Nanette spends a lot of time thinking about the way things should have gone. When she does, she shakes her head and casts her eyes toward the floor, disgusted with herself.
Shed always wanted to get married and have a big, loving family. She dreamed about a warm home and becoming a police detective.
At age 51, none of its really panned out.
I guess thats what happens when you spend 40 years on drugs, she shrugs.
Nanette is a methamphetamine addict. Shes been using it on and off for almost as long as its been around. Before she found meth, she did other drugs. Shes spent most of the last four decades feeding addictions, and if her past is any indication of her future, shell probably be doing it the rest of her life.
Sure, there have been good times for Nanette. Take the day she met her husband, their beautiful outdoor wedding and the births of seven children.
But theres been a lot more, too. Like the first time she got high, before shed even learned to drive a car. And the first time she had sex, with a man more than twice her age when she was barely 13.
Then there was the day, four years later, when she was raped, and the first time her husband went to jail. Then came her first arrest, then the afternoon he accidentally killed their two-year-old son.
She struggles more than she should to remember the exact order of it all.
When did she deliver her first drug-addicted baby? It takes her a minute to piece it together. How old was her oldest daughter when the government finally took her children? Eleven. No, wait. Fourteen.
And then there are the parts she cant really remember at all. Long stretches, entire years even, are a blur.
I did this to myself, she admits. Its my own fault.
Nanettes is not a success story. With meth, most of them arent....
For at least the last decade, methamphetamine has been the most widely abused illegal drug across both California and Merced County, according to the states Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs. Locally, more people enter treatment programs for help kicking meth than any other drug, including alcohol.
At least as addictive as heroin and even harder to permanently quit, meth is an epidemic here.
Methamphetamine is easy to make, easy to hide, easy to sell and it hooks people so fast, Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin says. For us, a lot of the time it feels like a losing battle.
It feels the same way for Nanette.
Her history reveals how the scourge of drugs ruins lives, generations and destinies. Users lose control of both everyday and longterm dreams. Their worlds orbit around some kind of dope, and nothing else matters as much. The fix is all.
Nannette stands for a lot of Mercedians whose fates have been ripped apart for a few minutes of bliss. Whats happened to her has happened to many. And, chances are, it will keep on happening.
Like bleach poured into water, drug use pollutes a community. Straight-living taxpayers often wind up footing the bill for drug abuse either through the criminal justice system ($40,000 a year for a California inmate) or in government-sponsored treatment programs.
Social service providers and law enforcement officials say meth is among the most serious and costly problems facing Merced. The story of Nanettes addiction can help us understand that problem, and it may help deter someone from ever starting the downward spiral....
Alcohol was Nanette's first addiction. She started drinking at 13, around the same time that a neighbor, a man in his 30s, started molesting her.