Dancing on the Edge

Kathy is a beautiful young woman in her mid twenties. A natural mom, she slowly bounces her baby boy on her lap as she tells her story, blinking back the emotions, her dad by her side.

And quite a story it is. Her parents divorced when she was five, and her mom took her and her brothers and sister. When her mom began beating her brother, her dad took him. That just left Kathy as the focus of her mom’s physical abuse.

“I was thrown down stairs, beaten with pots, forced to eat moldy food,” Kathy said. “My dad finally got me when I was 12, but by then the damage had been done.”

Her father, himself an alcoholic, moved her to his horse ranch in a wealthy suburb of Kansas City. Kathy quickly became rebellious. She skipped school and smoked pot. The first time she tried alcohol, at the age of 13, she got blackout drunk. Between the age of 13 and 24, she attempted suicide three times.

She dropped out of high school when she was 16, married the first guy she met (an alcoholic), got pregnant while she was on meth and gave birth to a son with Tourette Syndrome because of it.

She divorced when her son was three months old. To survive she started doing singing telegrams and then moved on to stripping. She was a functioning alcoholic. She would drink every day. At 24, she was up to two fifths of rum a day. At 25, she was taking 30 Vicodin before each shift at the strip club. She quickly moved on to a $500 a day cocaine habit.

“When you’re in it, when you’re living this life (if you can call it living), you think you’ve got everybody fooled,” Kathy said. “But you don’t. You’re just fooling yourself.”

One day she woke up, looked in the mirror and was just tired of the life she was leading, tired of the woman who was looking back at her in that reflection. So she prayed and then called several treatment centers.

At first she wasn’t interested in in-patient treatment. She didn’t want to be “one of those people.”

“It was humiliating to me at the time,” she said. “I thought I was better than that, better than these people. I was very vain and arrogant.”

That was her first experience with treatment, and it went well. She was clean for six months when her ex, a police officer, found her, raped her and beat her. To cope, she turned once again to what she knew—alcohol and drugs.

She was arrested several months later. The authorities found a lot of drugs and paraphernalia in the car. She found out she was pregnant. She started treatment again. This time she is determined to make it for her sons.

“I think of addiction like an allergy,” she said. “Not everyone gets allergies. Not everyone reacts the same way. I never want to forget who I am, and I know that if I pick up a drink again it would all be gone.”

The woman people see today looks nothing like she did just two short years ago. She’s stronger now. Happier. She knows what she wants from life and is determined to work for it.