Family vs Family – Detour into Dealing

After living through a traumatising sexual attack as a young child, Felicity struggled to go back to living her normal life in her small town. Not knowing where she fit—as an adult or as a child—or how to confide in her family, she went in search of a lifestyle that would allow her to escape her reality and feel once again like she belonged.

When I first started drug running I was thirteen. When I look back on it, I tend to think that I was a woman in a man’s world, but I guess more accurately I was a girl in a man’s world. A child.

When I was young, before I was ten, I suffered an unfortunate series of events that brought my childhood to an abrupt end. Although I couldn’t understand at the time exactly how it had affected me, I can pretty much say this incident made me feel like I didn’t belong anywhere. From that moment forward I was very numb to what, I imagine, normal children would like to do. I would say I didn’t really have the interests of a young girl after that point. I tried organised sports—all sorts of things—but it was never enough to make me feel like I fit in again.

I grew up in a blue collar family with two siblings, both close to me in age. My parents both worked two jobs. My family was, in every sense of the word, normal. Too normal, I felt, to understand what I had gone through. I felt embarrassed, ashamed and confused about what had happened to me, and simply put I just couldn’t figure out how to relate to them properly after that. Or anyone I knew, for that matter. I guess some of the same factors that led up to my incident also opened me up to the lifestyle I found myself living shortly thereafter. When I was young I developed, physically, very early. By the time I was twelve I had the body of a ninteen year old, and by that point I had already had a few years to sit with my new reality, the one where I didn’t feel like a child anymore anyway. I didn’t feel like my family could relate to me, or protect me, and so when my eyes were opened up to an entirely different way of living, it seemed only natural to try it on for size.

I started doing drugs at twelve and got pretty heavily into them about a year after that. I continued on steadily for a decade thereafter. My first experience with drugs was pot, but I quickly learnt that that wasn’t the high that I really liked. After a bit of experimenting, I found my drug of choice to be cocaine. I found out almost as quickly that I was an extremely high-functioning addict: I could go to school—and later down the road hold down jobs—and do everything I needed to whilst high. It kept me calm and focused.

I felt a sort of comfort within this new world that I wasn’t able to find anywhere else. Everyone in it was a bit of a misfit, so didn’t feel my issues were on display. I ceased thinking about them constantly. The drugs created a nice little bubble for me to live in, far away from ‘the real world,’ and my new friends became my new home.

It soon became clear to me there was also a huge profit to be made in my new world. I saw how quickly and easily the money would roll in for people who were selling, so it was the natural next step for me to get involved. Less than a year after smoking my first joint, I was approached by an acquaintance of an acquaintance about a ‘business opportunity’; I remember thinking this was so exciting at the time. It seemed to be a world based on trust and respect, and I had proven myself worthy of being invited into the upper echelons.

The next week I was driving a car packed with kilos of cocaine to the closest major city. When I arrived at the address I’d been given, the panels were taken off of the car, I was handed more money than I‘d ever seen before, and I was sent on my way. It didn’t take long for me to work my way up once I got my foot in the door, even though in the drug industry it’s typically very hard for a female to gain respect or have any major amount of pull, especially a young one. It was a very male-dominated lifestyle, and I marvelled at the fact that, before the age of fifteen, I was living—and thriving—in a man’s world.

My two lives began to diverge rapidly, and I became two entirely different people. In both lives I was playing a role, so to speak, but any time I had trouble the drugs were there to help. I was one person at home—a normal adolescent girl, in a normal household, with my normal family—and a drastically different one in my other life—a self-sufficient woman, running her own ‘business.’ I still felt just as alienated from my childhood, if not even more so, but somehow straddling the fence between the two worlds worked for me at the time. I wanted less than ever to play in the park with my friends, but my attitude was less ‘I don’t belong here’ and more ‘why would I swing on this swing when I have a backpack full of cash to go spend, drugs to do, product to turn over.’ It gave me a purpose, a spot I felt like I functioned well in.

Despite having what I would deem a regular upbringing, my family wasn’t without its problems, and they seemed to multiply as the years went on. As these problems continued to develop, I entrenched myself more heavily with the people I was starting to see as my ‘new family.’ I forged and strengthened bonds that made me well known and well respected. They made me feel safe and powerful—I was untouchable.

In hindsight, not many of the situations I put myself in were actually safe ones, especially considering my age and maturity level at the time. I definitely found myself in some bad spots on more than one occasion. One time specifically comes to mind, when I was at a friend’s one evening, doing far more cocaine than was sensible. I sat up from doing a line off the coffee table and felt cold metal on the back of my neck: the double barrel of a shotgun. In the moments that followed I learnt that the men behind me ran distribution in the area and that my friend had been selling locally without their permission. I recognised one of the men as the father of a girl I went to school with and I wondered if our tenuous connection in ‘the real world’ would have any effect on the outcome of this situation. Neither of us were hurt in the end—it turned out to be a very effective scare tactic—but I will never forget that feeling, wondering if that ‘click’ of the gun being cocked was the last thing I’d ever hear. Things like that tend to sit with you. I started carrying a weapon after that.

I’d like to be able to say my experiences during that time don’t affect the way I relate to people in my life now, but if I said that I’d be lying. I tend to expect the worst out of someone first so I don’t feel disappointed when they inevitably turn out to be a piece of shit—I made a lot of shiny new friends who turned out to be pieces of shit. It also especially made me leery of men. As a woman in that world, I felt I had to stay ‘tough’ in certain respects, that getting attached and being seen as weak was suicide, and as a child I had to play the role of an adult. I dated older men, and I kept myself as emotionally uninvested as possible. Later in life, I actually found myself backtracking and dating younger men to see if maybe I had missed anything. (Note to self: you didn’t miss anything!)

My decision to detach myself from this life ultimately came about as a result of having to choose between my real family and my other, created family. Someone I had been close to my whole life—in both lives, actually—decided to use my sister’s place as a stash house. The police got involved and I was called to question regarding the case. I was high during the court proceedings and I remember that day with extreme clarity. I knew that my real, biological family would always be there for me no matter what, and this incident quite clearly proved to me that my drug family would not. It was the easiest tough decision I’ve ever made.

I’m now regarded in that world as a ‘rat’ for my choice to stick by my sister. The drug world is small, and my hometown even smaller. Bits of my old life still pop up every now and then—some funny, some not so funny. I’ve been threatened with my own reputation before: a girl I had a brief argument with in a bar, someone claiming to know my sister, told me to watch myself because ‘I didn’t know who she knew’ and then dropped my name. I laughed and formally introduced myself. Another time, an old acquaintance came out of the woodwork after a five-year stint in jail and rehab. I had quietly cleaned up a drug debt for him while he was away, and so out of the blue one day, years after the fact, I received an unexpected thank you and a very large sum of money. So it’s not all bad I guess.

If given the chance to do it all again I absolutely would. It’s taught me who I truly am and who the people around me are—more importantly who they aren’t. Being around liars and manipulators for such a long time, you learn to spot the traits almost instantly, whom you can trust and whom you can’t. The thing is you can’t learn these skills when you’re still high. I’d say distance is pretty necessary to apply them properly.

For me, I needed to go back and create bits of a real childhood, and reconnect with my real family—I wouldn’t have been able to do either of those things had I not embarked on that decade-long detour. My chosen path bought me my freedom from a tortured reality. Because I was numb to the normal joys of being young when I was young, the excitement of always chasing that high—drug induced or otherwise—was worth it for me. But now I feel like I have the opportunity to go back and fill in the gaps, so to speak. No drug will ever replace the simple truths I’m still in the process of uncovering, no false security or fake family. And certainly not any amount of money. And that, to me, is priceless. I will always be grateful for that turning point, the one that eventually made me realise that maybe something as simple as swinging on a swing in a park is a worthwhile activity, or that blood is thicker than water.

Vote UpVote Down

  • Sophie

    A beautiful article. What an enthralling story.