Kristin had a picture perfect childhood. The blonde haired, blue eyed kid was an only child living with her middle class family in a small town in West Virginia.
Growing up, she won numerous beauty pageants, participated as a majorette in band and earned average grades in school. By age 20, she was an addict.
“At home, I wasn’t receiving the same validation I received from the awards or competitions I had won. There was name-calling and emotional abuse. My parents would leave notebook pages full of daily chores – like single-spaced front and back – to complete, and if I didn’t finish them by the time they returned home, I would be punished,” Kristin said.
“One time, I received a report card with a C, and I was grounded from talking to or seeing any friends for nine weeks until the next report card came out. It was total social isolation.”
While her parents were attempting to teach Kristin responsibility, they saw her lack of perfection as “unmotivated” or “lazy.” In reality, she suffered with undiagnosed ADHD, which made it difficult to focus in class or on chores.
“I don’t even remember being hugged by anyone growing up, besides my grandmother. Looking back in retrospect, I believe this is a huge part of the reason I started using,” Kristin said.
She searched for ways to escape her reality. At first, it was books.
“I would lay in my bed at night and read for hours, sometimes until the sun came up. American Girls, Goosebumps, any book I could get my hands on,” Kristin said. “I loved anything that got me out of my own life for just a moment. I never felt at home in my own skin.”
When she entered high school, a new group of friends introduced her to marijuana, which provided a different kind of escape.
“When I smoked weed, I didn’t care so much if my parents were mad at me or what my peers thought of my ADHD quirkiness,” Kristin said. “I thought I found my answer. Marijuana, along with the attention I sought from guys I dated, kept me satisfied until the middle of college.”
That’s when she became pregnant and had a difficult labor that resulted in a severe birth injury and a baby with health concerns. She was prescribed opiates to help with the pain, but they soon began feeding an addiction.
“I justified the use of opiates, because one, I was indeed in pain, both physically and emotionally due to the stressors of my son’s medical condition,” she said. “And two, I was able to be up with the baby, clean the house, and take care of other errands. They gave me energy.”
Things quickly spiraled out of control. She began snorting the pills to get the medicine into her body quicker. But then manufacturers started producing pills with a coating that made them resistant to crushing. She turned to heroin to satisfy the sickness. Then to prostitution to pay for the habit. CPS took her son, and her father kicked her out.
“I lived to use and used to live. I’ve shot up with mud puddle water, too sick to find a bathroom. I’ve once used with toilet bowl water, feeling too sick to get up to go to the sink,” she said.
She ventured in and out of local crisis centers, psychiatric facilities and detox clinics. When on the verge of losing all visitation rights to see her son, she got serious about getting clean and sought treatment hours away from home to help resist temptation.
“I’m an addict named Kristin. When I share my story, I introduce myself as an addict first, because if I forget what I am … it won’t matter WHO I am.”
“At the new facility, a local 12 step fellowship came in to facilitate a meeting. When I saw those folks, I realized they were the same people who were in a meeting when I’d been committed several months prior. While I didn’t pay attention the first time, I was capable of doing so this time,” she said.
“I listened intently as they each shared a story almost identical to mine. While the drugs we used or the childhood we lived might have been different, the feelings we felt when we used and when we tried to get and stay clean were identical. I sat in that meeting with a little over two whole weeks clean from drugs and alcohol and in that moment… I came out of the fog that drugs had left me in for years and realized the gravity of what my life had become. I cried for days.”
Kristin has now been sober for nearly 10 years.
The journey hasn’t been easy; it’s been full of challenges: rape, abortion, infidelity, death of a husband, miscarriage, birth of a new child and more. But she’s stayed clean throughout it all.
“Nothing is worth using over,” she said.
Kristin has relied on support groups to help navigate her sobriety, and she now helps others through the same process.
“A big part of staying clean is finding a purpose. My ‘purpose’ is helping others stay clean by sharing my own experience,” she said.
She has her own home, a full-time job, and a beautiful blonde haired, blue eyed son she has full custody of. She also has regular visits with her oldest son.
“When I became clean, I was able to find myself for the first time,” she said. “I was able to pick and choose which puzzle pieces to keep and which to leave behind to create the new me. Because I have the freedom to do that — without drugs.”