By Kirstyn's mom, Katrina
Kirstyn King was born in the early afternoon on December 8, 1990, after nearly 24 hours of labor. She was a perfect baby and everything I had hoped for in an infant daughter. The first time I saw her tiny, sweet face, I was overwhelmed with love, hope and emotions I had never experienced before. I saw my future and past in her eyes and as I cried with joy, I knew I'd do everything I could to protect my child, my new family.
My sisters and I lost our parents when were children. They were trapped in a car that dove into the C canal of Blythe, California, and drowned, leaving us orphaned and permanently injuring our hearts. We moved to Virginia to live with grandparents who we didn’t even know existed before that tragic day. There was abuse in my young life after my parents passed on. Unsurprisingly, I was removed from that home and alternated between the unrest of state-raised and runaway. My teenage years were dangerous and chaotic. I was running from that unsettling feeling of emptiness and I seemed hellbent on a risk-filled, nomadic existence.
Then one day, the void and loneliness disappeared. My focus was 100 percent on my daughter, and later, a wonderful son. As the years went by, I worked hard and elevated our financial status to a six-figure income. A lot happens over the passage of time and in that particular period there were mostly beautiful memories, but, unfortunately, there were also agonizing ones that still haunt me today. My daughter, despite my every attempt to shield her from life's worst, was harmed and sexually exploited when she was a young teenager. This started a slow avalanche as she rebelled and struggled. I tried to help her but I felt so powerless. Her despair was evident and my attempts to make it all go away--futile. My emotional baggage contributed to a frailty of spirit that I will always regret.
Around this time, I injured my back falling down the stairs. The physical pain was unlike anything I had ever experienced. This led to a prescription pill addiction that bottomed out in a horrible way. After layoff and foreclosure, I began writing my own prescriptions to support my escalating habit. I ended up in jail. I had never been in trouble in my life and suddenly I was a felon, effectively homeless and jobless, after being a homeowner twice over with a promising career.
My children never used drugs more than the occasional sampling. My daughter suffered from anxiety and once I went to jail, the mom that had always saved the day was powerless to help her. Her fiance transferred with a government contractor to England and her brother, nearly 18, moved with his father to California. She felt alone and began heavily and carelessly self-medicating.
Kirstyn was shy, gentle and gorgeous. She adored animals and wanted to save all of them. She would find the least attractive, the most broken of the bunch, and that would be the cat or dog she wanted to take home. From tadpoles to earthworms, there wasn't a creature that she was afraid of and didn’t love. She had an infectious belly laugh and always saw the best in others. She complimented other girls and gave the most she could of her wonderful soul. She was the life of the party and a risk-taker with a childlike spirit. Her light wasn't reciprocated. In fact, it was abused. On October 16, 2011, my precious daughter lost her life to her brief addiction. I was in jail and could do nothing. All I can tell you is that it is a grief I'll never be able to fully comprehend or articulate.
After my release from jail into an ankle monitoring program, two FBI agents made my acquaintance and asked a group of us to participate in the, "Chasing the Dragon" project. The project is a collaboration between the FBI and the DEA to educate and raise awareness among youth regarding the dangers and devastating consequences of opiate addiction. This project involves screening a documentary and teaching a study guide in school curriculum nationally in hopes of saving young lives.
As a recovered addict and grieving mother of a 20 year old who lost her promising life to addiction, I know we must do more. Those in recovery who are able to speak must be heard and represented in this fight to find solutions for this crippling American epidemic. We can't continue to villainize and hunt for the dealer or "that bad kid" that influenced our child. We need to dig deep, open our eyes and ask, why does America hurt? We are a nation in crisis.