Rescued From the Sea

Posted on July 12, 2010. Filed under: addiction, The Bottom | Tags: , , , , , |

I’m cruising a bit today.  It’s summer, and I feel I haven’t played yet.  The days just fly by, with me tending to ‘important’ details of my remodeling project, Hayley’s recovery, family demands, and – – – life!  And so, instead of hacking out my own post, today I am featuring a ‘guest columnist’, professional interventionist Kristina Wandzilak. This is her most recent post, June  30th, from her blog:  The Kristina Chronicles. Kristina’s fabulous memoir, The Lost Years, is a story of hope.  I read this book last summer, when I was certain that I had lost my daughter to heroin and crack cocaine, forever.  The book was informative, touching, raw, and honest. Kristina and her mother, Connie, wrote alternating chapters – from the addict’s and mother’s points of view.  You may also read reviews of Kristina’s television series, Addicted, on my previous blog posts.

And so – if you are feeling despair, and hopelessness, and overwhelming grief and fear that your addict ‘child’ will never get clean/sober – or even survive, take a look at Kristina’s story and journey to recovery. It can happen.  It does happen.

Rescued from the Sea

I drowned today.

In a sea of memory and emotions, I drowned.

Just like the ocean, the memory took me over slowly. The water covered my toes and feet first, the sand melting away beneath them; then my knees, thighs and stomach. My chest next, with a slight loss of breath as the shock of the cold memory swirled around me. Then my shoulders, and finally my face was the last to go under as it looked up at the sky. My mouth let out a small gasp — and then bittersweet submersion as the memory pushed and pulled all around me.

I was very naive when I first hit the street. I learned very difficult lessons, the hard way. I was taken in by a man who told me he had a bunch of crack and he wanted to share it. I know — looking back, I should have foreseen what was coming — but I was lost, hurting and hopelessly addicted. And when he held up the bag of rocks, I could not turn away.

We went into a muggy motel room and he put down the bag and a pile of cocaine for us all to enjoy. It was me and an older black woman who was very thin and looked hard and a little scary. She had a scar above her eye, and I remember wondering how she got it. Her eyes were a deep brown, like dark chocolate, her hair short with a bandana wrapped around her forehead. I could tell she was pretty at a time in her life, but the street wears hard on pretty faces and kind souls. She had on a torn lavender T-shirt and tight jeans, dark blue. She was wearing a pair of white K-Swiss, I remember because I had a pair of the same exact shoes, at some point. She did not say much but took hit after hit off the crack pipe. It was warm in that room — smoky and dirty — but warm. The drugs were endless. It was heaven.

After some time of getting high and simple talk, I went into the bathroom, which was through the bedroom. I left the front room, and when I came back the man was standing in the doorway, blocking me from walking into the main room where the older woman was partying and listening to music, ABC by Jackson Five. I’ll never forget it. It was such a happy song for such a shit place.

He said to me, “Pull up your shirt and pull down your pants so I can see how much you’re worth.” I was shocked, speechless, and fear shot through me, making my hands shake. He said, “You didn’t think this was free, did you? You’ll be paying before you leave.” He just stood there blocking the doorway with a sleazy smile and a creepy look. Panic flooded me. My head was dizzy. I felt weak and sick and terrified. There was a knock on the motel room door, which distracted him. He said, “I’ll be back,” and stepped away to see who was at the door.

The moment he was out of the doorway, I gasped “…I can’t, I can’t, I can’t do this.” I slid down the wall and began to hyperventilate. “I don’t know how to get out of this…” The older woman stood at my feet. She took a hit off a crack pipe, knelt down in front of me, pulled my face to hers, placed her lips on mine, and blew into my mouth. I inhaled as deeply as I could. The crack smoke filled my lungs like a baby’s first breath. Then she lifted my chin and looked into my eyes and said, “You don’t belong here.” Just those words, nothing else. She pulled me up off the floor, led me into the bathroom and helped me escape through a small window. She told me not to return.

As my feet landed on the walkway outside and the fresh air filled me, I ran. I ran blocks away. I ran as fast as I could. Running when you have nowhere to go is like a nightmare. My feet were moving so quickly, my breath was fast but it was like I was stuck in a dream I could not awake from. There was no escape from what I had done to myself. So I ran until I simply could not run anymore. I slept on concrete that night, at the far end of an alley, pushed into a corner. I closed my eyes until dawn was upon the city.

I do not know her name; I will never forget her face or the mercy she showed me that day. I was not so lucky the next time.

I bring her words with me into each intervention; no one deserves to be caught in the wicked, lonely, despairing disease of addiction. I have intervened on homeless drug addicts and fortune 500 CEOs, and I can tell you the desperation is the same; the fear, the madness, the brutal cycle of shame and self-loathing is our common denominator, and no one belongs in it or deserves to die of it.

When I doubt — and trust me, at times I do — that there is a higher purpose for me and a reason I survived, I picture her face, I remember her words, and she gives me strength to carry on and to continue to wage this war against addiction.

Sober and Shameless, KW


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5 Responses to “Rescued From the Sea”

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I think I may have to get that book. She has quite a story!

Hi Peggy!

I read this the other day but didn’t have time to comment. Very powerful. This is the kind of story of addiction that people need to see to understand how powerful its grip is.

I think of Hayley often. Hope she continues to do well.

Good for you for enjoying some SUMMER. You deserve it!

Thank you for sharing! I read it three times before I finally commented today! What insight!

Wow, intense. It’s hard to read, but thrilling to know she turned her life around and tries to help others do the same. I have to read her book. Thanks for posting this, Peg.

This is SO powerful, Peg. Thank you for sharing it. I feel that I can see that woman’s face, myself.

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