A cold light rain fell around her as Deana walked out of the Arco Hotel on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver looking to buy some crack cocaine.
She needed a fix to get started for the day – a routine years in the making.
Wearing only her housecoat, she fumbled through her pockets to find her ringing cell phone.
The voice on the other end was loud and excited.
“Mommy this our song do you remember it?”
The song was Dear Mama by Tupac Shakur.
Deana began to cry as she listened to the lyrics and to the exuberant and energetic voice of her daughter blaring through the handset.
She knew it was time. She had poisoned her body and her life for too long. It was time to break free from the painful and devastating grip crack cocaine and heroin had on her.
The road was not going to be smooth but it was a choice between life and death.
Her path began at a young age. One of four children born to an African-American father and an aboriginal mother, her parents split up when Deana was small.
Living with her mother in Vancouver she remembers a typical, idyllic life that included trips to Stanley Park and celebrations with family. But like so many teens, the rules became too onerous and she decided to move to Edmonton to live with her father.
Although he also had very strict rules, her dad allowed Deana to smoke cigarettes and due to his very busy work schedule, was rarely home. It was a freedom that appealed to the then-preteen.
At 12, she began taking Ritalin to control her hyperactive and erratic behavior.
But soon the rules in Edmonton became too much and after giving birth to her first child at age 16, Deana decided to run away. Couch surfing and living with friends, she got mixed up with the wrong crowd.
Not long after, she used a needle for the first time.
“I hated needles, they scared me,” she says.
But a friend convinced her to crush up one of the Ritalin pills, mix it with water and inject the concoction known on the street as “poor man’s heroin” into her arm.
She had found a new friend – one she couldn’t live without.
With her mother having moved back to her reserve in Hazelton in northern B.C., Deana, now with three children, decided to move home for support.
Attempts to break free from addiction proved too difficult and after trips to Vancouver for hepatitis C treatments, she found herself on the Downtown Eastside, alone and addicted to crack cocaine.
“I loved the night life, selling dope and partying, I couldn’t get enough,” she says. “There were times when I couldn’t leave the downtown core, I was physically too paranoid. Downtown I felt safe.”
It was at about the same time that Bobby was building a name for himself on the streets.
Growing up in Glace Bay, N.S., the son of a coal miner, life was tough. Work was scarce and you had to fight to survive.
A former Golden Gloves boxer and wrestler, he moved to Vancouver to make his fortune selling drugs – the only real occupation he had ever known.
Dealing and smoking both crack and heroin, he soon became an addict, buying and selling just to support his uncontrollable habit. His life began to spiral out of control.
In and out of jail, he became a regular in Vancouver Police Department cells.
One evening in October of 2002, while out making his rounds, Bobby came upon a distraught Deana. Having just survived a physical altercation with her boyfriend, she needed help and Bobby was a shoulder to lean on.
A few weeks later Bobby was in jail again.
For Deana, this was her time to get escape drugs. A friend had bought her a bus ticket home to Hazelton, but she had refused to use it until now.
With her body ravaged – her 5’6” frame carrying only 95 pounds and her complexion yellow and jaundiced – she felt now was the time to break free.
Arriving home in Hazelton, she finally realized she had the support she needed.
“My mom never gave up on me, she never shut the door,” she says.
For Bobby, it was a friend who helped him see the light. Fresh out of jail, a young well-dressed man approached him on the street. It was a face he recognized from his years selling drugs. The fellow had climbed his way out of addiction and was willing to help Bobby do the same.
The friend brought Bobby to a recovery house in Surrey.
However, his apparent guardian angel who had saved him from the street, died three days later of an overdose.
“I had a spiritual awakening,” Bobby recalls, “I didn’t want to end up like that.”
Through various contacts and phone numbers he had stashed away, he was able to find Deana in a recovery house in Vernon.
He remembers how she had waited for him when he first got out of jail and was determined to do the same for her.
That was 2003.
Although she relapsed a few times, he continued to give her the support she needed and was at her side the day she graduated from her recovery program.
Now living together in Guildford, Bobby has been clean for eight years and Deana for seven, and they continue to support recovering addicts in both Surrey and Vancouver.
“Every day I wake up and she’s beside me, it makes me feel so thankful,” says Bobby.
Deana works for a non-profit society helping to house the homeless on the Downtown Eastside, and Bobby works in construction.
“Throughout my addiction I have had a dream,” she says, “to have supper with all my kids and to be a beautiful bride one day.”
On July 30 at the Legion in Whalley, that wish will come true as Bobby and Deana will be married in the company of nearly 200 family members and friends.
“People can’t believe we made it out,” says Deana. “I don’t ever want to go back there.”