By Fred Dickey Oct. 14, 2013
Judith Fisher got a call from her oldest daughter on Thanksgiving 2010. She was asked if she knew where to get “black tar.”
A strange thing to ask mom on turkey day, but Judith, who was in a residential drug program at the time, knew it was one of her chickens coming home to roost, to use that old “what goes around, comes around” adage.
For the entire length of her oldest daughter’s life, Judith had been a drug addict.
A younger daughter, 24, won’t speak to Judith or allow her to see her two grandchildren.
Judith, now 43 and divorced, has four children. How old, she is asked.
“My kids are, what? Let’s see … they’re 25, 24, 23 and 21.”
The two youngest are boys. “One is, I believe, planning on enlisting in the military. The other one, I’m not quite sure what he’s doing.”
Speaking of her black tar-seeking daughter, she says, “I can advise her. But, how do I put this? If you tell your kids what they can and can’t do, they’re just going to do what I did: be rebellious.
“I told her the ups and the downs about it, told her I wasn’t happy that she had called me and asked me about it, but the choice ultimately was up to her.”
Your younger daughter is obviously angry with you.
“Yes, very. She blames me for the path her sister is taking. I am not responsible for my (oldest) daughter’s actions, but I’m responsible for not being there when they were kids.”
As Judith says this, memories return and briefly darken her face, but sitting on a McDonald’s patio holding a Coke, she watches the San Marcos traffic and clears the disquiet from her mind, then turns back with a smile.
There’s not much Judith can do now about her dysfunctional family except get up each morning and resume the day-to-day struggle to stay clean. Make that hour-to-hour, sometimes.
She credits the New Resolve Residential Program in Escondido, where she lived during 2010, for showing her the way to a drug-free life.
Judith says she’s been clean for three years, but even in saying that, she knows addicts do nothing quite so well as lie. That’s a hard truth she has to live with. It puts believability on the very top shelf, and sometimes out of reach.
Drugs came to stay in Judith’s life during rebellious teen years. She was raised in Poway in a strict family headed by a career Marine, but discipline wasn’t enough to hold her. “I was an uncontrollable child. In every way, Judith did what Judith wanted. I don’t know why; to break free from the restraints at home, I guess.”
Finally, she was sent to San Rafael in the Bay Area at age 15 in 1985 to live with an aunt. Not a good idea, as it turned out.
“It just all went downhill. She couldn’t control me, either. I dropped out of school and got sent right back to mom and dad. It really sucked knowing your own relatives didn’t want you around.”
Years later, she was diagnosed as bipolar. And she says she was sexually molested as a young child, but not by either parent. Whatever the contributing factors, she was a teen careening out of control.
After being returned to Poway, she soon ran away back to San Rafael, not to her aunt, but to be with a boy who was living in Marin County because his father was in San Quentin.
He introduced Judith to crystal methamphetamines at age 15. Soon, the police grabbed Judith and sent her back to Poway. Too late. The drug had become a nasty companion, destined to rule her life for a quarter-century.
Her parents kicked her out in 1987. She went to live with a new boyfriend, and they married when she became pregnant. She was divorced in 2000.
What was crystal meth like?
She gropes for adequate words. “At first, it was great. I was up. I was moving. It keeps you awake. It makes you more. … It’s like when they give Ritalin to kids. It focuses you. It gives you a focus and then … I don’t know. It just … definitely, euphoria.”
Did you know what it might do to you?
“At that time, no.”
Did any warning bells go off in your head as you tried it?
“Every warning bell in the world, because I swore when I was growing up that I would never do drugs.”
“It was peer pressure. (The boyfriend) asked me if I wanted some and I told him no. ‘Oh, come on,’ he said. ‘Oh, come on and do it just this once.’ And so I tried it.”
What happened that first time?
“I was awake for the next 48 hours.”
What was your mental state?
“I don’t know how to explain that.”
Did you hallucinate?
“No, it doesn’t do that. It’s kind of like you can do anything. I would write a lot when I was on meth. I mean, page after page after page. It just keeps you awake. It gives you energy.”
Then you continued using it?
“Uh-huh. For the next 26 years. Just crystal meth. No heroin, no cocaine. I was strictly a meth addict, a tweaker.”
She says she quit the meth during each pregnancy, but resumed tweaking afterward. So, why did she go back to drugs?
“Once I had each baby, I figured there weren’t … I didn’t really see it as a detriment to my family.”
How about hurting your children?
“What do you mean?”
Well, did you want them to have a tweaker for a mother?
“No, I didn’t. But I didn’t really think about it like that. I just didn’t think I was hurting anybody but myself.”
Didn’t your husband say, “What the hell are you doing?”
“Yes, he did, many, many times. At one point, before we separated, he gave me an ultimatum to just go to a live-in program in Lakeside. I went to the program, but four days after I got there, I started using again. In 1995, we had our final blowout and separated.”
Where did you buy your crystal meth?
“People on the streets. How do I put it? It’s like its own little community. Once you know one person, you know where to go.”
Let’s say you decided this morning that you wanted crystal meth. How long would it take you to connect?
“About 15 minutes.”
If you were in a strange town, say you were in San Jose, how long would it take you to connect?
“Quick, if you got the guts to approach somebody. One addict knows another addict. It’s just the look you have about you.”
Did you ever engage in prostitution?
“No. I’ve had many opportunities, but I’ve kept my morals. That’s one thing I haven’t done.”
How would you get money?
“I basically begged for it, stole for it. I had four felony charges, all theft-related. I have no drug charges on my history, believe it or not.”
During the early 2000s, she completed her G.E.D. high school diploma and started at Palomar College, but dropped out because, “I was homeless and an active addict. It just got too hard to live in a bush and go to school.”
She also was a dealer during those years and used to sit at fast-food restaurants from early morning until late at night peddling meth. But she says she was never caught or even questioned by police.
Judith has served slightly more than a year behind bars for burglary, a short time for more than two decades of twisting the law’s nose. Finally, in prison in 2009, she took a hard look at her life. Upon her release, she enrolled in New Resolve and left meth behind, she declares.
She currently lives with a boyfriend in San Marcos who is not a drug user. She is unemployed, having quit her last job working in a motel laundry room.
Judith knows what the stakes are for her life. “If I get caught taking a piece of bubble gum these days, I’d go back to prison.”
She also knows that downturns and depression in her life can push open the door and let meth back in. She seems to understand what the stakes are.
“Many times I have come close to accepting the despair I was living with, but I would never allow myself to give up completely and become a lost soul.
“If my children, my ex-husband and my mother get a chance to read this, I want them all to know how sorry I am for all the pain I caused in their lives, and I hope and wish we can get past it and enjoy what time we have left. I love them all.”
Approaching her mid-40s, Judith’s life has essentially been half-wasted, but that still leaves time for a makeover. Change can happen by the clock, but convincing four children requires a calendar.
Fred Dickey’s home page is freddickey.net firstname.lastname@example.org
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