Demeiia left her suburban Chicago hometown of Evanston, IL for Los Angeles at 23 because she needed to change her life. Her story weaves through many pockets of our sprawling city – from Eagle Rock to North Hollywood to South Los Angeles and finally, The Jungle*  – where she knew she would die.

Demeiia excelled in school through junior high. She entered her freshman year as an honors student. She would look around at the other kids in her classes and recognize hers was the only black face; she felt as though she did not belong. She began feeling lonely and increased her use of alcohol and marijuana to cope with her feelings. She started ditching school. She hooked up with a gang and started selling drugs. She tried cocaine for the first time and stopped going to school altogether.

After moving to Los Angeles, Demeiia could not stay away from drugs and her addiction landed her on the streets. She began using her body to make money to buy drugs. On her birthday in April 2008, she was picked up on an outstanding warrant. She was given the choice of going to prison or entering a year’s treatment program. She opted for the program.

In addition to being a recovering addict, Demeiia has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Staying clean was a challenge in the sober living home, especially when drug use around her was rampant. But she completed the program.

CarterShe had been clean for three years when she got pregnant. When her boyfriend started using again, she was tempted to use also. She wanted to use again. But she didn’t. She moved out and lived in her sponsor’s garage until she learned about A Community of Friends.

In October 2012, Demeiia and her infant son, Carter, moved into Brandon Apartments. It took her a few weeks to actually get used to living in a clean, safe place of her own. But then, an innate determination and drive to thrive kicked in. She worked on her education. She stayed away from drugs with support from Narcotics Anonymous, her therapist and on-site services at Brandon Apartments.

Today, Demeiia looks around her apartment and sees that everything she has, everything she has earned, even her young son, “fits on a crack pipe.” She will lose it all if she uses again and she knows it. This motivates her to keep working on herself to remain clean and sober and stable. She has earned two Associates Degrees and is a Drug and Alcohol Recovery Specialist. She is working on a bachelor’s degree in human services at Cal State Dominguez Hills. As part of her curriculum, she will complete an internship with Volunteers of America’s Pathways to Home Veterans Services.

BrandonApts-300x135Demeiia also has a different perspective about The Jungle than she did a few years ago – she works as a peer advocate for HOPICS (Homeless Outreach Program/Integrated Care System) in their mobile unit, which provides services for currently homeless people with co-occurring disorders in the very area of South Los Angeles where she thought she would die. Now, Demeiia is helping those who are ready to receive the help that is available, the kind of help she needed before she made it to A Community of Friends.

*Baldwin Village, alternatively known as The Jungle, is a community in South Los Angeles with dense, twisty, one-way-in-one-way-out stretch of dead ends is thought to be one of L.A.’s most dangerous neighborhoods.