By Staff Sgt. Alexandra M. Longfellow | 21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — She is not an addict, but she loved one.
Airman 1st Class Nikkole Marquez, 21st Medical Operations Squadron medical administrative technician, had a privileged childhood.
“My parents gave us girls the world,” she said, “which is why my story may not make sense to some.”
Marquez and her oldest sister Jillian became best friends, despite their four-year age difference.
“When I was a young girl, I remember always wanting to do what Jillie did,” Marquez said. “We would share clothes and I loved it when she did my hair and makeup.”
Her cherished childhood memories didn’t last long. When Marquez started middle school Jillian became “sick.” Loving her sister was all-consuming and making her an insominiac. Marquez watched her sister deteriorate and withdraw.
“A few months later I found out that my sister was an addict,” she said.
The signs started off small—running away, skipping classes, asking for money. Then the hard stuff came—their home would be wrecked. Everything her parents worked hard for was ruined or taken.
“All this just so she can get high off heroin,” Marquez said. “She stole my dad’s wedding ring and pawned it. My dad had to buy it back from the pawn shop.”
The theft went on for years. Marquez remembers never wanting to go home. She feared returning to find her room cleared out.
“When people look at pictures, many see us as happy, healthy teenagers,” Marquez said. “I, on the other hand, see a worn down and sick Jillie.”
Jillian gave birth to Marquez’s niece, Leahh, when she was only a junior in high school.
“When I found out she was pregnant, I was so happy,” Marquez said. “I knew she had to stay clean now.”
Or so Marquez thought. A short time after Leahh was born Jillian was on drugs again.
Jillian began seeing a boy and they started getting high in the bathroom where she and her sister worked.
“She walked out of work one day and never came back,” Marquez said. “When I graduated high school in 2016, she was already completely out of the picture.”
In 2018, Marquez joined the Air Force. The military changed how she was able to get through her emotions appropriately.
“I had always been a religious person,” Marquez said. “But Basic Military Training grew my faith tremendously. It made me realize I hid my emotions and kept them in. I needed to talk to someone. So I spoke to God. Now I am able to talk to others.”
“I was too afraid to show anyone my feelings,” Marquez said. “I used my sister’s addiction as a crutch to why I did things or how I acted. It wasn’t healthy.”
Marquez said that if she could tell her past self anything, she would say to get the emotional help you need and don’t allow other people’s actions to define who you are as a person.
Her dream is to foster as many children from broken, drug addicted homes as she can.