Editor's note: This is the seventh story in a series highlighting an individual's experiences on the road to substance abuse recovery on Guam. The series aims to shed light on Guam's need for resources to effectively administer its drug treatment programs.
Amy held the bracelet tightly in her hands as she spoke. She wore it all the time, she said. It had all her favorite colors. It was a gift from her mother.
A couple days prior to meeting with The Guam Daily Post, Amy was ready to walk out of the Oasis Empowerment Center, but her mother convinced her to stay. After all, she still had a promise to keep.
Amy had spent the last few years of her life dealing dope, getting high, evading police and lingering in prison.
Now, she wants out of that life and hopes to move in with her mother and children. But Amy would first need to complete the program at Oasis – that was the agreement with her mother and an example of the tough love her family practiced.
This is Amy's third time at the treatment center. It was also her longest – around 90 days by mid-April. The first attempt in October 2017 lasted only 13 days. The attempt after that, in November 2018, lasted even shorter – just five days. But neither of those times did she feel she was ready to quit.
"Third time being the charm," she told the Post.
"Amy" is a pseudonym. She asked to keep her real identity secret as a condition of speaking to the Post.
Introduced at 19
Amy has had a sordid history with methamphetamine, dating back 17 years. She would be introduced to the drug at 19 years old, when she married her now ex-husband. He was a user, but she didn't know that until after their marriage. Amy would later use connections made at that time, as well as ones made in between, to deal in dope and prescription pills.
Her first arrest would come in August 2016 and between then and 2018, Amy would be sent to jail nine times, serving about a year and a half in total. She would stop using meth occasionally throughout her lifetime – sometimes for significant periods – but different circumstances would bring her back to the drug.
Amy has five children living with her mother. She did not use the drug when she was pregnant after seeing firsthand what that would do to her children.
"I saw how many children whose parents – you know, I smoked with their parents. When I saw their babies, they would tell me, 'My baby's handicapped' or 'My baby is like this because of the drug,'" Amy said. "So when I found out I was pregnant, I just quit because I didn't want to have a child that would suffer."
While married to her ex-husband, Amy would be introduced to people who sold methamphetamine. Her husband also would begin selling, for the extra money as well as to help feed his wife's consumption.
Amy began as a weekend user, smoking meth to have the energy to move around her home and clean. Eventually, she would smoke every day.
"I started to eat more, meaning smoke more," she said.
Dope dealing brought in thousands of dollars on the side for Amy's family, but she quit using methamphetamine in 2009 and joined the military in 2012. Her marriage ended the year before. Amy said her ex-husband had an affair, but the divorce was also brought on by his drug use – a lesson that would extend to future relationships.
"I learned now, if you are a drug addict, your relationship will not work if both are addicts. One might be ready (to quit) and the other wouldn't be," she said.
Amy would stay clean for another three years. In 2015, she was taken off orders at the Guam National Guard. This meant Amy was left without a job. She was told by some of her higher-ups that they would try to pull her back into the Guard. Amy had some money saved up and she thought to wait, but two months went by without word.
"I ended up saying, 'Forget it, I'm going to go full throttle on this stuff.' ... I started selling and I started consuming more. And I was introduced to people from the streets and I just lost control of it," she said.
For some time, Amy was able to support herself and her children through drug proceeds. She ultimately ended up under the Section 8 housing program but had difficulty finding housing, as landlords were concerned with how she would pay her share of rent without a job.
Because of that, she sent her children to live with her mother while she went to live with a dealer in Yigo. But Amy wouldn't stay too long. She left after an altercation with a boyfriend's mistress. They called them "panty downs," Amy said – girls who dated or slept with men in exchange for access to drugs and money.
"There are females out there who can't hustle, period. So they would have sex for money or drugs. Me, I just knew how to get the drugs," Amy said. "I'm not proud of it, but you give me pills, I can flip those pills, turn it into cash or 'ice' (meth) and sell the ice for money. And I could make a lot off it."
And that is essentially what Amy did until Aug. 24, 2016. She found a landlord willing to accept her under the Section 8 program. But someone had alerted the authorities to her activities and her hotel room was raided before she could move on.
"That was the day I was supposed to sign and get my children back and just stop the drug flow, stop doing everything and get back on track," Amy said. "But because I picked up a drug charge, I just said, 'I'm done. Let's just go all the way.' And I ended up being a rebellious person."
Amy decided to run from the law and not comply with conditions imposed on her. She would be arrested again two weeks later. She was at the wrong place at the wrong time, Amy said. She and a male friend had stopped by his home on the way to another home where Amy would be dropped off.
He needed to get his fix, Amy said. She went to use his bathroom. As she entered, she heard a loud knocking.
"All I heard was a boom, boom, boom. 'This is SWAT from the Guam Police Department. Please open the door,'" Amy recalled. "I was like, 'Son of a .. I just got out of jail two weeks ago."
She had about 15 grams of meth on her person, as well as a loaded pipe and about 2 grams of meth in a bag in the car. Police were beginning to enter the home.
Amy smashed the pipe, wrapped it inside toilet paper and flushed it down the toilet. She looked around for any plastic available. There was a trash bag. She secured the meth in the bag.
Then she saw the lotion bottle.
"I opened the bottle and shoved it in," Amy said. "When they broke through, the cops were like, 'Open the (expletive) door in the bathroom.' And I was like, 'Hey, hey, hey. I'm going down.' I already knew what they were going to do."
Amy was handcuffed. One of the officers recognized her. Drug Enforcement Administration agents were called in. Amy was charged with drug possession for the methamphetamine in her bags. But after her release, she returned to the home.
"I went to the lotion bottle. I'm like, 'Yes, it's still in here," Amy said. "Finally, I pulled it out. It's been in there for two days. I knew if I smoked it, it would taste like baby lotion."
Amy would cure the meth at another home and she would smoke 2 or 3 grams of the drug that day. The rest, she sold. She later learned that police arrived at the first home about half an hour after she left. They were looking for her.
'What I lacked'
Her life from then on would largely revolve around a cat-and-mouse relationship with law enforcement. Amy's usage also began to escalate. Eventually, she would turn to injecting methamphetamine rather than smoking it.
But in July 2018, Amy reunited with an old friend, someone she met during her time in the military. This person was also a drug user, but Amy saw how he was able to maintain his relationship with his family.
"When he found me, he brought me back down south and I never saw Dededo since then. I stayed away from those people," Amy said. "With him, and his relationship with his family, I was reminded of what I lacked. It reminded me of my family a lot."
Slowly but surely, Amy began to reconnect with her mother again, as well as her children, talking to people who were sober and connecting with old friends in the military – her drug use was beginning to decline.
"I just wanted to get out of the streets. I just wanted to get out of the drug world," Amy said.
Amy has two pending court cases. She hopes to clear them by October of this year.
She entered Oasis for the third time in January.
"It's a safe haven," Amy said. "It's just getting us back to our regular lives. It's like muscle memory, coming back to me. I got lost out there and this place is building us back up again."