Array

Array

Cocaine addiction exacts its pound of flesh

The fear never stops, says Gail, for whom the price of addiction has become unbearable.

The fear never stops, says Gail, for whom the price of addiction has become unbearable.

In the 22 years since she first tried cocaine, Gail, 46, has found various ways and means of feeding her habit, including dealing drugs and selling her body.

She eats healthy foods and keeps a low profile, flying under the police radar, couch surfing at night and living on the streets in the daytime.

“They (the police) see me, but they don’t know exactly what I do. I’m always moving. I never stay in one spot. I know a lot of people, so I’ve never been asked if I was a prostitute.”

Gail’s fragile world shattered last October, when her son died of an overdose.

The second born of her three children, he struggled with mental illness as a teenager and young adult.

He needed 24-hour supervision, which he got from his drug-addicted mother, and that’s what killed him, says Gail. Her bright smile melts in a stream of tears.

“He wouldn’t have done (drugs) without me. He had to, because of his mentality. He was bipolar, manic, suicidal, depressive. He had to stay with me.”

Gail traces her own addiction to a single event when she was in her mid-20s.

She dreamed big as a child, hoping to become a figure skater and a fashion designer. She planned to have her first baby at the age of 25.

She got pregnant at 18 and was kicked out of school. Two more babies came and Gail was doing her best to take care of them. She had her tubes tied after the third child was born in 1991, the result she says of a date rape.

The man was charged but never convicted.

She says she was told she “probably deserved it.”

“I had mouths to feed and I didn’t let it bother me. I’ve bled it all out now.”

She joined a pool league and was selected for a team. During a tournament one night in 1992, a team member offered her a couple of lines of coke, thinking it would help calm her down and improve her shot.

Gail says she was hooked from that moment. The addiction got worse 11 years ago, when her mother died. She was in Ontario at the time and hadn’t been told that her mom had taken ill at home in Red Deer. They never got to say goodbye.

“I lost my identity. I didn’t know who I was.”

She started spending her time downtown, leaving her little boys alone while she fed her addiction. Social services took them away. Gail was eventually allowed to visit her children but wasn’t given full access to them until they became adults.

Her son’s death was Gail’s wakeup call.

“Since (he) died, they’re more in my life now and I have every reason to live ­— to get straight and sober — and I’m trying my damndest.”

Staying clean is a minute-by-minute struggle.

Gail meets once every two weeks with an addictions counsellor from the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission. She hopes eventually to become a counsellor herself, turning others away from the destructive forces that ruled her life and killed her son.

She focuses on the good things around her now, including the two young men who still call her their mom.

“I have something to strive for. I can tell (my counsellor), I’m five days clean. I always strive to give her something good and I do.”

She warns anyone who will listen to be wary of the overwhelming power of tobacco, drugs and alcohol — especially those who, like her, have an addictive personality. She saw pictures of black lungs but that did not stop her from starting smoking at only eight years old.

“Just say no, stupid. Read up on it. Get aware of the circumstances and what using this drug will do to a person. Become aware of what you’re doing to yourself and your body and other people around you. Talk to somebody. Keep talking.”

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com

On Saturday: Drugs and alcohol are, by far, the largest contributors to crime in Red Deer, says the supervisor of the Red Deer City RCMP’s street team.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

If you're heading out to the West Country have a plan in case things go wrong, says Clearwater Regional Fire Rescue Services fire chief Steve Debienne.
(Photo from CRFRS Facebook)
West Country visitors should have an emergency plan: regional fire chief

Cellphones can’t be relied on in many back country areas

Rode
Sarcevic leads an impressive list of additions to RDC Kings soccer

In 2019 the RDC Kings soccer program took a major step forward… Continue reading

The Red Deer PCN Women's Fun Run will take on a different look this weekend with rising COVID-19 numbers.
Women’s Fun Run goes ahead this weekend in Red Deer

With new public health measures in place because of rising COVID-19 case… Continue reading

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw asked Albertans to limit travel throughout the province as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer nears 900 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports additional 2,211 COVID-19 cases

David Eggen, the NDP’s advanced education critic, said the UCP government has been focused on cutting funding to post-secondary institutions across Alberta. (Contributed photo)
NDP worry new status for Red Deer College doesn’t mean more funding

This week the province announced that RDC will become a polytechnic institute

Alberta Health Services locked the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror on Wednesday morning after owner Christopher Scott refused to comply with health orders. (Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff)
UPDATED: AHS shuts down Whistle Stop Cafe for defying health orders

Justice minister promises to get tough with those ignoring public health orders

Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals pressed to ease access to EI parental leave to help unemployed moms

Liberals pressed to ease access to EI parental leave to help unemployed moms

Katie Telford, Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, appears as a witness via videoconference during a House of Commons finance committee in Ottawa, Thursday, July 30, 2020. The Canadian Press has learned that Katie Telford has written members of the defence committee inquiry into allegations of sexual misconduct against Canada's former top military commander, offering to testify at their meeting Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
PM’s chief of staff offers to testify on Vance sexual misconduct allegations

PM’s chief of staff offers to testify on Vance sexual misconduct allegations

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Family looking for answers: Woman with vaccine side-effects died of blood clot

Family looking for answers: Woman with vaccine side-effects died of blood clot

‘Uniquely reprehensible’: No parole for 35 years for Calgary man in triple murder

‘Uniquely reprehensible’: No parole for 35 years for Calgary man in triple murder

A sign is seen at a walk-in COVID-19 in Montreal on Wednesday, April 21, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
NACI chair says advice not meant to give AstraZeneca recipients vaccine remorse

NACI chair says advice not meant to give AstraZeneca recipients vaccine remorse

People in Peel region line up outside the University of Toronto Mississauga campus for the COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Mississauga, Ont., on Thursday, May 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Promising pandemic signs in Ontario, Quebec as urgency shifts to N.S., Alberta

Promising pandemic signs in Ontario, Quebec as urgency shifts to N.S., Alberta

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves upon departure from Boryspil International airport outside Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, May 6, 2021. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has met with top Ukrainian officials in Kyiv and reaffirmed Washington's support for the country in the wake of heightened tensions with Russia. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, Pool)
US says fate of nuclear pact up to Iran as talks resume

US says fate of nuclear pact up to Iran as talks resume

People embrace after a school shooting at Rigby Middle School in Rigby, Idaho on Thursday, May 6, 2021. Authorities say a shooting at the eastern Idaho middle school has injured two students and a custodian, and a male student has been taken into custody. (John Roark /The Idaho Post-Register via AP)
Sheriff: Girl shoots 3 at Idaho school; teacher disarms her

Sheriff: Girl shoots 3 at Idaho school; teacher disarms her

Most Read