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Survivor writes memoir of drug abuse, recovery

Woman who became homeless during crystal meth addiction will speak at Central Library.

July 13, 2013|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com
  • Glendale resident and author Debra Collins at her place of employment in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday, July 10, 2013. Collins, an inspirational speaker, recently wrote a book about her experiences as a homeless addict.
Glendale resident and author Debra Collins at her place… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

As a single mother of three kids working two jobs, snorting crystal meth made Debra Collins feel like she could "climb a mountain."

"I felt like I was a fully charged light bulb."

But then Collins lost her job. Bills went unpaid. Checks bounced. She racked up hundreds of dollars of bank overdraft fees.

Eventually, Collins had to give up her three children.

She became homeless. Her addiction worsened.

"I was in such a black, black place," said Collins, who, sitting in a downtown Los Angeles office building in black slacks, chic glasses and a flowered blouse, seemed light years away from being a rail-thin meth addict with skin drooping off a sunken face.

Collins began cleaning up her act nearly a decade ago, but this year, the Glendale resident self-published a memoir sharing her darkest secrets. It can be difficult to read about the sexual and physical abuse she endured as a child, about her spiral into drug addiction and her homelessness, but for Collins, writing about the tragic experiences was effortless.

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At 3 p.m. on Sunday, she plans to talk about her redemption and her book, "Crossing Over Boundaries," at the Central Library so others suffering like she once did no longer feel alone.

"To me, it's not going to do any good inside of me," said the executive office assistant. "I don't want people to feel scared."

Growing up, "scared" is exactly what Collins was. She was afraid of her father, who began sexually abusing her when she was 6. She was afraid of her stepmother, who made her sit in her room alone for hours with nothing to do.

She moved out of their Costa Mesa house when she was 19. She dropped out of community college and quickly married a military man. Two children and seven years later, the couple divorced.

Six years later, Collins had an unexpected pregnancy. She was now a single mother of three.

Then Collins said her husband stopped paying child support just as her rent increased by about $200. During the week she worked as an account representative for the accessories retailer Brighton, and on the weekends she was a waitress at Denny's.

Then one day in January 2002, her friend found meth in her son's room. The two mothers who made cupcakes for bake sales, who volunteered with the Boy Scouts, were now snorting meth together.

After that, Collins couldn't live without it. She started to buy it at bars for $20 a pop.

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