parking at 7-Elevens or anywhere that was open for 24 hours so she wouldn’t feel lonely.

Her car was filled with boxes of papers about numerology, astrology and ancient mysteries.

In her drug-induced state, Collins thought she was on the verge of discovering the secret to life.

One day, she visited her oldest daughter, who was living in Pasadena at the time and told her about the symbols she was seeing.

Collins’ daughter gave her a slip of paper to keep in her pocket. She had scrawled her number at the bottom with the message: “If found dead, please call me.”

It wasn’t until 2004 that she got sober after attending narcotics anonymous meetings.

“They gave me a chip, they gave me a book, they gave me hope,” she said.

A few days after her first meeting, Collins found a list of nonprofits she had picked up at her son’s school months earlier. That’s how she discovered the Salvation Army‘s rehabilitation-shelter program in Pasadena.

She worked in the nonprofit’s stores and at a senior-living center as a waitress in the kitchen.

After graduating from the one-year program in 2005, she went into a homeless shelter run by Ascencia, Glendale’s largest homeless services provider.

When Nancy Freidson, Ascencia’s transitional housing program manager, first met Collins, she knew she would succeed.

“She just had this serious, focused determination,” Freidson said. “There was just something about her.”

Using a two-year federal subsidy program, Freidson helped Collins move into a Glendale apartment and helped her get her son back. A few years later, Collins got her daughter back, too, and started paying her rent subsidy-free.

The single mom attended an online college and finished her degree in psychology. In 2010, Glendale’s Commission on the Status of Women honored her with a Woman of Courage award.

Collins started writing her book in 2007 after she visited her father before he died. She wrote 60,000 words in a month. She forgave her father by separating him into two people: the monster who molested her and the dying man with a tumor.

She split herself up, too. There was “Little Debbie” — the girl bullied at school and abused at home — and the person who has come so far.

On the cover of her book is a picture of herself at 5, before the molestation started.

“I like this picture because it’s me when I was still innocent,” she said.Article Link…

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