At thirteen, Nicole Lowe, left home and didn’t come back. “On the street, I belonged,” says Lowe, who felt invisible and unwanted in her parent’s care. Within a few weeks on the street, she began using drugs including alcohol, marijuana, and LSD.
“Dreams, goals, ambition—I had those things. I lost them somewhere in the dank labyrinth of my mind. I became the infected. I survived as any disorder or disease survives. I hid in the shadows, in the curve of the wall, under the benches, in the closet, and I waited,” she says.
Lowe was absorbed by an underground gothic vampire cult in Salt Lake City, Utah in the early 90’s. “We believed in an alternate reality where our lives had meaning,” Lowe explained. “I know believing in vampires, werewolves, and elves sounds crazy, and I’m sure some of us could have been institutionalized, but I believed lock, stock, and barrel.”
Dressed in black from head to toe, Lowe fell into the depths of self-destruction. She was raped at fourteen and then given to a male member of the cult who was ten years older than her. “He protected me from everyone, but himself,” she says.
After being thrown across a room for leaving the house without his permission, Lowe escaped by stealing a car with other street teens and leaving the state. Lowe says, “When I left Utah, I thought I was pregnant and I knew he would kill me or I would kill myself.”
Fleeing from Utah, Lowe disappeared into the world of the Grateful Dead. She and her boyfriend of the same age hitchhiked up the western coast, consumed by their addiction to the heavy hallucinogen of the 60’s, LSD. “My diaries from that time are full of plans to get LSD and where to sell it, only to get more.” She says, “LSD was the sun of my galaxy.”
After months, Lowe returned home. “I called home because we needed money for more LSD.” Her mother convinced her to come home, telling her things would be different. “And they were different, but I wasn’t.” Lowe left within two weeks, taking her older brother with her.
“I went back to my street family and I went back to the drugs,” she says. Lowe sold drugs and hitchhiked between Montana and Oregon, sleeping in cardboard boxes and under overpasses. “It’s not the life any parent wants for their child and I didn’t realize the anguish I caused until my son was born.”
Lowe’s son was born when she was just seventeen. By that time, she and the child’s father had an apartment in Utah. As a recovering addict and Junior High school dropout, Lowe had to find a reason to become the mother her son needed.
“I was going to leave again after he was born taking him with me to live in a VW bus. But, when I held him in my arms and his little hand wrapped around my finger, I gave up traveling the world because I held the world in my arms. He saved my life,” a tearful Lowe says.
Her son’s father left when the baby was five months old. “After that, I was all my son had and I wanted him to be proud of his mom,” she says. “I never wanted him to know the horrors of who I had been. I never wanted him to know the darkness I had felt—the self-hatred and destruction.”
Lowe returned to school with three quarters of a credit and fierce determination. Lowe received her GED and began classes at Salt Lake Community College. Applying those credits toward her high school diploma, she graduated one semester behind her class in December 1998.
She didn’t stop there. “I graduated from Salt Lake Community College in 2000 and the U of U in 2002. I worked for the Division of Child and Family Services as a child abuse investigator from 2002 until 2005 when I began law school. I graduated from law school in 2008 and was hired as an Assistant Attorney General in child protection that fall,” Lowe says.
2014 brought a sense of responsibility and desire to give back, and Lowe began to build the Homeless Youth Legal Clinic with the Volunteers of America Utah, and Legal Aid Society of Salt Lake. “My experiences and education only have worth in what they can do for others, not in what they can bring to me alone, because we don’t go through life alone,” she confides.
As program director of the Homeless Youth Legal Clinic, Lowe provides free legal services to homeless youth to remove barriers preventing them from becoming independent. The justice system becomes a revolving door for many youths who are unable to meet court obligations. They are jailed and then lose all the progress they have made, requiring them to start all over.
“You’re not born a fighter, you become a fighter. It’s those of us who must fight to survive who develop the ambition and grit to level the mountains that surround us,” Lowe says. “It’s those of us who don’t become slaves to our past or victims of our circumstances, it’s those of us who don’t accept what the world believes we are who become who we know we can be.”
Lowe advocates it’s a sense of acceptance, belonging, and safety that changed her life at a time when she was ready to change, and it is those elements that make dreams and change possible for others who find themselves caught among the jagged rocks of life.
“The past will always be there. You get to choose what to do with it. It can be chains or it can be wings. I chose wings and I choose them every day,” says Lowe.
From The Epoch Times