From Torment To Triumph: Cupcake Brown

Every so often, a story comes along that reminds people of both the best and the worst that life has to offer. Such was the case of Cupcake Brown, whose amazing and moving story (video) was featured on The Early Show Tuesday.

Her life began with no hint of the pain that was to come.

"I had a mom and a dad and I lived in a wonderful neighborhood," she told Dave Price, "in a big Victorian style house. And I had my own bedroom. I had a white princess canopy bed."

Brown grew up in San Diego, in a loving and stable home. But everything changed when she was 11 years old and her mother died of a seizure. "Sometimes it hurts like it happened yesterday," she said.

To make matters worse, her step-father, Tim Long, who had raised Brown all her life, tried to get custody but lost when her biological father came to claim her.

"There was nothing I could do. She was taken away," Long said. "She was there and I could not get her back."

Her biological father put her into foster care, which, Brown says, was an utter nightmare.

"In foster care, I was raped and beaten. And so I ran away," she said. "I'm 11 years old, I'm on the streets. I'm cold. I'm hungry."

Brown says she met a prostitute that night who showed her some kindness and a way to make some money. Within weeks of her mother's death, she says she was well on her way to a life on the streets.

In her new memoir, "A Piece of Cake," Brown writes that she hitchhiked up and down the coast of California, joined a gang at 14, and was shot at 15. At 17, she found her way back to her stepfather, all grown up and all strung out. To convince herself she wasn't really a hopeless junkie, she wanted to work.

"If you work, you can't be an addict, so keep a job. You've got to keep a job," she said.

Attorney Ken Rose hired Brown, unaware, at first, of her problems.

"She wasn't the perfect image of a secretary from the way she dressed, but other than that, just being kind of a bit funky, no, I did not have any idea," he said.

Brown did good work for Rose but, within months, her addictions caught up with her job.