Cindi Jett took a 15-year tour through life's seediest side and lived to tell about it.
After being kicked out of her house at 14, the28-year-old Severn resident embarked on a nightmarish adventure thatincluded drugs, prostitution and jail.
Back then, her life consisted of selling PCP and smoking cocaine.Sometimes, Jett made as much as $20,000 a week in drug sales. When she didn't have the cash, she turned to prostitution for drug money. By her own admission, drugs became her sole reason for living. They had cast such a spell over her that she neglected her young son.
Butthat's in the past. In 1989, she turned to Second Genesis Inc., a private, non-profit residential drug and alcohol treatment program based in Bethesda. Jett didn't go willingly, however. An Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge gave her an ultimatum: drug treatment or fiveyears in jail.
Jett succeeded and was one of 37 recovering alcoholics and drug addicts who graduated Saturday from the Second Genesis facility in Crownsville.
The day before the big event, Jett seemedalmost gleeful when she thought about the graduation ceremony.
"It's a miracle. I'm a miracle," she said. "I don't know how I actuallylived through it."
Sitting in an office at a Jessup manufacturingcompany, where she works as a bindery operator, Jett was eager to tell her story.
"I started because I wanted to be accepted," she said. "My mother had been married four times. She always worked. She wasnever at home. I didn't have the attention."
She was 12 years oldwhen she first smoked marijuana with her friends. Then she started skipping classes to smoke pot.
At 14, she was thrown out of school.Her mother, Barbara, promptly kicked her out of the house.
"She felt she couldn't control me," Jett said.
After spending nine months with her father on Kent Island, Jett came back to Anne Arundel County and began moving from friend's house to friend's house.
"I wanted to run the streets," Jett said. "I started smoking pot again and also began taking acid and PCP.
"For me, drugs took away a lot of the feeling and pain. It mellowed me out. I didn't have to worry aboutnothing."
For three months, she lived in an abandoned Crofton farmhouse, drinking water from a well and cooking food in a fireplace.
"It was cold," she said. "My mother knew I was there and sent a gallon of milk and some bread. I wouldn't accept it. Why give me food when she wouldn't accept me at home?"
Eventually, she began working at a Giant Food supermarket in Prince George's County.
While there, she met Clem, a drug user and dealer.
"He was my sugar daddy," she said. "He bought me expensive jewelry and clothes. He took me to Atlantic City. He wined and dined me. He made me feel like a millionaire."
He also introduced her to cocaine. She promptly began using aquarter-ounce a day. "It was like running water," she recalled.
Jett was high all the time, even at work, snorting cocaine and smokingPCP.
Then she began selling PCP, making as much as $20,000 a week.
Although Jett had money, there was no order in her life. She left Clem and took up with Carl, whom she married in 1984. Three months later she left him, even though she was pregnant.
Jett's pregnancydidn't deter her from using drugs. "I'd stay up a week at a time," she said. "Some friends would come over with an ounce of cocaine in a baggie and we'd smoke it."
She only thought about her unborn childwhen she was sober, which wasn't often.
"I'd think about it, but then someone would bring a pipe and a rock and I'd be ready," she said.
Still, Jett is grateful and amazed that her son, C. J., now 6, was born healthy.
"I thought his face would be twisted and destroyed," she recalled. "God gifted me with this child."
By this time, she had moved back in with her mother, who was living in Cape St. Claire.
Her drug problems got worse. Leaving her son with her mother,Jett would hit the Annapolis housing projects in search of drugs.
She also continued selling PCP. When she couldn't make enough money from dealing, she turned to prostitution.
She was arrested for selling PCP three times in three months.
While sitting in the Anne Arundel County Detention Center, Jett realized that she would be convicted and sentenced to prison for a long time.
Luckily, that didn't happen. Circuit Judge Robert H. Heller Jr. gave her the option of prison or drug treatment.
She entered the treatment facility in October 1989.
"At first, I did it for my mother and to avoid jail time,but then I started doing it for Cindi," Jett said.
"I learned that if you keep things inside, no one can help you."
While there, she weathered several rocky moments, including losing custody of her son to her mother, but she continued her treatment. She started her Jessup job in August and moved to her own place in November.
"This program really works," she said. "I learned to live all over again. Drugs wasn't for me anymore. And I'm getting my son back, and I talk to my mother again."