Cracolândia: picking myself up off the floor

Oct 15 / Clara Akemi

On that cold and rainy day, I was given a second chance in my life. I was woken up by Shally barking ferociously at a young guy who intended to steal from me. I immediately wielded my pocket knife, frightening him away.

-‘Good job, girl! That petty thief chickened out. He won't come back at all.' I said to my faithful dog, while she wagged her tail and kissed me. Showing her my small weapon, I went on, 'Do you see how good it feels to sleep with this one?'

-'Oh, my goodness, let me face one more day in this hell.’ I thought, picking up with my shaking hands a makeshift pipe made from scrap plastic to smoke the last of the crack cocaine. That one took effect quickly, leaving me out of my wits but aware of all the movement around me.

Watching the other homeless people who were also completely insane due to drugs and alcohol use, I started to think about how a person can lose their dignity and self-love. To tell you the truth, I don't even remember when I lost mine. I only know that I used to live a lively and good life: having a home, food, clean clothes. I didn't worry about anything other than my studies at the medical university, where I spent my days in classrooms and working as a resident in a hospital. However, that daily life was leaving me exhausted. I ended up with access to the hospital's pharmacy and started taking stimulants to boost my energy. That was the beginning of my downfall.

Over time, those medications didn't have the same effect anymore, which intensified my addiction to drugs, eventually leading me to start using stronger substances, including cocaine. Man, I used to be really high! Everyone knew what I was doing with my life, including my family, who suffered the most from the consequences of my madness. Besides my aggressive behaviour, I started stealing money from my parents and selling household items to buy drugs. Completely disgusted with the situation, they admitted me to rehabilitation clinics several times, but I used to run away.

My last escape brought me here, to Cracolândia. Getting used to the street life wasn't so hard for me. To ensure my security, I had to use an old and rusty pair of scissors to cut my long, blond hair. I also started to dress up like a man since I didn't want any man by my side trying to protect me and getting on my nerves. Another practical aspect that I needed to figure out was how to get drugs. Then, I terrorized the lives of many innocent people, taking whatever I could from them, such as money, gold necklaces, watches, cell phones to exchange them for cocaine and crack.

'Ellen, is it you?' A sweet voice came among my hazy memories. It was my younger sister who never gave up searching for me. After giving me a steady gaze into my eyes, she continued, 'Thank God! I finally found you. Let's go home.' Despite the difficulties, she managed to lift me up from the floor and lead me out of that damn purgatory.

Nowadays, I'm here in this rehabilitation clinic, and my intention is to leave here only when the doctors discharge me. My life will no longer be the same anymore – once addicted, always addicted. Although these difficulties, I'm confident that with the support of my family, I can overcome them. Oh! It's worth mentioning that Shally will have a well-deserved peaceful life as well!

The 'Cracolândia' described in this story is a violent place in the old centre of São Paulo, Brazil, where homeless people, often completely insane and high, typically cause panic among those living in that area, shopkeepers, and passersby. The mayor tried to forcefully admit them to rehabilitation clinics, but he faced harsh criticism from human rights organisations, which claimed that the action was completely arbitrary. Despite constant attempts, the police are unsuccessful in arresting the drug dealers there. To put it simply, the authorities are looking into solving this social problem.
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