Altus_A mother and daughter torn apart by addiction and despair told their true-life story on Tuesday to Altus and Blair high school students. Their book, "The Lost Years," tells the story of a daughter caught up in drugs, alcohol, prostitution, burglary, and the pain of rape - and a mother faced with the decision to shut her daughter out in order to protect her other children. The women who lived the story - Kristina Wandzilak and Constance Curry - talked to the students about surviving a mother and daughter's worst nightmare.
In the beginning, the family appeared to have it all - a married couple with four kids and a successful business: the all-American family in the suburbs. However, behind the façade was an alcoholic father, a mother without a voice, and a teenager turning to alcohol for comfort. Kristina began drinking at the age of 13, and at 15 tried cocaine. She said she loved the cocaine, but as the months went on, she said her life got smaller, and addiction to drinking and drugs got larger. By the age of 16, Kristina had dropped out of school.
Her parents tried everything - they grounded her, nailed windows closed, and sent her to rehab - but, nothing worked. Exasperated, her mother Constance was faced with the worst choice a mother could make - shutting the door on her daughter. "I just knew I couldn't have her come home, so I just told her I loved her, and she's have to make her own way," said Constance.
Shut out, Kristina descended into the depths of addiction. She stole to support herself and her addiction - even breaking into 22 homes. "I landed homeless on the streets of San Francisco where I didn't draw a sober breath for half a year, and did whatever I had to do to survive there, and everything that entails of being on the street - panhandling, prostituting, hurting other people, myself, doing whatever I had to do to survive," she said.
Kristina was violently raped, and her situation became so desperate, she even planned her suicide. Then, on the floor of a homeless shelter, she says she found a reason to turn her life around. "I realized that I could disappear off the face of this earth and nobody would know," she said. "I didn't want to leave that way."
Kristina says she entered treatment, and as a part of her recovery she knocked on doors of each of the 22 homes she had burglarized. Then, she confronted the man who had raped her. "The realization was, I had just knocked on 22 doors and asked for forgiveness, don't I also have to then visit that same forgiveness on those that cause harm which actually is the hardest part of forgiveness?" Kristina says it wasn't easy, but she was able to forgive him.
She recently celebrated being sober for 15 years, and in that time, Kristina graduated from UC Berkeley, got married, and now has two children. She co-wrote her story with her mother, but the book isn't the end. Kristina and Constance recently signed a contract to make their novel into a movie. The two will share their story Tuesday night at Western Oklahoma State College in Altus - the program begins at 7 p.m. in the Herschel Crow Auditorium. It is FREE and open to the public.