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A memoir by Kimberly Wollenburg

On the outside, Kim seems to have it all. She's a loving mother of a special needs child and a small business owner. She lives in her own home with a man she loves. But Kim also lives another life - a life full of secrets and her secrets are killing her.

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"There are precious few things in this life of which I am certain. One is the love I have for my son, Andy...
The other thing of which I am certain is this: No one wants to be an addict."



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Kim and AndyChapter 1

There are precious few things in this life of which I am certain. One is the love I have for my son, Andy.
I was just shy of my twenty-third birthday when Andy was born. My pregnancy was intentional. My son was no accident, but my brief marriage was.
I was two months pregnant and decided I should marry the "sperm donor" and make an honest woman of myself. Three weeks after the ceremony, he hit me and I threw him out. The divorce was final a couple of months after Andy was born. I told my ex that if he left us alone, I would never go after the child support, and that was fine with him. We never saw him again.
As certain as I've always been about being a mother, I was unprepared for the depth and breadth of my love for my son.
Andy was born with Down syndrome, and there were medical problems. He had esophageal atrasia, meaning there was no connection between his esophagus and stomach, so there was no way to feed him. He was in neo-natal intensive care for the first month and a half of his life, and he was two days old when he underwent his first surgery to put a gastrostomy tube in his stomach so that he could eat. He was five days old when Dr. Curnow repaired the atrasia.
For six hours, I sat envisioning Andy's delicate skin being sliced open with gleaming surgical steel, and of hands the size of my son's torso removing one of his ribs and repositioning his tiny organs.
The first time I held him was just before that operation. As I was savoring the moment, holding the six and a half pound person I'd been waiting so long to meet, a nurse clipped a lock of his hair and made prints of a hand and foot. "Just in case," she said. No one had to explain. I knew how serious the situation was.
The feeling I had as I held him to my chest was almost indescribable. My heart felt so full, I thought it might explode. A wave of love, so pure it made my bones ache, washed over me. I couldn't hug him tight enough. I wanted to slip him under my skin so I could get him as close to me as possible.
Even attached to monitors and machines, he was perfect. There was a feeding tube hanging from his recently sawed open tummy and he smelled like a hospital: all adhesive tape, antiseptic and iodine. And he was perfect. He was the yummiest baby I'd ever seen.
When I finally was able to bring him home, I would spend hours just staring into those eyes. Like pools of cerulean. We would stare into each other's souls, and I knew that he had always been a part of me.
Andy spent the first three years of his life in and out of the hospital. There were complications with the initial repair of his esophagus. It was stricturing, trying to close again. He had a hiatal hernia, causing his stomach to creep up into his chest. At final count, Andy had fifteen surgeries, twelve of which occurred before he was two years old.
The constant hospitalizations and anesthesia compromised his immune system and he would get sick which, of course, meant more time spent in the hospital. He had two complete blood transfusions.
Between stays, when he was home, I fed him through the G-tube that hung out of the furious red scar in his tummy, and wheeled an oxygen tank around everywhere we went.
And he was perfect.
But those first three years were hell, and if someone had told me I would have to live through all of that, I would have said they were crazy. No way was I strong enough to handle all of that, especially as a single mother.
But I was. And I did. And it was worth every horrifying minute.
I tell Andy he's my bug in a boy suit, my perfect person and the best human I've ever known. I tell him this every day, because he is. One of the only things I'm certain of in this life is the excruciating love I have for my son.

The other thing of which I am certain is this: no one wants to be an addict.
Nobody wakes up one morning and says, "This is the day I will begin to destroy my life and the lives of those who love me. Today, I will begin my suicide. I'll start taking poison. Not all at once, but a little at a time, so I can experience a long, slow agonizing death."
I've heard it said, that if you drop a frog into a pan of boiling water, it will flop around and do anything to escape. But if you put that same frog in a pan of cool water, place it on the stove and heat it up ever so slowly to the point of boiling, the frog won't realize what's happening to it and will stay there until it's dead. That's how it is with addiction. Death comes slowly.
I doubt anyone has ever said to themselves, "My goal in life is to lie, cheat, steal and beg to get my poison and I will sacrifice everything I have in pursuit of my own death. I will give up my life and give up my hope. I will give up my dreams and my self-respect. I will give my soul."

No one wants to be an addict. Especially a meth addict. Meth is dirty and disgusting. The media shows us that it's made by shady characters with facial sores and no teeth in trailer houses and sheds. Everything we hear and see tells us that meth is a low class drug for low class people like white trash and Mexicans. In my city, there are towering billboards of the ugliest, scariest people you've ever seen: teeth rotted out, lips cracked and infected, skin hanging from the sharp angles of their bones, matted, dirty hair and body sores.
Disgusting people, disgusting drug. How easy it is to dismiss them and categorize them as an almost different species because, after all, there's no way in hell you or I would mess around with meth. We're not those kinds of people. We're not stupid. We have lives and dignity and no one with any self-respect would even think of sinking to such murky depths.

That's what I thought, too.

At the time of my arrest, I'd been using meth for over five years. Every single day. All day long. Without exception. I was what's known as a "functioning addict." I worked two legitimate jobs, was raising my son by myself, had a house and a man I thought I was in love with. On the outside, everything seemed fine. But barely scratch the surface, and the chaos of my living hell was frightening.

I started using meth to study on the weekends. Then more often during the week to get through my workday and still have the energy to do what I needed to do in the evening: laundry, dishes, dinner, therapy with Andy and my own studies. I was an honor student, a teaching assistant and a research assistant at the state school and hospital.
It wasn't long before I needed meth. Once I started, I was trapped. If I quit using, I'd fall asleep for days and I'd get behind. I couldn't let that happen. I couldn't fail, so I just kept going.
The flip side of this is that I didn't like myself very much. To be honest, I hated myself. Altering my reality with drugs took me outside of my own head so I didn't have to deal with the constant looping voice of negativity: not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty, not a good enough mom, stupid, lazy, ugly...
No one could ever make me feel worse than I could. I'd perfected my self-loathing for most of my life. Meth took me away from all of that. With it, I could do everything I wanted and needed to do. I lost weight, I felt smarter and funnier than I ever had before. My self-confidence was off the chart. Meth made me feel like a whole person. It made me feel normal.
It also robbed me of all my ambition. Everything else quickly became moot. All I wanted to do was get high.

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