Prison, or legalization. A lifetime of addiction, or rehabilitation. Illicit drugs, smuggled past our borders, or over-the-counter pills. For the past two weeks we’ve looked at the War on Drugs from a few of what may be dozens of angles. We’ve barely scratched the surface.
The final story in this series is a tale of redemption – a young girl raised in a motherless home because of drugs, who started down that same road. She found love and is making a home for her family – a home that is free of drugs and filled with hope.Just the word “mother” evokes emotion in almost all of us.
For 22-year-old Consuelo Rosales, it defines the lowest of lows in her life – and now it defines her, in her prime.
While there have been other influences, it was primarily in lashing out against a maternal void that she headed down a destructive path of drug use and abuse at the tender age of 12.
“I had older sisters, but they weren’t a mom. I had my dad, but he wasn’t a mom either. And he was always gone trying to provide for us,” the 2008 Decatur High School graduate said. “I needed my mom.”
It was anger over a mother’s absence that drove her in the wrong direction at first.
“The reason I started (using drugs) wasn’t because it was the cool thing to do, or the most fun, popular,” she said. “I was just angry – at the world, at my mom … for leaving.
“My sisters told me that I was three months old when she left for the first time. She was always in and out, in and out. And in seventh grade, she just left and didn’t come home,” she continued. ” She would always leave after dinner, after making sure we were bathed, fed and put to bed, and she followed the same routine. But she just decided not to come home one night. And she didn’t come home the next day or the next, and was just gone after that.
“That’s why I did it. That’s why I got involved. It wasn’t for fun.”HIDING PAIN
Consuelo masked the hurt and disappointment in rebellion and consumed her first alcoholic beverage at age 12.
“My dad still had three of us at home. So he was always working and trying to provide for us,” she said. “And here we are, the bad teenagers, always having parties at the house, getting older friends to buy us drinks. Both my sisters are older so it was just easy for me.”
But an emotional cover-up quickly spiraled downward to encompass consumption of various other drugs, again expedited by availability substances. It was an act of rebellion, fueled by fury and facilitated by convenience and accessibility.
“I’ve had just about anything and everything in my body, other than heroin,” she said. “It wasn’t until my eighth-grade year that I started smoking weed, and it was just one thing after another after another after that. It went from smoking weed to cocaine to ecstasy to acid The ecstasy wasn’t an all-the-time type thing. It was only the weekends. Those days, weekends are kind of a blur. But the cocaine and smoking, those were daily, and I remember all of that
“It fell in my lap. It was so easy for me to get it. I knew someone who would bring more to my house if I wanted it,” she continued. “The people I worked with, friends. It was there … I don’t think people understand how easily accessible it is for anybody, especially teenagers.
“I would go to work. By the end of the night, I would get a 50 (an amount of cocaine). I would get money from other people and get 50s for them. There’s so much, and so many people know somebody. Still to this day, I could name quite a few people that I know I could get something from.
“Knowing what I do now, I’m completely dumbfounded about how I’m still alive, after everything that I’ve done.”
Although she turned to substance abuse as a coping mechanism, she found no true solace in her habits. They were just that – addiction.
“It was just a daily thing,” she said. “It was so easily accessible to me. I was a waitress at multiple places, and everywhere I went, I could get it from the cooks. It was work, spend money on that, go to school the next day, have some leftover to get me through school and go to work and do the same thing.”
Although she didn’t initially turn to the drug lifestyle for social status, that scene contributed to her continued use.
“I didn’t go into it for fun. But the partying and hanging out with friends and the stories for the next day of what we did the day before or the weekend, the people and the friends that I had and the fun that I was having kept me going,” she said. “My group of friends – the main five to our parties, which would get anywhere up to 60 – we would have the biggest raves under the sun. We knew what we were doing before we even got there. We knew what we were doing after, before it even happened. We knew what we were doing on the weekend. Everything to our partying and hanging out was planned
“But at the end of the day, I never got anything out of it. I just kept digging myself in deeper and deeper and deeper.”
And as she continued to get away with it, she continued digging.
“The people who aren’t very street-smart, it’s obvious what they’re doing and how they’re doing it and people ignore it. But the people who are a little bit smarter, they can keep anything hidden,” Consuelo said.
“People would bring medicine to school because they’re sick and end up taking a whole sheet of pills and be messed up for the day,” she said. “It’s that easy to just go to Wal-Mart and get some cough and cold syrup and down it. It’s very easy, and people don’t realize it.
“I remember going to school, and I had a flip-phone back then,” she continued. “I would take the battery out of the back and put a sack of coke there instead and put it back together and everything was good. Go to the bathroom during break or randomly, whenever, flush the toilet and go do a line in the high school bathroom. It was very easy to get away with it.”
Even when her actions were seen, they were not adequately addressed, she said.
“My dad didn’t address it,” she said. “Aside from working all of the time to provide for us, I don’t think he knew the extent of what I was doing and when I was doing it and how often I was doing it. He just knew that I liked to party. I was, in his eyes, a typical student just partying.”
She also escaped the wrath of school administrators.
“One time, I got caught, but I didn’t have anything on me,” she said. “They knew that I was not in the right state of mind, but I didn’t have anything on me. They could have drug-tested me, but they didn’t.
“That’s the blind eye,” she continued. “People don’t want to really mess with this. Why? I don’t know. I wish I would have got caught. I wish somebody would have got me in trouble. I mean I got in trouble – I got kicked out of school freshman year. But that was a slap on the hand. They took me out of high school and put me in AEP. They should have done something a little bit more drastic.
“I feel like they could’ve charged me with something legally, got me in serious trouble to let me know that this is real, this isn’t OK, you can’t do this. But I just got kicked out of school … I think that they just don’t really want to mess with it because it’s too much for people.”
But Consuelo is quick to acknowledge how ineffective efforts to help a drug user are unless the abuser is willing to be helped.
“Even if people would have tried to help, I don’t think they would’ve been successful,” she said. “I have a one-track mind. I do what I want. I’m very strong-willed, loud-mouthed and very opinionated. I don’t think people around you can help if you don’t want to. You can only be helped if you want it. No one can force you to get better. Only you can find a reason to choose that for yourself.”
For Consuelo, that came as a second shot at a family – this time, with her in the role of mother.
Consuelo dipped down into drug abuse and climbed away from it, in line with the emotional turmoil of her life. That roller-coaster parallelled her relationship with her high school sweetheart, Eddie Gonzales.
“I started using the hard-core stuff freshman year of high school, and I continued through most of high school, until I started talking to Eddie, when I was 16,” she said. “He hated anything and everything about it. We would do the weekend, normal high school partying where you go to somebody’s house and drink. And that would be the extent of where he got involved. He hated everything about it. Even smoking cigarettes, he absolutely hated it.”
The two started dating in 2006 and were off-and-on until 2009, much like her drug use. While they remained together, Consuelo cleaned up and appeared headed in the right direction.
After high school, she moved to Arlington with him and attended the Ogle School of Skin, Hair and Nails in Hurst (from which she graduated in 2009). However, just before her graduation, she and Eddie split, sending Consuelo on perhaps the steepest plummet of her life.
“I moved to Lake Dallas, back in with my dad. And I was still commuting to finish school,” she said. “I kinda got into a little bit more, a little bit deeper. I was like ‘Yay! This is the first time I’m single in four years. I’m going to go out and party and have fun.’ Well that just put me right back in the dump with that, too. I started working in Dallas at clubs. Then it was all the time partying, partying, partying. Every single day, life was a party.”
By 2010, the couple resolved their issues and progressively began restoring their relationship.
Again, Consuelo began pulling away from the harmful lifestyle.
“He pulled me away from working in the clubs, but I was still drinking and stuff,” she said. “But it wasn’t anything like what it was when I was staying and living the Dallas life. From there, Eddie and I started getting more serious again. Once we started talking and getting back on speaking terms and everything was better, I didn’t want to mess with that.
“Finally, he gave me an ultimatum – ‘It’s that or me.’ And I, of course, chose him … I had my dad’s love, the love of my sisters and, I’m sure somewhere in there, I had my mom’s. But Eddie’s was just different.”
Eddie added his perspective to the story.
“I have uncles that chose that lifestyle,” he said. “They do any and every kind of drug you put before them and then ask for more. And that’s all they do. They have nothing else going for them in life. She’s a pretty girl with lots of potential. That stuff would not allow her to be all that she is now. I saw what it could do to a person, to a family. She is better than that.”
On Sept. 13 of that year the couple reconciled, they welcomed a daughter – Miracle Noelle, now 2.
“Eddie got me through it; my daughter will keep me away from it,” Consuelo said. “It has been a complete life turn-around, and she is the reason for that. She makes me a better version of me. After I had my daughter, I was still angry and mean. But seeing her, I just couldn’t be that way anymore.
“I feel like my daughter’s never going to have the relationship with me like what I had with my mom. I’m going to be there for her. I didn’t have that. That alone will help tremendously, and I’m crossing my fingers that she’ll never have to go through anything like what I did.
“With my past, I don’t regret it at all. I’ve learned from every single thing that I’ve done. But I’m not proud of it.”
But she quickly backtracks and offers a confession.
“Well, the only thing I regret is disappointing my dad,” she said. “He did everything he could to compensate for what we went through, and I let him down like that. But I could’ve done that with not being very academic or athletic like my older sisters. Tanisha and Danielle, my older sisters, were always on the A Honor Roll. The first time Danielle made a B was in her high school art class, I think. Tanisha was the athlete. They set the standards up to here.
“I didn’t like sports. I didn’t care about school or academics. I was the odd ball in the family, and I did use that for awhile. I just put excuses off on anything and everything that I could.
“But I was mad,” she added. “So I turned to that lifestyle, and I learned that nothing works in that lifestyle. Now that I’ve put that past me, I have my family, God, everything I have going on in my life,” she continued. “I have come so far from those days, and my story is way more than what most people think, more than weekend drinking and smoking pot parties.
“Not only have I been delivered from this, but I have also committed my life to God and living a wholesome life. I’m not a perfect woman of God, but I am working on it … Truth is, I didn’t know what life was about.”
As she leans down and plants a smooch on a head of brown curls topped with a big orange bow, she adds:
“I do now.”