Suddenly homeless, I had descended into full-on addiction—then accidentally became addicted to crack—and began three years of constant drug use, sleeping in alleys and doorways, turning tricks to support my habit, and having frighteningly regular police contact. From April 1991 to March 1994 I was arrested 11 times and made 12 trips to jail on charges including possession of drugs and paraphernalia, prostitution, theft, trespassing, and weapons.
The 12th time, I wasn’t arrested: I turned myself in.
On my 11th trip to jail I had seen a poster for an in-jail drug program that hadn’t even started. So I volunteered to enter the program in San Francisco County Jail #7. Two months later I was transferred to long-term in-patient treatment, where I spent two years completing all phases of the program without relapse.
Upon graduation, I began a new life. Over the next few years I regained custody of my then—8-year-old daughter, got a job, an apartment, a relationship, and a 12-step program. I paid off the IRS, cleaned up my credit, learned how to drive, and discovered kink.
Before addiction, I had been a “responsible member of society”, having graduated high school with honors, attended four years of college, become an anxious but devoted mother, and was a budding hard rock musician. I drank socially, never exceeding my two-beer limit. Until one day, I did. But how did I make the jump from simple alcoholism to homeless junkie crackhead prostitute?
Childhood abuses, teenage traumas, and growing up as a Black woman in Amerikkka helped contribute to the buried landmine of addiction waiting for just the right amount of pressure to trigger an explosion. While coming out as a dyke right before addiction did not contribute to my downfall, getting clean and sober opened my eyes to the daily onslaught of discrimination faced by Black people, women, and queers. Inhabiting the intersection of Black queer womanist-hood is something I wouldn’t change for anything, but I would certainly like to reclaim the 35% of my brain power that goes, each day, into ensuring safety, equity, and advancement for myself, my friends, my family, and my beautiful communities. My unique experience at this intersection gives hope both to people who have been handled roughly by law enforcement as well as the people who love—or hate—them.
Women's restroom in the Hall of Just Us, before or after court or something. ~1992
Photo by Darcy Padilla