By Bree Davies
By William Breathes
By William Breathes
By Michael Robert
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
Audrey had one foot in the grave, the other one on it.
Meth will do that. One cold day in February 2009, high on drugs, the 25-year-old had taken the bus to Golden, then hopped a cemetery fence to reach the gravesite of a girl she'd known, a friend who'd partied hard, gotten addicted to crack cocaine, then died in a car wreck during a police chase. Looking at her headstone, Audrey knew that she could easily have been the one lying in the ground. Her meth habit had raged for six years, taking her to places unimaginable when she was a pretty, popular teenager living in Arvada. Slinging dope all over the city, stealing from her friends and family, running drugs and guns for the Mexican cartel, working as a narc informant, losing her three kids. She'd introduced her younger sister, Katie, to meth, and now she was as bad off as Audrey, maybe worse.
That afternoon, Audrey was supposed to start a new substance-abuse program that her probation officer had recommended, telling her it could be her last chance before she'd have to serve time for her transgressions, including a larceny charge. But Audrey figured she'd be able to scam the program staffers, just as she'd scammed her family, the Mexican cartel and the drug cops. So she called the program and said she couldn't make it, that she was stuck in a graveyard — which was more or less the truth, for a change.
That's okay, she was told. They'd wait for her to show up, no matter how long it took.
By the time Audrey finally reached the Denver probation department, it was 7:30 p.m., hours after her scheduled appointment. But sure enough, staffers were still there, waiting to take her in from the cold.
I have this kick-ass idea."
In January 2004, Lilas Rajaee-Moore, head of the Denver Treatment Assessment Screening Center, the substance-abuse component of the Denver juvenile probation department, knocked on the door of Division Chief Steve Cooper, the officer in charge of patrol for the Denver Police Department, and said she had a "kick-ass idea," one she'd already run by DPD chief Gerry Whitman: Cooper should assign some of his cops to work with Rajaee-Moore's new substance-abuse program.
The idea wasn't just kick-ass, it was unprecedented. Cops dealt with addicts when they broke the law; they weren't responsible for cleaning them up.
But then, Rajaee-Moore wasn't afraid to pitch a crazy idea to a cop. After getting her master's degree in social sciences, in 1995 she'd started as a treatment specialist at TASC, the Denver agency that provided substance-abuse services for between 600 and 700 juvenile offenders every year. After quickly working her way to the top, she'd helped launch the Denver Family Integrated Drug Court, which synchronized substance-abuse services and hearings for families when a parent was facing a drug charge and a child had a juvenile case pending, and she'd also extended TASC's mission to treating those parents involved with the family drug court. She'd even managed to land grants to stretch her over-extended budget to accommodate her ambition.
"She's pretty visionary in what she wants to do," says Helen Morgan, Denver's chief deputy district attorney and former chief of the Denver Drug Court. "She is very much in tune with what is happening nationally and locally on issues relating to substance abuse."
So in tune that Rajaee-Moore realized the city's existing drug-treatment and rehabilitation programs weren't cutting it, despite her best efforts. In 2000, more than 60 percent of all adult males arrested in Denver tested positive for illegal drugs; according to the Colorado Department of Corrections, more than 80 percent of all those incarcerated in 2006 needed substance-abuse treatment. Not that their time behind bars helped: In 2008, roughly three-quarters of all Colorado inmates transitioning to Community Corrections still needed treatment, a primary reason that more than half of all inmates released from prison in this state are back in jail within three years. Between the strain this puts on state correction and rehabilitation services and all the other miscellaneous costs, the Colorado Department of Human Services has determined that alcohol and drug abuse is the single greatest drain on the state budget.
Back in 2004, part of the problem was that the various agencies and programs didn't work together. "For a long time we were doing our own independent things and not understanding what other agencies were doing, and we were making it more difficult for people to be successful," says Denver Juvenile Court Judge Karen Ashby, who now presides over the Denver Family Integrated Drug Court. "It wasn't unusual to use short jail sentences as a sanction for people, but if they had kids in their home, oftentimes a weekend jail sentence could blow things pretty good."
Rajaee-Moore had gone to Cooper to see if the various agencies couldn't work together better. She'd just landed a $2 million grant to start the Youth Development Court, an expansion of Denver's then-six-year-old juvenile drug court, and she wanted the police to mentor the young addicts in the program. Cops were the sort of authority figures these kids needed to help steer them in the right direction, she said, and it didn't hurt that the officers were street-savvy and worked at all hours of the day and night, so their schedules would mesh well with her clients' lifestyles. And finally, the officers would have the full power of the law at their disposal if the kids didn't stick with the program. For those kids who did stick with it, having an officer testify in court on their behalf could have a significant impact.
Cooper had already been thinking along the same lines. From his office at police headquarters, he had a direct view of the entrance to Courtroom 191-J, Denver's juvenile courtroom, and the line of kids waiting to see the judge that often stretched for half a block. "I used to look at that line and think, 'Something we are doing here is just not working,'" he says.
Besides, the DPD was in need of a positive story. The summer before, the department had taken a hit over the death of Paul Childs, a mentally disabled fifteen-year-old shot and killed by a Denver patrolman. It wouldn't be a bad thing to remind kids they didn't need to run every time they saw a cop.
"Let's do it," Cooper told Rajaee-Moore. While he couldn't assign cops directly to TASC, he could make it possible for them to work off-duty with the program.
That agreement was the beginning of a bold new experiment, one that would eventually be titled the Justice Initiative for Drug Endangered Families and grow to serve not just kids but adults, bringing together Denver juvenile and district court judges, the Denver District Attorney's Office, the Denver Department of Human Services, the Denver probation departments, the Denver Drug Endangered Children's Alliance, the Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect, and a variety of other community organizations, all dedicated to filling the holes for drug addicts caught in the net of the criminal justice system.
But before all that could happen, Rajaee-Moore and Cooper still had to find cops willing to sign on.
Audrey and Katie struggle to piece together exactly what happened over the last eight years. Meth will do that: It eats away at your memories, leaving behind a jumble of disjointed recollections and regrets.
Audrey can remember how it started: She was a high-school senior when she smoked meth off some foil at a friend's house. It wasn't a big deal; the drug was just something new to do, and seemed pretty similar to the weed she'd been smoking for years. Nor was it a big deal when Katie walked in on Audrey and her friend smoking meth a few days later and they let the freshman take a couple of hits. Even when the sisters did meth with their biological father, who'd recently slouched back into their lives, it was no big deal: Since he'd been AWOL most of their childhood, it was like doing drugs with some random guy who knew how to party, not their dad.
The two girls were sure they could handle it. They lived in a nice suburban home with their loving mom and stepdad, did well enough in school, dated football players. And in fact, about a month after their little experiment with meth began, it was over. Both moved on to other distractions, to other games and mischief.
But two years later, Audrey went back to meth. She'd recently given birth to a daughter, and smoking meth helped her lose weight. It also helped keep her mind off other problems: The father of her child was in jail for attacking a guy with a baseball bat. Soon after he got out, a few months later, Audrey was pregnant again. She was straight for most of her pregnancy, but after her son was born, she went back to meth.
And what Audrey did, her younger sister did, too.
"It was a second, secret life," says Katie, who hid her growing habit from her friends, boyfriends and parents while holding down a full-time job. Audrey, too, managed to keep her addiction in check at her accounting job and around the children's father, who remained her off-again, on-again boyfriend.
"I told myself, 'I can handle it. I can take care of my kids, and my house is clean,'" Audrey remembers.
But she couldn't maintain the balancing act. Audrey's relationship with her boyfriend was so volatile that she and her kids kept moving from one temporary home to the next — from apartments to hotels to people's garages. Sometimes they stayed with Audrey's mom and stepdad, other times they stayed with her biological father, who'd give Audrey and Katie money for the dope the three would share. When that money ran out, Audrey began selling belongings like her dryer and kitchen table to pay for her habit, and stealing from her friends and family. One day, she took $3,000 and a credit card from the company where she worked. In February 2007, she left the job altogether.
By then, the girls' mother had seen through their act. She told Audrey not to come around again unless she showed up at the front door with a drug counselor. Her safe haven gone, when Audrey heard the cops were after her for the money she'd stolen from her job, she dropped her kids off with their father and went on the run.
She soon met "Primo," a major Mexican dope supplier working in the area. Audrey began moving major quantities of meth for him, buying it for $1,000 an ounce and selling it for a 30 to 40 percent profit. "I thought I was cool," she says. "I felt like a top dog. I was the 'connect.'" Eventually she did other jobs for Primo, including procuring prostitutes for cartel leaders when they flew in from Mexico.
In October 2007, pregnant again and sick of running, Audrey turned herself in on the larceny charge, then used $600 of the money she'd made selling drugs to post bond. The following April, another daughter was born — with meth in her system. When social services immediately took the baby away, Audrey wasted no time making a break. Since she'd missed a court date, there was another warrant out for her arrest — and she didn't want to be caught by the police in the maternity ward.
Once again, she turned herself in and used drug money to post bond; once again, she skipped out on a court date. Eventually her bondsman found Audrey in Sedalia, and she was thrown in Adams County Jail. While there, she had some unusual visitors: Narcotics officers who'd heard about Audrey's relationship with the Mexican dope dealers wanted her to act as an informant. "What do I have to do?" she remembers asking them. "I want my kids back, and I don't want to be high anymore."
But when Audrey got out after two weeks in jail, the narcs didn't seem to care about her kicking the habit; they just wanted the Mexican cartel. So she kept smoking meth and eventually moved in with her sister — who quit her job and started working for the Mexicans, too. The sisters started moving guns as well as drugs: .38 snub noses with laser sights, SKS rifles and AK-47s.
Audrey was working with the cops on complicated stings, posing as a heroin buyer and wearing a wire to drug deals that law enforcement was monitoring. But at the same time, she and Katie were stealing money and drugs from other meth users and sometimes from each other. They spent tens of thousands of dollars to help local dealers who'd been busted, retaining some of the best-known defense lawyers in Denver and bribing potential witnesses to keep quiet. When Katie was arrested for kicking in the door of her longtime boyfriend's house to retrieve some belongings and charged with domestic violence, she used $6,000 in drug money to bond herself out.
"I just became lost," says Katie. "I'd sit in the apartment, smoke a bowl and just get lost in space. I was so depressed, because I knew my mom would be so disappointed in me. It wasn't supposed to be that way." The sisters smoked constantly, staying up for days at a time and throwing themselves at surreal improvement projects they were too scatterbrained to complete — bookshelves that were never quite finished, decor items cobbled together from junk scrounged from dumpsters. Dope money overflowed from their vacuum-cleaner bag, a poor excuse for a hiding place; pipe burns scarred their towels and bedspreads.
Through it all, their phone rang constantly, day and night. Sometimes it was a meth head like their dad looking to buy, sometimes it was a narc needling them for information, sometimes it was the Mexican cartel, wanting to know why they were falling behind in payments.
Katie, bone-thin, picked at her face until it was covered in scabs; Audrey plucked her eyebrows out. Often the sisters would cry together as they fired up a pipe, wondering how it would all end.
Just before Christmas 2008, Audrey visited her probation officer high as a kite and hiding a sack of meth in her bra. Then she learned she was being assigned to JI-DEF.
Sergeant Steve Addison had noticed the announcement in the DPD's daily bulletin in late 2007. The department was looking for officers to mentor drug addicts, folks who were at the end of the line in the criminal justice system. Working as Law Enforcement Advocates, or LEAs, with JI-DEF, the cops would take several clients under their wing at a time, putting in eight hours a week for much lower pay than most off-duty gigs offered — and that didn't count the additional legwork that wouldn't pay at all.
To Addison, it sounded perfect. "It was like this little gift. It just really fit," he says.
"I've always been a 'what's the next thing' kind of person," Addison explains. A few years before, while he was working in the department's radio room, a supervisor had suggested that radio operators might appreciate the chance to get some exercise; Addison wrangled up so much exercise equipment that the place looked like a 24 Hour Fitness. In his off-hours, he'd earned his master's degree in public affairs, and he'd just started a coaching certification program at the Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara. Over the next nine months, Addison spent his vacation time traveling to California and sitting in seminars alongside Fortune 500 CEOs and corporate consultants. As the DPD's coordinator for officer training and recruitment, he believed the right coaching skills might reduce the double-than-average suicide rate among cops.
But Addison, who'd previously served on the city's gang unit and, before that, been a patrolman in Five Points and Curtis Park, also wanted to tackle another challenge: He didn't want to just help cops, he wanted to connect on a meaningful level with the people he encountered as a cop. "Often the only time police get to interact with parents and kids in those settings is when they show up on a call for domestic violence or a drug call," he says. "You don't realize the impact that has sometimes. You try to talk to kids, be a positive influence, try to say, 'Standing out here on the corner and selling crack isn't going to lead you to anything,' but it's hard to have that sort of relationship with them."
JI-DEF could change that, he thought. "It seemed like a way to be with these addicts longer than, 'Hi, how are you doing, I hope you get better,' and then boom, walk out the door," he says. "It seemed like the type of thing that could really make a difference."
Not everyone had seen the program's promise when Rajaee-Moore and Cooper started in 2004 with two police mentors. The grandmother of one of the initial clients threw a fit when she heard that a cop would be stopping by the family's house in northeast Denver, a home just down the street from where Paul Childs had been killed. After Rajaee-Moore did some damage control, the woman relented — on the condition that the mentor meet the family pastor at the house and stay for dinner.
From that rocky start, the program blossomed, with more cops applying to be LEAs than there were positions. Today, fourteen LEAs are divided into four teams supervised by Addison.
The officers all report that they have more job satisfaction, and Addison's workday has improved, too. At in-home meetings, clients' kids no longer hide behind their parents' legs when he comes to the door; instead, they want him to stay and play. "My cop" — that's what his clients call him. Even hardened criminals in the program call their cop at all hours just to check in, and if they screw up and have to be taken to jail, they insist that their cop be the one to take them in.
"It's made me realize how normal these people are when you take away the fact that they'd caught a felony and had used drugs most of their lives," Addison says. "It's made me realize they are all just normal people."
Even the most hardened cases, like the sisters he was assigned to in early 2009.
At first, Audrey fought JI-DEF every step of the way. So did Katie, who was assigned to the program after she went to jail in January 2009 for missing a court date on her domestic-violence charge.
They fumed when Rajaee-Moore and Jennifer Corvalan, the TASC specialist on their case, came to their apartment and took their meth pipes. They shrieked when Corvalan, who coordinated TASC's meth-prevention program and seemed to have a sixth sense for when her clients were about to relapse, would seek them out at friends' houses or the 24-hour laundromat downtown where they'd crash when they had nowhere else to go. "You guys are so fucking annoying," the sisters screamed.
But that was the point. "We are persistent," Rajaee-Moore says. "That's part of the program."
While many JI-DEF clients were put off by being paired with a cop, Audrey and Katie took that in stride, at least at first. Both had been dealing with the police for years, either as offenders or informants. On the day they met Addison, they asked their LEA to retrieve the belongings they'd been keeping at their father's house — the ones he hadn't already sold off for drugs. Addison told the man to leave his daughters alone, then took the sisters to McDonald's, where they blew through the $25 certificate they'd been given at TASC.
Soon enough, though, Audrey and Katie were screaming at Addison, too. They'd yell at him when he'd stop by for surprise visits, telling the cop he wasn't a mentor, just a guy who made things worse. Since they were still smoking meth, the sisters guzzled mouthwash to throw off the mouth swabs Addison used to test for drug residue. To beat their urinalysis tests, they bought clean pee from local head shops for $25 a pop.
And then, a month after she started the program, Audrey dismantled the GPS tracking device she was required to wear and once again was on the run. To find her, Addison sent patrolmen to her regular hangouts, to places where she'd been spotted. They didn't catch her, but every few days she'd call in — to yell at him and to let him know she was okay.
"In some weird way, I still wanted them to be there for me whenever I was ready," she says. "I didn't want to cut off the relationship."
The cops finally caught up with Audrey in Commerce City on April 24 and sent her to a Denver halfway house. She was also assigned a new LEA: Having both sisters proved too much for even Addison to handle.
Corvalan pulled some strings so that she could meet with Audrey regularly at the halfway house and run a one-on-one substance-abuse program. With Corvalan's help, Audrey learned how the drugs had rewired her brain chemistry. She identified her personal trigger points, the things that made her want to get high — like her old dope friends, her dad and her sister. She went to peer group meetings at TASC, where women shared their stories of being 100 days clean, 280 days clean, 500 days clean. And she attended TASC family nights, where clients, their kids, substance-abuse clinicians and even LEAs would get together and chow down.
Soon Audrey was passing her drug tests without the use of someone else's urine. "I felt like I could do it. I was totally focused and serious," she says. "I wasn't depressed with my life; I felt there was hope."
While at the halfway house, Audrey was able to get joint custody of her children, all three of whom were living with their father. That summer, she recited a seven-page speech about her recovery to U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske when he visited Denver for the annual meeting of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, where JI-DEF was nominated for an award. Later, she appeared on a local news segment, a poster girl for JI-DEF.
Katie was doing better, too. She'd moved back in with her mom and stepdad and landed a warehouse job, and she'd stayed clean from April to September 2009. But then, when testifying in a drug case, she met one of her old drug friends and ended up getting high. She stopped taking drug tests, and a glitch in the probation department's tracking system failed to alert anyone to the change. Still, the fact that she was failing the people who'd worked so hard to help her weighed heavily on Katie.
"They'd spent so much time and effort and built up so much trust, and then I turned around and lied to their face," she says. "That felt horrible, just as bad as if I'd lied to my mom or something."
Addison, Corvalan and Rajaee-Moore had no problem seeing through those lies. Last November, they told Katie she was being sent to STAR-TC, an intensive in-patient treatment program in Pueblo.
On December 8, Katie drove down to Pueblo with her mother and Audrey. When they stopped for gas or bathroom breaks, Katie would sneak off to smoke meth — with Audrey in tow.
Just a few weeks earlier, the halfway house had agreed to Audrey's early release to the care of her mother and stepfather. The two had welcomed Audrey back into their home after she'd appeared on their doorstep with a drug counselor, as stipulated. Audrey had been sober for seven months.
She and Katie had celebrated by getting high.
A massive whiteboard that takes up an entire wall of Rajaee-Moore's office in the probation department outlines the $12 million in state and federal grants that JI-DEF has won over the last three years, as well as additional funding sources she's hoping to score.
Rajaee-Moore had quickly discovered her program had more potential than just pairing kids and cops — although that was going well. Preliminary data showed that the youths assigned LEAs were more likely to stay in contact with their police mentors after their probation was up than any of their other assigned contacts, such as probation officers or clinicians — and they were more likely to reach out to their LEAs in times of crisis, too.
In 2006, Rajaee-Moore was at a seminar focusing on the growing problem of substance-exposed newborns when she realized she'd missed one of the most devastating aspects of drug abuse. "I was sitting there thinking, 'Oh, my God, for the last ten years, the thousands of families we have worked with and we knew there were kids in the home, we knew there were children and younger siblings in the home and we didn't do anything,'" she recalls. "It's hard to open a case for child welfare, since you have to prove something bad is going on. But just because you don't open a case doesn't mean these kids don't have needs that aren't being addressed. We never asked about who these kids were, unless the kid showed up with a gash on his face."
After wrangling another $1.5 million for the program, Rajaee-Moore expanded JI-DEF to include meth-addicted mothers and their children.
Despite the program's success, it wasn't always easy getting overworked probation officers to take a look at this family-centered approach to probation and refer appropriate clients to JI-DEF. "I think any time you try to change things up and do something different, there is always that challenge of people having their belief systems of how other agencies work and don't work," says Jason Romportl, a Denver probation supervisor working with JI-DEF.
It helped that Jerry Maroney, the state court administrator for the Colorado Department of Justice, and Chief Probation Officer Shawn Cohn had what Rajaee-Moore calls "a progressive outlook on how to work with probation-involved families." Rajaee-Moore and her colleagues were also as dogged as bloodhounds, regularly visiting the county jail on recognizance, looking for addicts who'd benefit from their program.
That effort made a difference. Before she started the meth-addicted mothers program, Rajaee-Moore had been told she'd never find any drug-endangered kids who weren't already involved with child-welfare departments; over the past few years, the program has identified roughly 600 of them. And those aren't JI-DEF's only striking stats. Eighty to 85 percent of its clients are eventually successfully discharged, a rate 50 percent higher than that of most substance-abuse programs, according to Stuart Readio, a corrections specialist evaluating TASC's programs.
And now that program has expanded again, to include drug-addicted young fathers.
JI-DEF continues to attract notice. This year, the program was a finalist for the United States Substance and Mental Health Services Administration's Service to Science Award; in 2009 and again this year, it was a finalist for the International Association of Chiefs of Police's Weber Seavey Award, which honors the most innovative law enforcement programs worldwide.
"I think it's a trend. There's clearly new statewide recognition," says Morgan at the DA's office. "I think Denver and Colorado are recognizing that the traditional way of dealing with crimes fueled by addiction for the most part doesn't work."
Along the way, JI-DEF has generated impressive success stories. The husband-and-wife meth addicts who'd lost their kids to child services but have since cleaned up and won back their kids. Nikki, who smoked meth for years before getting busted with three-quarters of a pound of weed in her fridge; she now helps lead TASC peer-support groups and recently celebrated getting off probation. The couple that was living and dealing drugs in Civic Center Park, who now have stable housing and say they couldn't live without their LEA.
Not every story has a happy ending. "You walk away with your tail between your legs sometimes," Rajaee-Moore says. But still, she never slows down, never loses faith in her clients. "I don't know any other way," she admits.
Audrey's home is a whir of activity: boxes being unpacked, holes being drilled into the wall. Only this time, meth isn't fueling the action.
Audrey takes a Marlboro break, her pink toenails bright against the gray sidewalk outside her first-floor apartment, the first place she's had on her own in three years. Inside, her mom and a friend from rehab continue unpacking. A vase that Audrey jacked from some meth head is placed on a shelf, a framed poem put on a bookshelf Audrey and Katie built one night when they were high:
No farewells were spoken,
No time for goodbye,
You were gone before I knew it,
And only God knows why.
The elegy is a reminder of how close she came to being the subject of a requiem, how near she was to disappearing before anyone could say goodbye.
In April, Audrey came clean about her relapse to Corvalan and Rajaee-Moore — who turned her in for violating her probation. Rajaee-Moore convinced the judge to set Audrey's bond at an excessively high $25,000 so that she couldn't bond out and get back into trouble; while Audrey spent seven weeks in jail, Rajaee-Moore successfully lobbied for her to be sent to New Directions for Families, a rehab center designed for mothers, rather than the intensive, mandatory two-year program she was being considered for.
JI-DEF recognizes that slipping back into drugs is often part of getting clean. "I realized how slow the change is with drug addicts, how easy it is for them to slip into their old ways," says Addison, now a lieutenant. "We can support them as much as we can, but they ultimately have to be the ones to decide, 'I am not going to be a drug addict anymore.' Until they decide that, no magic bullet is going to work."
Audrey seems to have finally made that decision at New Directions for Families.
Since she was released from the rehab program last month, she's been going to school at Community College of Denver, training to become a drug counselor. "It's something I know," she says. "I've been through it, so I think I can help people. Plus, I think it will help me to keep my addiction in front of my face."
Audrey now has full custody of her children, who are working with play therapists at the Kempe Center. Their father spent six weeks in jail on a domestic-violence charge involving another woman; he's been assigned to JI-DEF, too.
Katie is also making progress. "I was just over relapsing and getting in trouble and worrying and lying," she says. Living with her mom and stepdad, she keeps excessively busy, working ten-hour days at her administrative job, taking drug tests, seeing a therapist. She meets regularly with Addison — "Steve-O," she calls him — and talks about what she wants to do with her life, sheepishly admitting to having a few drinks with her co-workers.
Looking back, the sisters are amazed that the folks with JI-DEF never once wrote them off. When one of them was on the run, Addison worked endless hours trying to track her down. Corvalan spent an entire Saturday making frantic phone calls and pulling strings so that Audrey would be transferred to the right treatment program. Rajaee-Moore took a phone call from Audrey on her wedding day this past summer: She married Cooper, who retired from the police force several years ago.
And Corvalan and Rajaee-Moore even spend their off-hours hanging out with Audrey and Katie, as the sisters left most of their friends behind in the drug community. "They are never mad at you," says Audrey. "They never tell you there is no hope."
An intensive program like JI-DEF requires incredible time and attention. Still, Morgan points out, "It's cheaper than sending them to prison."
And Audrey thinks that in the sisters' case, JI-DEF's investment of time and money paid off. "We couldn't have done it without them," she says. She thinks about the "lifers" she knows, the addicts who are sixty, seventy years old and still smoking meth. She thinks about some of the girls she and Katie used to hang with, who've now progressed from smoking meth to shooting it, a more devastating form of the drug. And she thinks about her friend who died in the car accident, the one who never got a chance to get clean, the one she visited on that first day of JI-DEF.
She knows that nothing is definite, that she could still relapse: Meth will do that.
But for the first time in a long time, she dares to hope. "There is life after meth," she says. "It is a lot of hard work, and you may not want to do it at first, but there is life after meth."