Fearless Female: Battling cocaine addiction during the pandemic

“I had just been given my last paycheque and I wasn’t looking forward to the pandemic. I learned that I wasn’t going to qualify for any unemployment benefits because I had chosen to pay for health insurance instead of payroll tax. It was horrible. I got my bills and I called around to see if I could arrange payment plans. This was at the beginning of the pandemic, so they said no.

“I was finally getting my life together again and I could see it going back to shit. So instead of paying any bills, I bought two eight balls (an eighth of an ounce) of coke instead.”

Tosha (not her real name) says while the lockdown as a result of the global pandemic has been a time of reflection and reset for many, being caged indoors is not ideal for those who are afflicted with drug addiction.

“I questioned why I bought them, but I started to snort them. I did both eight balls in 30 hours. And then I went out and bought another one,” she shares in this SheHub exclusive.

The Bermudian mother of one says, sleep deprived and exhausted she finally laid down, only to be woken up by a severe nose bleed.

“I looked at myself and I was skinny and my face was drawn but I still did a few lines. I got the shakes, I was dribbling and I started to feel numb. And the urge to still do more coke did not go away. I wasn’t worried that I could I have died; my only worry was that no one would find me if I died because I lived alone and no one really came to check on me.”

But the 40-year-old says she eventually feared that had overdosed and she called a friend of hers who is a police officer. A short time after, he and a nurse turned up at Tosha’s house and immediately started searching her house.

“They found stashes that I even forgot I had,” she shares.

How did Tosha get here? She is beautiful, charismatic and intelligent. She was raised in a two-parent home full of love and wasn’t deprived of anything growing up.

“Expectations,” she answers simply. “People expected me to be a role model. My family wanted me to be a certain way, but I was different. When I got pregnant in my late teens, it divided my family as they did not understand why I hung out when I had such good parents. I ended up losing the baby but ended up pregnant again a few months later. My parents accepted me for who I was, but my extended family, which is very close knit, is always in each other’s business, so I was judged.”

Tosha says despite being a young mother with no college education, she landed a good job. By the time she reached 30, she found herself working with high-powered people. Eventually, she was invited to attend parties with them. And it was the first time she’d seen people openly snorting cocaine.

“I was so shocked seeing so many people doing coke. I had only lit up a spliff occasionally; I wasn’t even into smoking cigarettes. They were so open. I was hesitant at first when they asked me; I didn’t even know how to do it, but I did. It was weird being a 30-year-old succumbing to peer pressure.”

Tosha recalls being in awe of what types of people were in attendance that night: “A high profile football player, two doctors, a teacher, CEOs and managers of international companies. I couldn’t believe it.

“I figured they had more to lose than me so I did the coke.”

She recalls her reaction that night which changed the trajectory of her life for the next decade: “It was a rush that made me want to do it again. It was better than smoking weed. I scared myself with it.”

Tosha says when she got home that night, she thought that her boyfriend would notice that she was high, but he didn’t. And that, she says, is when her descent into regular cocaine use began.

By 2016, Tosha tells SheHub, she was suffering from depression; she felt that her life wasn’t as accomplished as she wanted it to be. She was still keeping her cocaine usage from her boyfriend and family. She admits that she was resorting to unscrupulous behaviours.

“I was having sex with multiple people. I was on a rampage. I would get up in the morning, have a line of coke, go to work and then tell them that I was sick just so I could go back home. I would tell my boss that I was ill from a condition that I had but it had nothing to do with it.

“I had the constant sniffles. I used to walk around with tissues and toilet paper all the time and blame it on the weather, saying it was my allergies acting up. I don’t think people believed me all the time but I am very confrontational, so they didn’t say anything otherwise to my face.”

Before a matter of time, Tosha hit bottom—and was outed for her cocaine usage.

“I bought some coke from a dealer and he went and told one of my cousins. He told me he knew what I was doing. I knew that I needed to get help. My cousin never told any of our relatives.

But I knew I needed to make a change when my daughter walked in my room and caught me sniffing a line. I thought I’d locked my door and I hadn’t. She called one of my friends and told her. I then made an appointment to go into drug treatment.

I told my mother and she was very supportive. She went with me to my first appointment.”

But Tosha says she had to wait seven months to start treatment, continued to use and ended up stealing money from her employers to support her habit.

In 2018, she entered private treatment and was clean for approximately 18 months, but she relapsed in 2019.
The biggest regret Tosha says she has, is how her daughter was affected by her drug abuse: “People talked about her; said that I was an embarrassment. I really didn’t realise what I put her through. I was stupid.”

Clean now for several months, Tosha says she is more committed than ever not to use again but admits she still fight urges after close to a decade of cocaine use.

She says nature is her refuge.

“Parks and beaches are safe havens to me. I am fine as long as I can go to a beach. I think people need to realise that it is so difficult to be cooped up. Not going anywhere during the lockdown could have caused a lot of people to relapse. Addicts cannot handle being locked up during the pandemic.
And she wants those who make judgements about drug addicts to understand, “The biggest misconception they have about addicts is that they are people who come from nothing, or who live on the streets but many come from money, have good jobs and the best of everything…they just lost control.”

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