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[ Staff Picks ] [ Personal Narratives ]

I Haven’t Put Up a Christmas Tree Since Losing My Daughter to Addiction.

“Where the Streets Have No Name”… that song takes me back to an embattled moment in my history and never loses its effect on my soul. I am writing this as I’m watching U2’s concert in Paris on HBO, and I’m filled with love and hope. Maybe I’ll see her again there, I think to myself. Though I know, I often think I just don’t know. Nothing challenges your faith in God like the loss of one of his greatest gifts to you.

My firstborn, a daughter named Kirstyn Miranda, was born in December of 1990, just a few weeks before Christmas. At just barely 18 years old, I was going to have a baby. I was residing in Virginia at the time and barely surviving. Rewind to 8 months earlier, I was at the height of my confusion and living aimlessly and entirely recklessly when i was shocked to find out I I was pregnant. Up until that point, i had never even though of being a mother.

Once the fog of the news wore off, I dropped everything and became a woman of purpose…a mom.

Having lost my own mother, father and stepfather as a child, my sense of family was severely fractured. For that matter, so was my sense of self. However, a path of hope was cleared for me as I was starting over, I was starting my OWN family. 

I made calls to those I loved and to those I believed I was obligated to inform; a few people came through for me and by the time my daughter was born, I was living comfortably with a family who hosted unwed mother’s and their babies while transitioning to permanent arrangements. One of my closest friends spent a fortune getting me set up and the hosting family, their neighbor’s church and a local tv station threw me an extravagant and generous baby shower. I had everything that me and my new baby girl would need , at least for a while.

That first Christmas with my tiny infant was pure magic… the happiest I’ve EVER been in my life.  I felt a calm and fulfillment I’d never felt in my life and a sense of being that motivated me to be my best . I was filled with optimism about our future. I didn’t desire a single drink. I never once considered getting high. Hell, I wouldn’t even take a Tylenol.

 In my mind , I was completely recovered and in fact, I was convinced I had never been an addict at all … more like a lost young woman.

April of 1993, I gave birth to my son. That was the second happiest day of my life. He was born quiet. It took several minutes for his first cry due to preventable complications during the birth. Blue from lack of oxygen, my son was still absolutely adorable . 

My life was complete. Holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas were all about my children. I lived for their anticipation leading up to and excitement on Christmas day . I made a point of getting everything on their lists PLUS some, and counted the gifts so they would always be equal . Giving to them was way better than ever receiving, but i guess that’s normally the case.

 I often reflected on my own childhood and at times I was pretty cynical about the whole experience and particularly harsh on my mother. Why? I don’t know really. Perhaps it’s a rite of passage to blame your parents for everything but in my case, I knew my children would never experience a traditional family or know their grandparents and I blamed her choices for that deprivation in our lives. 

My mother made her children the center of her universe and loved us very much, yet I still felt this need to slam the unfair hand on someone’s dealing. But, in time I realized something. My mother was an imperfect woman who also suffered needlessly and did the best she could given her state of mind. I forgave that imperfect woman…unfortunately not soon enough.

My children grew into teenagers and my daughter rebelled in a way I never saw coming. My daughter suffered from a lack of love for herself that I tried desperately to correct . 

 I understand now that she wasn’t listening to my words of encouragement . She was absorbing my actions. Those actions had increasingly become clear messages that I wasn’t loving myself. I had been running from sadness and despair by denying the emotions. I was descending with every moment I felt her slipping further and further. As you may already know, I succumbed to a severe addiction and as my daughter turned 19, she did what she always did. She disregarded my admonishment for abusing pills and followed my example . I was in jail when she began using flagrantly and there was nothing I could do in word or deed to stop her…

She lost her brief but epic battle with her addiction, dying October 16, 2011. 

The two years leading up to her passing I had stopped putting up a Christmas tree. In the throes of my spiral, I lost interest. She was an adult and no longer at home and my son seemed to spend more time with his friends than at home, even on Christmas day. I guess seeing the apathy in their mom for her appearance or vitality made them lose interest in my company, understandably. Horribly, that last Christmas before I went to jail , I ran a fake prescription with a few people to a 24 hour pharmacy . Yes, score was successful. Who the hell was I now?

How God???! How did it come to this??? I LIVED and BREATHED for my children . And now? Christmas, birthdays, vacations, soccer games, Thanksgiving dinners …nothing. All gone. It was as if it was all a dream and I was still the girl without a family . Once again I needed evidence I  was a mother. Was it ever really real?

It’s been 4 years since she passed and my son lives in Chicago now with his Dad while he finishes college . My son and I are extremely close and yet I don’t see him often. We’ve talked about him moving near me but we’ve agreed it’s not time yet. Mom will never ask her children to sacrifice by  worrying about her again. I am recovering and gaining perspective everyday . 

I make progress every morning when I open my eyes. Every single day I reflect on the days before and ask who the hell that person was. I know I’ll get there because “getting there” is my purpose in life. It just feels like it’s been a long and crappy trip. When the time is right and I believe it will be soon, my son and his girl want to be near me again and yea, that makes me smile. I make him laugh and he reminds me who I am and these are the best things life has left.

Today I went on a sales appointment to the home of a couple, both State Department employees, back in the US after being assigned overseas for nearly 10 years. As I walked in, gospel Christmas music was playing loudly throughout the home. They never turned it down, and to my surprise , I felt a stirring of Christmas notion. 

 On the drive home I thought of old favorites that used to awe me to the point of tears such as “O Holy Night” and “Ave Maria” and speculated if I’d ever be able to tolerate listening all the way through those songs again. Will I ever hear the spirit of Christmas? Will I ever put a Christmas tree up again? I can’t help but think that the happiness that family had and their anticipation of holidays, would they still feel that way if they had lost their child?  I dont know if it would cripple them as it had me but I’m sure it would have an impact . 

As I watch the news and forget myself for a second, I’m reminded of all the suffering of so many. While we are still on this planet, we have to go on…how do I do this with such a hole in my past, present and future?

Then I think …don’t worry. Kirstyn’s got what I don’t yet have . .. I’ll see her again? I’ll see her in that place in between, that place where the streets have no name . 

I believe I’ll get that tree up next year. If you live to give, your strength renews.

Merry Christmas to all those who’ve lost their way and lost loved ones to addiction. Don’t give in to the grip of pointless existence that fuels addiction. Get that tree up, or light those candles and turn that music on. 

I’ll end this with these lyrics that move me to the comprehension that existing just for yourself leaves you with JUST yourself.

“Is it getting better

Or do you feel the same

Will it make it easier on you now 

You got someone to blame

You say…

One love

One life

When it’s one need

In the night

One love

We get to share it

Leaves you baby if you 

Don’t care for it

Did I disappoint you

Or leave a bad taste in your mouth

You act like you never had love

And you want me to go without

Well it’s…

Too late


To drag the past out into the light

We’re one, but we’re not the same

We get to 

Carry each other

Carry each other


– U2