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I’ve contributed a few pieces to this site , hinting on my addiction, incarceration and the loss of my beautiful daughter to her own brief struggle with Rx abuse. I’ve suffered through tough stuff before but my world was horribly and irreversibly damaged the day she passed.  My daughter was one of two of the greatest loves of my life.  There’s a wide abyss in my heart and soul that I am forced to live with yet I’m determined to push on for my children while affecting the way the world perceives and treats addiction.  Even so, it’s an uphill fight just to survive. My fight didn’t end the day I lost her. Unfortunately, the war had just begun and fights continue until now … life as a grieving “felon” mother…

The past few weeks have been the most difficult days I’ve lived since the horrible day that fractured my world.   Ill admit, there have been many moments lately that I’ve craved an escape. An escape to most people would mean a massage or vacation, even a movie. These choices wouldn’t be excessive enough to suffice the average addict, however. Because our brains are deficient in dopamine, we require artificial stimulation and simulation of the stuff to feel “normal”.  To an addict, escape means to numb and or suppress the feelings of hopeless anxiety by using substances or actions that FLOOD our brains with dopamine, not just tease us with small doses. Even so, despite those little voices in my head telling me I’ll never truly be happy again, my spirit has continued to prevail and I get up everyday, strive for more, all while staying sober. Its no small feat and  I won’t lie to you, we have made exceptions and replace substances with suboxone for cravings and other compulsive habits like crazy sex or  relationships, food or unhealthy, obsessive habits. It’s a moment to moment battle against the drug of choice and so I justify… whatever gets me by without slipping backwards, works for me. So far, I’ve made it. I am obviously not yet where I should be in my recovery as it’s a work in progress that will never end. I can assure you living, especially lately, has felt like a survivalist themed punishment set in a war zone. It’s been like walking on broken glass with torched feet that are raw from my travels, while simultaneously being suffocated. If the worst thing I do to cope is engage in sexual activity fueled by porn that goes on for hours with my equally dysfunctional significant other, followed by fighting about a million little things, well, crazy as it sounds, that’s progress. Drama, although painful and wasteful, is sometimes preferable to blur and ease the agony of existence.

I’ve discovered since my release back into the wild – post felony conviction, that many things that USED to matter, do not now and things that used to never cross my mind, now do. For instance, how far I went in school, no longer matters. Work experience? No longer matters. Credit or rental history? You guessed it, it no longer matters. The million dollar question that seems to only matter NOW is… Have you been convicted of a felony? Just so you understand me, I’ve NEVER let the little things like “no” or “you can’t” stand in my way. In the three years since my release, just like all my life, I’ve defied the odds many times. I held down a job until recently as an account executive for two years and took a small company that had only a few customers when I started, to an average regular customer base of over 200 companies.  Of course I was underpaid, without a felony, the salary would have been much better, although my boss was very generous and helpful at times.  Unfortunately for me, this past August, the owner decided he couldn’t afford staff and let us all go. Initially angry , I finally accepted what I couldn’t control and allowed myself to believe it was fate. The anger gave way to acceptance then hope.

The haze of the past three years has lifted and reality has set in, leaving me with just life.  In this period of difficulty and challenge, I find myself where most addicts released from jail find themselves while trying to stay clean and sober…INCREDIBLY DISCOURAGED. 

It has felt like no matter how well I do, no matter how hard I try, doors aren’t just closed, they seem slammed. We couldn’t keep up with the bills while I was searching for work and so we’ve dealt with loss of electricity and faced eviction by yet another gun toting, “my way or the highway” landlord who began eviction once we were just two weeks late with one months rent. I had applied for job after job but was either very over qualified or, NOT qualified due to the background check requirements. No worries, there’s government assistance, right? Not in Virginia for the DRUG offender, specifically singled out for your offense of addiction, your  ill mental health has now canceled out your ability to seek out and receive resources designed for those struggling with “health issues”.

Fast forward, after much encouragement and intestinal fortitude, I decided I would take this difficult moment in time for me and help others through advocacy and penning my memoirs. I mean, there’s simply no time or space in recovery or life for feeling sorry for yourself.  I participated in the congress day put in action by Unite to Face Addiction, meeting with legislative assistants to our senators and with our local representative. Those meetings went so well I thought nothing would stop me and the momentum would just take off. I didn’t realize that these things take time and bureaucracy is a common theme.  Sadly, as ready and creative as I’ve been, waiting doesn’t pay the bills so, I took the advice of my chosen few and became entrepreneurial in mindset. I’ve been anticipating the release and launch of the DEA sponsored and produced documentary our family and 5 others are involved with and believe it will certainly give way and open doors to much more advocacy work for me.  I can hardly wait to begin but until then, we plug on as we must.

Answering an ad for salespeople, I made my way into an office that I understood to be a HVAC company. In actuality, the company was an authorized distributor for a whole house cleaning solution. After sitting through a demo, I thought the product was awesome and definitely something I believed in enough to annoyingly and repeatedly call leads to schedule appointments for demonstrations. I also believed it was something I could easily sell. So, I scheduled my first demo last week with dear family friends. While earnestly attempting to follow the script detailed in this horrendously bulky manual  in disarray from repeated use, I began to get a case of the giggles. Part of the approved script calls for condescending question and answer dialogue intended to engage the prospect, that literally made me stop mid question. “Really???” Ha, I could hear my Kirstyn’s shrill and sarcastic questioning in my head and I just couldn’t do it. As I struggled internally with the notion I was ultimately selling a vacuum cleaner, I couldn’t keep a straight face. Yea, I admit, I clowned through most of the presentation as I’m sure my best friend found absolutely comical, but that’s when I realized. Life is a series of bad events, followed by periods of relief and even happiness. The key is finding the comedy in the sadness and the ridiculous irony of things and making hurt your bitch. This period of my life while insanely confusing, uncomfortable and insecure, will no doubt make for more incredible stories that I’ll write and share with those who feel like giving up. I know Ill sell the hell out of these great machines and money, as long as earned morally, is never demeaning. I know that there are those that have it WAY harder than I. 

I’ll leave you with this. Before I lost my home, car and every material possession, I had always driven late model or new cars. These days I’m getting by in an old, rusty, small, manual transmission, Toyota pick-up. Imagine me, dressed decent, looking displaced in this truck as it stalls at yet another light. As I start it up again and look to the person beside me, I floor the gas while clutch fully depressed and it makes a noise of fury. Their expression is priceless. But mine is a coy smile because I know I won’t be where I am for long. The other night when the electricity was off for the second night in a row, I tried to just roll with it. It was 10 pm when I arrived home after a long day and I called for a pizza while standing in a corner of the room with my arm in the air and phone on speaker to get a signal. The drivers came out several times, never finding my place and never being able to reach me by phone because of my shitty cell service and dark address. I stomped around and then ate some dry cereal and called it a night.  The next day was the 4 year anniversary of my daughter’s passing and I woke up , washed up and went about as if nothing was going on. At the end of a long, relentless day, I stood in the grocery store looking for microwave friendly food items,  when the phone rang. My best friend and her husband decided to pay my entire electric bill. To be honest, during that day I had thought more than once that life was getting too difficult to continue.  Yet, I had been prepared to wait until paid, uncomfortable or not, before asking anyone for help because I got myself into this, I’d find a way out. I stood in the store, bawling my eyes out as it was so unexpected and I was utterly grateful. Once I composed myself, I walked to the Domino’s next door to collect my free pizza, result of the failed delivery attempts of the night before. As I’m leaving, the manager hurries over and says “ma’am, I’ve placed another credit on your account”. I told him it wasn’t necessary but thanked him and as I walked out to my rusty thing, I was at peace for the first time that day. As I started the truck with a sense of relief I needed so badly, I headed out of the parking lot and got stuck on a hill. I began to curse the heap of metal I sat in and the people behind me who wouldn’t just pass my ass… that’s when they pulled up beside me and I hoped they hadn’t heard me.  Two wonderful ladies they were and one knew how to drive stick. She got me over the hill without rolling backwards and we both had a laugh at this rickety but seemingly reliable vehicle I was driving. When she got out and I was getting in, I  impulsively hugged her. She looked surprised, though I was more surprised than she was because I don’t hug, especially strangers. I’m sure she may have had a thought about this white girl in the middle of redneck Dumfries, hugging her so tightly and sincerely. I was deep in thought the entire ride home and as I pulled up to the apartment, I noticed they had already reconnected the electricity. As I walked into the warm structure with free pizza in hand denied to me just last night, I thought again about what I learned that day I lost Kirstyn. Your whole world can change in a blink of an eye and mine did for the worst on October 16, 2011… and there was NOTHING I could do about it. On this day, the anniversary of her passing, I was reminded again how unpredictable life can be and I stopped and thought not about what I have lost but where I was right now.. And now was better than a few hours ago. These thoughts made me miss her more as I wanted her to know I was evolving, growing, a work in progress. I know she sees it but I would give anything to laugh with her as we always did about how insane life can be at times.  Yes, I will make pain my bitch and give others the strength to do the same… Then we will all laugh as I describe some of the worst moments in my life… not because we want to, but because we have to, for our sanity and sobriety.

Friends in distress or recovery, I’ll keep you posted.

Dedicated to my kids… we don’t give up…