Due to her religious upbringing, and at her mom's insistence, Hankins was pressured into marrying "the boy" at age 18. They hadn't even really dated, only some successful sneaking around with each other for about six months.
Her mother had decided it was the best course of action even though Vikki wasn't "supposed" to date anyone outside of the church, let alone get married to them. Mom was determined to right this ship and that started with wedding vows.
"I had no choice in the matter," says Hankins.
Vikki also had it in her mind that perhaps marrying the boyfriend would soothe her mother's ills, to some degree, to make things OK with her ... the church ... the world.
It actually made them worse. Yes, another bad decision. She made quite a few back then.
"My mom had lent us her car to go get the blood test, that night is when she had [her first real]
mental breakdown. [She] was in a hospital when we stood before the preacher. ... I can still see me standing there, spaced out ... green to life, going through the motions. A zombie," recalls Hankins.
"He was excited though."
Her new husband's drug use only escalated. He went from snorting cocaine to smoking crack.
Hankins would find mini zip-lock baggies - commonly used to distribute drugs - all over the house.
Not being very streetwise, she didn't really know what they were for, so she didn't pay them much attention.
She did notice, however, that he was now demanding her meager paycheck she earned through hard labor, harvesting one of Florida's biggest foliage crops in the fields near Crescent City.
"That's when the abuse came in," says Hankins. "I was cutting fern ... using my income to assist taking care of him and I, because his habit had gotten so bad."
Her whole family was naive to the persistence and creativity of a drug addict.
"One time, I gave my mom my money for the week and to keep it," Vikki remembers. He came looking for the money and she said no, that she had given the money her mom.
He promptly marched right over to her mother's house and got the money back and spent it on drugs. It wasn't the ideal marriage, for sure (if you could even call it a marriage).
"To this day I do not know what it feels like to be someone's wife, I don't know what that's about," admits Hankins. "I didn't see him as my husband."