A Mother’s Devastating Story Of Her Daughter’s Tragic Life, And Death

Geri Please give us a little background about you and Zoie.

Olga Zoie’s father was a local Emmy Award winning news photographer in Beverly Hills, CA, where we lived. He was very angry, and was abusive to me, which Zoie witnessed. His own father had committed suicide, and his other daughter from another marriage was a hard-core addict starting in her teens. She died at 32 of pneumonia. Zoie’s father eventually died of cirrhosis of the liver.”

What was Zoie like as a child, and when did her addiction begin?

“Zoie was very precocious.  When she was around 11, we moved from Beverly Hills to Denver, where she became really upset and rebellious, and started cutting herself.  I put her in therapy, but by the time she was 12 she was drinking and was completely defiant. She started jumping out of windows at night to be with her friends.

“The drinking eventually progressed to heroin. It’s a runaway train. Her life was getting more and more out of control. Meanwhile, I was in a new relationship with a man who just didn’t want to offer support or deal with the situation, and I didn’t seek enough help for myself.

“The situations Zoie got herself into over the years were horrendous. She hung around with awful people, and continued to deteriorate. She’d call me hysterical that she’d been robbed, that this happened and that happened.  When I wasn’t an enabler, doing things like getting her hotel rooms after she lost her apartment, I tried to do the tough love, telling her I wasn’t answering her calls until she got help. She was on the street for five months.

“I put her in a year-long program called Teen Challenge when she was around 16, thinking it would help her if she deepened her spiritual values and had more of a presence of God in her life. I didn’t know what to do. But she came home after nine months, totally out of control, and threatened my life.  I had to put her in juvenile detention, but that’s a joke. It’s no real deterrent and they don’t do anything for the kids. It’s like a party.  But I always took her back home. I was her mother.  It was horrible.  We had tremendous arguments.

“At one point Zoie was gang raped and I put her in a psych ward. She felt very unloved. She cried. She sobbed. She suffered.  She was ashamed.  ‘I know it’s my fault,’ she said over and over.  ‘I know it’s my fault.’

“She became an escort near the end of her life, selling her body for $300 an hour.  She was involved with a cartel. The mountains of Colorado are hubs for the Mexican cartel and she was moving money for them.

“Zoie fell asleep in the lobby of a hotel one day, while waiting for a man to come back for her. She couldn’t check in, because he had her purse and her belongings. They wanted her out of the hotel, so the police were called.  I don’t know how long she was there. She bit the officer when he was arresting her. He threw the book at her. She was in jail for about five months, but after being released she didn’t last four days before she was killed. It’s still an investigation.”

Did you have a support system during all these years, and what have you learned?

“No one ever wanted to do an intervention with me. They didn’t want to get involved.  Addiction and mental illness go hand in hand, yet we stigmatize mental problems. No one called when she was in the psych ward and had been gang raped, five years before she died.  People think it’s a private matter.  I didn’t have enough tools or help to rally around her and try to change her perspective.

“Few people understand what addiction is. They think it’s a choice.  They would say to me, ‘Oh, why doesn’t she just stop. She should pick herself up and just stop. She’s so pretty. She has everything  going for her.’  You wouldn’t treat someone with cancer like this. No wants to be addicted to drugs and live on the street. They don’t want to be in emotional pain, suffering and acting out. Leading these shattered lives.

“The addiction is pervasive. You’re not even dealing with your daughter or son; you’re dealing with the addiction. I watched Zoie go down in flames. Everything became so hopeless.  I was surrounded by this addiction, this insanity, these lies. My normal became absolutely absurd.

Two of Zoie’s best friends died. I hardly know a person who doesn’t have someone they know who isn’t touched by this. Shame and blame make things worse and keep everyone in the problem. As parents, we don’t get the backup we need on how to treat the addict. We need to educate ourselves to know how to respond and better serve the addict. Be honest, be non-judgemental, be helpful and compassionate. Ask what you can do as a family? That’s at the heart of everything.”

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