By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
So Olivia took more meth. Unable to pay rent, she quickly lost her apartment. Money also came due on a storage garage full of her life's possessions. She and Scout watched them hit the auction block. Scout lost his bed from IKEA. Olivia lost a tea set handed down from her Bavarian ancestors, an antique highboy chest and a ship in a bottle that her blind grandfather had built by hand.
Her heirlooms weren't the only things being lost. She grudgingly agreed to let her father keep Seth for another year. And her health was also slipping away. A year of hot-railing meth -- torching it through a Pyrex pipe straight into her nose -- had permanently damaged her septum. Asleep in the house where she and Scout now lived with another dealer, she sounded like a chirping bird. She gave up smoking for shooting. "I was a sketchy little girl," she says. "Just crazy I was once again just filling that pain and that hole with getting high."
Olivia needed a fairy godmother. And she knew who. Peter, a prominent River Oaks hairdresser, was recovering from a relapse. She called him. He hired her as his personal assistant. And she and Scout moved in with him. Olivia organized his life. And Peter kept her off meth and functioning. He drove Olivia and Scout around Montrose with stuffed animals buckled into the backseat of his Mercedes. When she was too depressed to get up, he literally pulled her out of bed. He joked that she was being a "bratty cat."
By spring of last year, Olivia's life was looking up. Her drug counseling group sent her on a monthlong scholarship to the Menninger Clinic, a top drug recovery institute. She emerged nearly cured of her depression. Her father bought her a car. She landed a job managing and leasing an apartment complex, and moved into a discounted, $900-a-month flat there with a slate floor and double crown molding. One day, she was driving with her mom to Brenham. "I lost everything just two years ago," Olivia told her, "and I'm accumulating everything back now. I've got a job and a home, and I'm doing it all on my own."
Her mom cried.
A few months later, her father called from Deweyville, outside Beaumont. Seth was missing. He had been wide awake for days and erratically in and out of the house -- she knew the behavior. She sped to Seth's school with the local sheriff and traced him to a drug house in nearby Orange County. Seth pulled up with friends just as she arrived. The sheriff told him he could go to his grandfather's house, his mom's house or jail. Seth chose jail.
In jail, Seth confessed to taking meth. And Olivia leveled with him. She told him that she had sold Tupperwares full of it. That its lingering effects were why her hands now twitched uncontrollably. That she had smoked an eight-ball of it a day, enough to knock him cold, and still craved more. She begged him to enter a drug treatment program. But he said a fucking drug dealer had no right to tell him what to do. "You know what," Olivia said, "if you don't want help, I'm out of here, I'm leaving."
She drove back to Houston, wracked with guilt. "I felt like I had done this to him," she says. So despite everything that had been going right for her, that night she went back to shooting meth.
Meth runs in the family. Whether deep in the Piney Woods or deep in The Woodlands, it comes back for seconds and thirds. "I've done whole families," DiMambro says. "I work on Daddy, Mama, kids, and then I work on their kids."
Parents sometimes do nothing to keep their children off the drug; some are even their pushers. Maggie, who was 14 at the time, was sitting in her family's travel trailer in Buffalo, Texas, when her stepdad walked in. "He was like, 'Hey, Maggie, want to try some speed?' "
Soon, she was joining her parents every morning for breakfast and a hit. "They'd shoot up or whatever and I would smoke half a gram off foil," she says. "And we'd just sit there and have breakfast and then go on about our day. Or if we were in a hurry, I'd put, like, a quarter-gram in a paper towel or in a piece of bread or a pill and swallow it."
Meth helped her study, made her a more energetic cheerleader and loosened her teeth, allowing her braces to straighten them faster. "It seemed like to me it was a positive in every direction," she says.
Emphasizing the drug's negatives isn't always a deterrent, either. Olivia has done her best to drive home meth's ill effects for Scout, whom she involves in her drug counseling sessions. But even if children know drugs are bad, experts say, they often will resort to using them in their adult lives at the first sign of stress, simply because drugs are familiar. Eight-year-old Scout, for example, is a dictionary of meth terms and sometimes calls Olivia "tweaker girl."