By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
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"Got drunk on Jack Daniel's the first time," she recalls. "It was pretty cool."
From there it was pot, then acid.
At 15, she ran away from home with a boyfriend. Soon after she split, she says, she snorted meth for the first time.
"We went to a place in Scottsdale and there were lines sitting there on a mirror. I did it, and I liked it. 'This is the drug for me.' I tweaked for days. I liked all the weight I was losing--I lost about 30 pounds just like that--and I liked the high, being very much there."
DeiDra's mother found her after two weeks and yanked her into a car.
"I remember what she said. 'You're doing drugs!' 'No, I'm not!'--all that typical crap," DeiDra recalls.
DeiDra got pregnant at 15, though she says she didn't know it until the fourth month. She did meth until she found out. Then she miscarried.
"It was the drugs," she says. "I know it, and I have to live with it."
DeiDra ingested meth every way possible, she says, except by injection. Once, someone put a gram--a huge amount--into a capsule and gave it to her.
"I thought I was seeing devils," she says. "I stayed in a bathroom for eight hours, no kidding. People were trying to get in there, but I held the door back. It was almost as bad as coming down off of a binge."
DeiDra attended Sahuaro High for about a month as a sophomore, but was expelled for smoking cigarettes "and other stupid stuff."
She started dealing meth at 16 with a 28-year-old man--"Not a boyfriend," she says--she'd met along the way.
"We concentrated on Scottsdale and north Scottsdale, real hot spots. I sold to a lot of parents. Sometimes we'd all get high together--kids, parents and me, the dealer. I was up all the time, because tweakers are like werewolves--they're nighttime people. That's when you make your money."
DeiDra's arrangement with her meth source was basic: He'd front her whatever amount she needed. She and her partner kept half of the proceeds, plus "personal"--enough meth to keep them both high. She spent whatever she earned--as much as $2,000 a day, DeiDra says--on clothes and fast times.
Her source lived in Scottsdale, DeiDra says, but he wasn't a cook. She didn't know where he got the meth, and she didn't want to know.
In 1996, DeiDra was shot outside the Atomic Cafe in Scottsdale, an innocent victim, she says, of a clash between people she didn't know.
She points to a blotch of scar tissue below her right knee.
"Hit me right there," she says.
DeiDra was bleeding badly, but she had the presence of mind to toss her stash to her partner before help arrived. "I had just gotten shot," she says. "I didn't want to go to jail."
She left the hospital in a leg brace and crutches after a few days and "got right back to my job, dealing."
A month later, police busted DeiDra and her partner for possession of meth. She was released on house arrest after she vowed to stay at her mother's place.
"I was straight for a little while, then I ran away," she says. "I knew what was going to come down on me, but I didn't care. Whatever happened, happened."
Caught after about a week in Phoenix, DeiDra spent 17 days in a juvenile facility before returning home, then ran away again. Juvenile authorities weren't as forgiving after police found her, locking her up for 52 days.
It was during that time, DeiDra says, that she began to reflect on her life: "I hated it, obviously, because I don't want to go back there, but I also had time to think about what I was doing to myself and to my mom."
She submitted to intense counseling sessions in "anger management" and substance abuse. And she resolved to quit meth. DeiDra continued on intensive probation after her release--including a month during which she wore an ankle bracelet that monitored her whereabouts.
DeiDra says a true test of her sobriety came after her probation officer allowed her to visit friends on weekends.
"My friends pulled out some meth first thing and put it right in front of me," she says. "It was the first time I ever said no to it. I had worked real hard to get myself to where I was, and it just wasn't worth it. I left, and I haven't been back."
Her efforts to stay straight earned her a coveted gold medal from juvenile authorities.
DeiDra got pregnant early this year, by a boy she'd met during group counseling sessions at the juvenile detention center. He was in adult jail for most of her pregnancy on gang-related charges, and recently was released. DeiDra says he's never been a tweaker.
He got out of jail in late November and saw his son for the first time. DeiDra says she and Avery's father plan to find an apartment when they get enough money together.
She worked at an Arby's until a few weeks before her son was born, and returned to work last week. But she has bigger plans.