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[ Personal Narratives ]

My Daughter Saved My Life, But I Was Powerless to Save Her’s

If you like and/or are moved by this story, make sure to listen to the podcast AddicitionUnscripted did with Katrina about the story of her daughter. You can listen right here!

My daughter Kirstyn lost her life while I sat in jail as a consequence of my own addiction

I am sharing this story because I have a perspective that is unique in the sense that I had a very good life at one point and have not only struggled with a serious addiction myself, but lost my daughter this way. Neither of us would be the typical idea of the usual suspect… and this is why I must share this with the world.

Before everything blew up, I was a taxpaying, voting and doting mother living in a middle to upper middle class neighborhood. I earned a 6 figure salary working for Sprint as a Corporate Account Executive, had owned 2 homes by age 30 and was a mother to two of the best kids you could have. I was a progressive mother who felt heavy discipline was inappropriate. This was due in large part to the significant abuse of my own childhood.   You would never know from looking at me and especially talking to me, from where I’d started. In fact, odds were stacked against me statistically as my sisters and I were orphaned when losing my mother and stepfather who drowned in a California canal when their car crashed on New Years Eve, 1978. My biological father having already passed in an accident when I was just a few months old.

Predictably, after their passing,  I endured physical and sexual abuse, as well as constant upheaval,  foster homes, group homes, hospitals and detention centers… when I wasn’t running away. Finally after much exasperation, I was emancipated by the juvenile court at age 17 and became a mother at 18. I was determined to make my daughter’s life better than the life I had known until this point. Her birth saved my life and gave me a reason to turn it all around. After going to school, working hard and defying the odds, I was on my feet with a decent career path and went on to also have a brilliant and handsome son.

One night when I was about 31, I injured myself falling down stairs in my home and was prescribed pain killers by a doctor. No one warned or advised me of the dangers. I had no clue how they would alter my brain, my actions and the course of my life. I eventually lost everything to an addiction to pain pills. Before this? I drank alcohol maybe once a year and never used drugs. I ended up writing 100s of my own prescriptions after losing health insurance,  which resulted in an awful entanglement with the criminal justice system.

At my lowest point I would visit ERs, local community centers, everywhere,  BEGGING for help. The doctors knew I had a problem yet continued to write for me. Everyone finally paid attention once I was toed up in the criminal justice system, ironically,  because of my addiction. Yet, I was still the “bad guy”. I was perceived as a woman who had used her intellect, skills and looks to get over on doctors , pharmacists and others. In my darkness, I knew who I was and I knew I wasn’t what “they” believed.

 I had become a slave to a horrible master,  addiction.

If you only knew the half of it… Everyone from doctors to detectives knew I needed help and turned a blind eye.  I struggled through a horrible and lengthy cold turkey detox while incarcerated. I became healthier, stronger and more determined while there, yet still had not received the mental health or substance abuse treatment I needed. Regardless, I was determined to get out and get my daughter well, as unfortunately , my beautiful, incredibly sweet daughter who had always been innocent and adamantly against my pill abuse, was now very badly addicted to prescription drugs as well. I justified my own use but my children?  Even the thought was more than I could tolerate.

Her fiancé had gone to England for work. While his mother and many others tried to save her, she needed me. 

I mean, I understood what she was going through but mostly, I was always there to save her, bail her out.  I simply couldn’t say “NO” to her. The driving force of her increasingly deadly decline was anxiety.  She was experiencing harassment by law enforcement to cooperate in investigations though they knew she was struggling. She was overwhelmed, afraid and desperate to escape. 

October 15,  2011, during my 7th month in jail, she overdosed in a slow and horrifying way. They tried to keep her alive until the jail officials could arrange for me to get there. 7 recitations, her body pummeled, bloated, bleeding …were in vain. She lost her fight and passed before I could get there, October 16, 2011, I knew before they told me.  I knew the last time I spoke to her, just 2 days before.  My child is going to die if I don’t get out to help her.  I frantically contacted my attorney, begging him to ask the Commonwealth Attorney to revoke her bail in her DUI case. He felt for me but promised nothing, I hoped he would try. I won’t get into that day any more than to say… it has been a mind numbing, heart pounding pain I live with every moment since then. 

A memory of a girl I loved more than myself , beautiful, angelic, sweet beyond words… as I got to see her one more time before cremation, I didn’t recognize her. Her body and face had doubled her “living” size due to everything they pumped into her to save her… I didn’t believe it was Kirstyn when I saw her… so I lifted her lids to see her eyes. “Nope, not her”, I thought.  I mean how? Doesn’t look like her, she had the fattest little cheeks and lips, you just wanted to shower her with kisses.  Doesn’t’ smell like her, she always smelled like candy, clean candy.  Doesn’t feel like her, her body solid as a rock from being frozen and most of all, her eyes… now ice blue instead of her beautiful green hazel. I realize now that I’ve been in shock, until recently. A loss I still can’t come to grips with and thoughts I cannot dwell on for more than a second. 

Sadly, everyone knew she was spiraling. When she was brought into local community services, they said they were out of funds and there was a long waiting list but that they would put her on it. Wow. She died 2 weeks later in just a really poorly handled situation. She was with “friends”… friends that allowed her to die and stay that way for way too long before finally calling 911… and when they did, they were too afraid to follow the instructions to try CPR for her. Once police and EMT’s arrived, everything was just such chaos that any evidence to potential wrong doing was destroyed.  My daughter’s shoes and coat removed.  Her purse emptied of all it’s contents… “friends”. She had even more “friends” rush to the hospital. Many of these addicted themselves, trying to be seen in the ER for back trouble or whatever they could think up, while supposedly waiting to hear any news on her, visit or say their goodbyes. And finally, “friends” that showed their support at her memorial service by selling pills in the parking lot.  Supposedly to help those struggling, deal with the loss.  

 My daughter had saved my life but I was powerless to save hers. 

There’s so much more to the story but as the DEA investigated her death, deaths of others and related matters, they were so moved to to something, they decided on the documentary and asked us to participate… and I didn’t hesitate.

I want to show the world the varied faces of addiction.  I want my life to be worth living. I want Kirstyn’s life and death to be meaningful in a way that saves lives; only then will I give myself permission to be happy again.  I carry incredible guilt and pain that I can’t adequately describe.  I’m not blaming anyone but I assure you that if a support system had been in place then, my daughter would be alive helping others today and I would not be a woman suffering with grief while trying to rebuild, facing life as an unusual felon who’s lost it all.

As if it couldn’t be hard enough, all my work experience, all of my good choices are now worthless due to one bad choice. I can’t easily find a place to live or work. If that’s the case for me, I can’t imagine how hard and discouraging it is for people without the tools I have. My only ray of hope is my son who lives in Chicago and attending college to be an aerospace engineer. 

I would’ve never dreamed that me, always a private person, would be this ready to expose all. But, I’ve got nothing left to lose. 

Secrets make us feel isolated, making us sick. I wish I’d accepted this truth sooner…THEN. Drug addiction, abuse and the effect on lives isn’t glamorous or sexy, it’s ugly and deadly real. I won’t stop until something is done. This wasn’t the ideal outcome but it’s reality and I’m ready to make the most of my mistakes and the hand life dealt me. 

I would’ve absolutely killed myself if not in jail that day, so  I have to believe there’s a reason for the way things played out. Though I have entertained the thoughts of giving up from time to time, I refuse to believe or accept that this is it. I’m returning to school to be a substance abuse counselor , as soon as I can save or raise the funds to do so. I will eventually write my story as a cautionary tale to the young and old, male or female, educated or non educated, rich or poor, caucasian or any other race, white or blue collar…IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU AND/OR YOURS. 

This is what I was called to do. Be brave enough to show my ugliest side to save you from ever seeing yours.


To read the story through a different lens, the mother of Kirstyn’s fiancé, wrote her experience here:

Our story was featured in a soon to be released documentary sponsored and produced by the FBI. It will be shown in schools nationwide. I’m also starting a project, the KMK foundation (named for my daughter), that will be dedicated to providing information and resources to the displaced children and family of addicts, as well as support for addicts themselves.