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Cocaine Was My God
Growing up on the back streets of Montreal, my role models were prostitutes, pimps and drug dealers. It was only natural that I should become like them.

I was born into a single parent family. My two younger sisters, my older brother and I all had different fathers, none of whom bothered to stay around.

One morning I woke up to discover that my mother had not returned.

Almost every night my mother would go out. She would return in the wee hours of the morning with a party of loud, laughing people. They would wake me up and make me dance for them. They thought it was cute; I found it embarrassing—especially when the men bounced me on their knees touching me where they shouldn't. But the alcohol they rewarded me with took away some of the shame.

I found solace in a little fantasy world I created. Mr. Fix-it was my favourite make-believe friend. I could go to him with all my problems and he would comfort and love me anyway. You see, I did not know Jesus yet.

My one fond memory from childhood is from Sunday school. My mother would sometimes give my sisters and me ten cents each for the offering and send us there. Our Sunday school teacher told us that Jesus loved us, no matter what. But I knew that Jesus couldn't possibly love me because I was dirty from all the men touching me. The most amazing thing happened at the end of each Sunday school class—the teacher would always give us back our ten cents. We would run to the store and buy candy and eat it before we got home. I believe Jesus lived inside our Sunday school teacher.

When my mother went out, she usually left me in charge of my four- and five-year-old sisters (my older brother had already been removed from our home for sexually abusing me). One morning I woke up to discover that my mother had not returned. My sisters and I spent the next two days staring out the living room window. Finally, hungry and afraid, I went to a neighbour and asked for some food. She called the police. I did not see my sisters again for four years.

When I spoke to my mother on the telephone two weeks later, she told me that it was my fault that our family had been separated.

We were reunited in 1966 after my mother married a United States Air Force officer who was stationed in Buffalo, N.Y. One day I came home from school to find our house firebombed, probably because my stepfather was white. It was my first encounter with racism, and once again I felt unwanted and unloved. We moved to Toronto where my mother and stepfather separated shortly after.

My mother became more abusive telling me that I was stupid, that I would never be anything and that she should have drowned me at birth. I began looking for love in all the wrong places and thought I found it in sex. At 16 I became the mother of a baby boy. I was terrified.

Most of my friends abandoned me for the nightlife. I moved in with my only remaining friend and her two children. She had everything—a sports car, lots of money and nice clothes. Her rent and her bills were always paid on time. Her children had all the latest toys. I was stuck on welfare and never seemed to have any extra money to provide niceties for my son. My friend operated a massage parlour and encouraged me to come and work for her.

Prostitution made me a lot of friends and a lot of money fast. I bought a car and moved into my own apartment. Here were people that seemed to accept me unconditionally. For five years I did what they did and I got what they got. Then the abuse started. My pimp began beating me, demanding more money. One night I came home with only $450 and he beat me with a twisted coat hanger and made me go back out to work again. Slowly he destroyed my self-esteem and broke my spirit.

I started having flashbacks of childhood sexual abuse. Shame and feelings of being dirty were my constant companions. I remembered how alcohol numbed those feelings as a child, so I began drinking heavily. After a while alcohol wasn't enough. I started doing cocaine. The drug gave me feelings of warmth, self-confidence and assurance. I had finally found what I had been looking for. I felt on top of the world, like I could handle anything and anyone.

Crack cocaine became my god. It was the first thing I sought when I got up in the morning and the last thing before I went to bed. I traded sex for it. I had faith that when I put that rock on the pipe I would get high and my problems would be gone. It did for me what I could not do for myself—it took away the pain, temporarily anyway.

I was so focused on cocaine that I did not see its deception. It took control of me. I could not live without it. I could not sleep without it. It was more precious to me than food.

Within one year I lost everything—my house, car, furs, diamonds and money. I sent my son to live with my mother and I got rid of my pimp. I alienated myself from anyone who could not or would not support my habit.

For several years I wandered the streets of Toronto, homeless and sick. Occasionally I sought help at one of the city's detoxification units or at a Salvation Army shelter.

On November 23, 1995, I bought a quarter ounce of crack cocaine and went to a man's apartment to smoke it. After 18 hours of smoking I saw a Bible on a night table. It seemed to be calling me. I ignored it and continued to smoke. My chest hurt real bad, and I began to cry. I wanted out. I wanted to stop. If I did not, I knew I would die.

I knew without a doubt that God was talking to me.

Again, I saw the Bible. I looked up and said, "God, if you are real, you better speak to me, help me, please … " I picked up the Bible, opened it and pointed. My finger fell on Deuteronomy chapter 32, verse 31: "For their rock is not like our Rock … " I knew without a doubt that God was talking to me. My rock, crack cocaine, was not like His Rock, Jesus Christ. I fell to my knees and cried out, "Lord, save me; I am a sinner!" My eyes were immediately opened to the Kingdom of God. Instantly I was delivered from drugs and alcohol and I determined to "go, and sin no more."

I was doubtful that I could ever secure any respectable job. I surely could not put on my resume that I stood on street corners for 13 years working as a prostitute. But when I applied for a job at a Salvation Army family services office I was honest about my past, and they hired me and accepted me with open arms.

Today I work as a counsellor with an inner city ministry to prostitutes—many of whom work the same districts I once did. I am committed to being a living testimony of God's grace and redeeming power. I tell these women that what God did for me He will do for anyone.

Originally published in Faith and Friends, July 1999.




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