Kristina Wandzilak

The Anonymous Letter

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I am a mother, a wife, a sister, daughter, friend, a business owner, an author, a media expert, an All-American athlete and a recovering drug addict with 25 years clean and sober.

I have spent half my life being of service to others. Through my work as an interventionist, I have fought on the front lines of the disease, waging the war against addiction. I have been transparent about my story and my recovery, in my writing and in the media with the hope and mission of inspire others.

I have felt so much support from people across the world. I do not know most of them but none are strangers. Through, emails and social media, I have felt carried and encouraged in my career as well as my personal life. I have also have received a lot of hate. People can be very unkind and send incredibly ugly messages. I have been tormented, stalked and targeted by strangers. I have learned to have a thick skin but it took some time. In the beginning, it was very painful and shocking to feel, read and hear such hateful words and messages. One of the most painful was a comment saying “I don’t blame your husband for killing himself. If was married to you I would want to die too.” I am a professional but also human and that comment stayed with me for years. I will never forget the feeling in my stomach as I read those words. They actually took my breath away. For a few days, I considered retreating from the public eye but with support from my friends and family, I refused to back down or to turn back. I have a message to share and inspiration to offer, not only though my profession, but in how I live each day. I do my best to do good in the world and to be kind, and loving. I do not do it perfectly, but I do the best I can. However, I will not have my personal story of addiction and recovery mistaken as a sign of weakness.

I will not be silenced or bullied.

The second most unforgettable verbal assault was a few years ago when I received an anonymous letter saying I am 'a filthy derelict drug addict who deserves death.' Anonymous went on to say that 'every addict is the dirt and down fall of our society.' Anonymous wished me 'failure and relapse.'

Without any return address or identifying information I responded with an open letter on FB.

Dear Anonymous:

There is nothing you can say to me I have not heard a thousand times before. Your words roll off me, easily, smoothly without question or pain.  

I am a woman who knows the desperation of needing a drug so badly you are willing to die for it. I have been a lair, a thief, a derelict living off the scraps I found in dumpsters and the change dropped in my Styrofoam cup, on the street corner. I am a woman who broke the hearts of the people who loved me most, promising over and over I would be different, only to sneak out the back window, in the middle of night, not be heard from for days, weeks or months.  

I am also a woman who is a mother, a friend, a trustworthy family member, a business owner, making it my life's work to help addicts and their families, an author, an All-American athlete and an all-American drug addict, with 25 years sobriety.  

We derelicts and scourge of society are your law makers, school bus drivers, teachers, CEOs, government workers, fireman, union workers, nannies, doctors, nurses, lawyers and neighbors, to name a few. We are everywhere, living sober, bright lives full of love and laughter.  

I know this, that those who spit hate, have hate in their lives. My guess is you are addicted or have been hurt or abandoned by an addict.  

To this I say, if you are addicted, there is hope. You can find recovery. Change is possible. You do not have die the cold, painful, lonely death addiction guarantees. There is an expansive and beautiful life for you outside the small dark hole, from where you wrote your letter.  

If you were hurt or abandoned by an addict I am truly sorry. Addiction is an awful ugly disease and we cause incredible hurt to the ones we love most. My addiction changed and altered the lives of my family and this heavy and painful truth I still carry with me today, over two decades later. Whatever happened, it was not personal to you and I am certain you did not deserve it.  

I hope you find your way to heal the hate in your heart, find peace and live a better life. And next time you send a letter, sign your name. Be proud and own your shit.  

You have caused me no pain. You have only refueled my energy to wage the war against addiction and fight for addicts everywhere. We are an exceptional group of individuals of which I am very proud to be a member. Your letter inspires me to shine brighter, love deeper, live bigger and continue to thrive in recovery. For this, I thank you.

I will save a seat for you, keep the fire burning and when you are ready for recovery, I will be here. Until then,  

Fuck off.  

Sober and Shameless, Kw

On Any Given Saturday Morning

On any given Saturday Morning, you will find me at our local bagel shop, sitting across from my 16 years old daughter. We have a standing 10am date.

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I feel lucky that my daughter wants to spend time with me and trusts me enough to tell me about her life and to ask me questions however they are becoming more difficult to answer. No longer about math and science or why bananas come in a ‘shell’ we have approached the deeper life questions of love, friendship and world news.

She looks at me, with her big blue eyes wide open and thirsty for answers, as I sit and contemplate what to say and so I tell her,

‘Savannah, I don’t know shit about shit, but I do know something about a little.’

She laughed.

After eating our bagels, driving home, she asked me,

“What do you know?”

I know that the love of family will help heal the deepest of loss and pain.

I know the truest of friends are few and you need to protect them as if your life depends on it. Because one day, when your life changes in a split second or your first love breaks your heart, or your ‘life plan’ falls apart; it will. And even when life carries you apart, always know that time will bring you together, again.

I know we need to celebrate our wins. No matter how big or small.

I know we need to love ourselves because there are plenty of people who won’t. For reasons of their own. Hate and insecurity are poisons and will infect anyone who dare to indulge. So, love yourself and don’t wait too long to start.

I know that being jealous of others will blacken your soul. Jealousy is the murky mud of insecurity and is never about the other but a lack of love for ourselves. Discover and know your worth. We are never better or worse than the person next to us, rather pieces, fitting together perfectly in the large and Devine puzzle of life.

I know success and failure are visitors in life. Neither one will last forever. Learn from both and have no ego or shame in their stay.

I know you never give up hope, on yourself or anyone else.

I know change is possible and everyday miracles do happen.

I know the best gift I can offer as your parent, is to help you grow roots and wings. I wish for you to travel far and wide. Meet new people, hear different languages, taste different foods and fill yourself with the beauty of the world. I wish for you to dance freely, without reservation or concern, educate yourself and hare your lessons with as many people as you can. I wish for you to fly, and to never forget you are always welcome home.

I know my love for you is perfect but my parenting is far from it.

I know feeling proud about ourselves is one of the supreme pleasures in life. There is no greater awareness then laying your head on your pillow at night knowing you did the best you could that day. So live well and honest.

I know that losing your dad is a heart ache you will feel as long as you live. I know he is with us, watching and loving, just beyond our human sight and I know he would be so proud of you and your brother. And I want you to know, that there is so much of him in you and sometimes, when I stare into your deep blue eyes, long enough, I can see him looking out at me.

I know you have more strength than you can possibly imagine and your warrior spirt will carry you through the stormy days of life.

And I know, no matter how long the night can feel, the sun will always rise. No matter what. A new day will begin.

And I know I love you, wholly and imperfectly.

And with that, she jumped out of my car and ran up our front steps. As she disappeared inside and the front door closed, I was flooded with emotions, as it occurred to me, that the last thing I know, is how truly blessed I am to be living this one bittersweet life.

50th Edition of the Magazine “Recovery Today”

I had the pleasure and privilege to be interviewed for the 50th edition of the online magazine Recovery Today. In the interview, I was asked about my work as an interventionist, my recovery and my journey from homelessness to a life of recovery.

Click the link below to read my full interview.
https://siteassets.pagecloud.com/recoverytoday/downloads/Recovery-Today-Magazine-Issue-50-January-2019-ID-dc16afa2-53b6-43ca-cb54-b269acfb6037.pdf

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  • I have spent the last 23 years practicing intervention all over the world.

  • I have met the most extra ordinary families.

  • Families that are brave with the courage of a lion’s heart.

Intervention is a spiritual battle ground and I go to war with the family disease.

After years, and sometimes decades of active addiction, families crumble under the weight of shame and secrets, breaking apart siblings, marriages, friends and loved ones.

  • Addiction happens to family systems not individuals.

  • The disease possesses its prisoners.

  • Suffocating, slowly, the life out of families.

  • Families become strangers to each other, retreating to the far corners of house and home.

  • Thoughts become scrambled and recruited to unintentionally protect the very disease that is eroding the family. Loved ones become senseless, trying to save their children, spouses, parents and dear friends. Fighting in the dark, swinging at ghosts, families spend many lost and unhappy years trying desperately to control and contain the disease.

At the heart of the matter, intervention helps families do a turnabout face and walk into that which they are most afraid: surrendering the fight and letting go. Intervention is bringing families together, guiding the most difficult of conversations, and inspiring each person to change, heal and expand, breaking the chains of shame and addiction. I do not determine the success of an intervention, on the choice of the ‘addicted’, but the health of the whole family. There is a path out for everyone who is effected by the disease. The painful truth is, that sometimes, families and addicts do not travel the road of health and healing together. Often, one very brave person needs to lead the way and stay the course, no matter who follows. Letting go of the people we love most is a deeply counter intuitive choice for anyone who loves an addict. It is the bravest of action, to release the grip and allow the addict to descend into the depths. Addicts do not learn from education but from hard earned experience. The act of letting go, is offering the gift of consequence.

The very reality that families are most afraid of is the very reality addicts need most, which is the opportunity to run into themselves. It is only when there is no one left to blame, nowhere left to go, that denial is pierced just long enough, for the addict to reach outside themselves for help. It is the birth place of self-esteem and in that very Devine moment, I am there, standing strong with a compassionate loving hand. My job, as an interventionist, is to illuminate the way out and inspire the journey toward a life of recovery. The path toward healing can feel, at times, unbearable and terrifying, but just on the other side of the storm, there is a calm new life, free of the madness addiction always brings. No matter how dark the days or how lost a family can feel, there is always hope.

Intervention is leading a freedom fight and a radical act of love.

Sober and shameless, Kw

Full Circle's Outpatient Relapse Prevention Program

Full Circle's Outpatient Relapse Prevention Program is an individualized addiction treatment service for men and women in the tenuous early months of recovery from alcohol and drug rehab. Lead by Kristina Wandzilak and Paul Mara, LMFT, a licensed therapist, with a specialty in relapse prevention, the RPP is an alternative to traditional outpatient treatment programs. Focused on the intricate, complicated and challenging issues of early sobriety, the service provides extensive recovery care while building and maintaining active lives. This program is offered in Marin County, just North of San Francisco. RPP is completely customizable, and can align with even the most challenging client schedules.

The Full Circle Relapse Prevention Program Includes

  • One private session weekly with a Full Circle Recovery Care professional.
  • Two educational/process groups weekly-Tuesday and Thursday 630 to 830pm
  • All scheduled and random drug testing. We require a minimum of two drug tests weekly.
  • 24-hour staff support.

The Full Circle Therapeutic Support Group and Drug Testing Service

Full Circle’s therapeutic group program is a monthly service offering education/process groups coupled with twice weekly drug testing and. The TGA is a clinical solution for individuals who have strong continuing care plans and are wanting the added support of a therapeutic group experience. Focused on relapse prevention and facilitated by Kristina Wandzilak, CAS, CIP and Paul Mara, LMFT, the service is a valuable addition to long term treatment plans.

Please call the office directly 415 202 6255 for further questions and admissions.

substance abuse treatment

The Gunshot

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I was at a neighborhood BBQ with our children. While the hamburgers were grilling, John was loading the gun. As my son opened his soda, John was laying himself on the bed. As my daughter ate her ice cream, John texted’ I love you’ to each of us. And as the band began to play, he put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. Like an earthquake, powerful enough to roll concrete, the gunshot echoed through the hot sticky air, and fell onto us, deep within, where the heart beats, and breaks, and aches, changing our lives, forever.

Through the exit wound of his beautiful head, splattered not only a 6’4 man with electric blue eyes and a smile that would light up a room, but the annihilation of my life and the lives of our two children obliterated in a split second. The coroner said John felt no pain. The pain he did not feel, was sprayed all over me and our children. Everything I knew about myself and my life, my children and family, my marriage, the future, the past, were vaporized instantly. With the pull of a trigger, my world was blackened never again to be the same.

John was liquid in my hands. I tried to hold onto him but he slipped through my fingers. I tried to pull him back from the blackness that was taking over his life. Right in front of my eyes, his light dimmed until finally he looked dark and hallow. At times, I could have sworn I could see straight through him.

The children slept in my room on my floor for months after Johns death. I would listen to them breathe in and out and wonder how I would I ever make sense of this. Once they were asleep I would sneak out of the room and would sit straight up on the couch in silence staring at the family photos that hung on the wall. Each picture documenting a picture-perfect time in our family’s life and they were mounted perfectly in frames, like a fucking pottery barn catalog. I would rock back and forth begging for daylight. The nights were a thousand hours long. The silence of the house was screaming at me and I could not escape the looping memories of John that raced across my mind. Like a movie stuck on play… over and over again.

In the light of day, I could not escape the truth of my life. I would be standing in line for a bagel and a kind friend, or colleague or another school family would offer their condolences and I would fell as if I was drowning, standing still, in the middle of the shop. My feet going numb as the blood began to run cold, creeping up my body, freezing my torso, squeezing the air from my lungs, and finally immersing my whole body in grief. Breathless, fighting for air, no one able to help me as I drown in plain sight.

I picked up Johns ashes from the morgue. He was in a cardboard box placed in a large paper bag, that was very heavy. And, as if I was leaving Safeway with groceries, I walked down the steps of the funeral home, with the father of my children in a shopping bag. In that card board box not only held the body and bones of a 6 foot 4 man, but the ashes of 12 years of marriage, two children, two dogs, years of laughter, love, struggles and a short lifetime of together. It was stunning how a whole life could fit in a small box in a large shopping bag.

The road from despair and anger to healing, at times, felt impossible and unbearable. In the beginning, I wanted to die and I burned with anger that I had to live a life I never asked for. I stood on the barren landscape of my life, and as far as my eyes could see there was no hope or light on the horizon. With my two children at my side, looking to me for direction and reassurance, I felt incompetent to guide and heal them. It was like they were burning alive, engulfed in the raging fire sparked by the back fire of his hand gun and I could nothing but watch in horror.

My choice became clear. I had to exist of expand. I chose expansion. With John’s blood dripping from my hands, I had to figure out a way to collect my children in my shaking arms and move forward. Inch by inch.

I was thrown into the journey of grief, even though I did not choose to embark on this path. I have come to learn that grief is not a feeling but a state of being, ever changing. It is a new universe in which I find myself living. The journey has been encased in despair and the darkest sadness, I have ever known. The kind that buckles me at the knees and paralyzes my body, helplessly lying motionless on the floor. I have learned how to get up, for the children, even though everything ounce of me wanted to disappear. I have felt a helplessness that has left me breathless; sitting by my sweet children hearing their agony, as they nearly spilt in two, with a pain no child should ever feel. I have learned that the grief journey also includes a joy and sweetness to life that is only offered to those who have faced the wrath of tragedy and healed.

We have figured out how to be three instead of four. I have learned to accept Johns death even though I don’t agree with it. I have found my husband dead, the most beautiful parts of him, his humor, kindness, loyalty and his dedication to his family and the complete and perfect love for his children, splattered against a wall. Digging desperately through the ashes of his suicide I have come to discover a wisdom blessed upon us, that allows us to be more sensitive, insightful and better armed to face the world and all of its bittersweet wonders.

As for me, I remember him and smile. Sometimes I still long to hear his voice. I long to sit with him and simply talk about the children. I have never known a pain so big and vast it actually steals my breath making it hard to stand. Only held up by the love of family and friends, have I emerged through the dark, still standing. I have come to accept and love this life and his choice to go home, far sooner than I ever imagined.

I realize that John never belonged to me, or even our children. He was always in the care of something far greater than us. His journey, although brief, was meaningful and his impact on the world, timeless, as our children are a living testament to his life’s purpose. I know he is still with us; watching, loving and guiding. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, when the house is still, If I close my eyes and listen hard, I can hear his voice, bringing tears to my eyes and a tender smile across my lips.

Exposing and Embracing Addiction:  How to Overcome Secrecy and Shame and Live with Freedom and Self-Love

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I have had the privilege of being interviewed for an online speaker’s series with 20 other respected leaders in the addiction field on the subject of shame and addiction. It is no cost to anyone who would like to join and listen to the interviews.


Learn how to heal shame, when you join me and 20 experts in the field of addiction and recovery beginning February 26, 2018, for “Exposing and Embracing Addiction” a complimentary interview series hosted by my friend Beth Osmer—recovering addict and alcoholic, hypnotherapist, and Shamanic practitioner.


Shame is the universal haunting of the addicted mind. Beginning with a core belief that we are deeply flawed and imperfect.  Shame is the most unbearable of all human emotions and I have watched people drink themselves to death in a desperate attempt to escape the suffering of shame. Finding the feeling nearly impossible to bear, it propels addicts and alcoholics to drink and use in order medicate the burning self-hatred deep within. The drinking and using will create consequences, which only proves our deepest fear, that we are unworthy, and in turn creates more shame. It is a regenerating cycle and will lead to a very dark and hopeless state of being. The shame spiral can be a lifelong and progressive cycle.


I believe that alcoholics and addicts die of shame and secrets and healing the shame is the most effective treatment and medicine for the disease of addiction.


We are not born with shame. It is accumulated through a life time. The process of healing and recovery is not a journey toward something or somewhere but a return back to the beginning where we are shameless and free. Once we heal those deep wounds, life becomes a playground, where the possibilities are endless. We can love, laugh, play, fail and face life, head up and chest forward, without defining ourselves by the sand castles we build. In a shameless life, there are no successes or failures, only experiences, where we learn, grow and change.


If you no longer had to define yourself by the shame that haunts you, how would you author the rest of your life? Who would you be? What would you do? And how would you live this one life we have been granted?


Please join me and reserve your spot at no cost: https://goo.gl/TcsCSW

When you go to the link above and join us for this powerful series of conversations with addiction experts, you’ll get practical advice, tools, and strategies to stop healing shame.
Specifically, you'll learn:

  • How to have compassion for yourself.
  • How a person may unintentionally perpetuate the “Secrecy and Shame Spiral”.
  • How addiction and self-love are intimately connected, and strategies for working on.
  • How you feel about yourself.
  • How to find the courage to reach out for help.
  • A variety of specific strategies and tools for recovery, ranging from the Law of Attraction to the 12-Step Process to mindfulness practices, hypnotherapy, etc., so you can utilize the ones that most resonate with you.

Join me for “Exposing and Embracing,” starting February 26, 2018. https://goo.gl/TcsCSW


Sober and Shameless,
Kristina Wandzilak

"Intervention" A Misunderstood Process

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I have spent the last 22 years practicing intervention all over the world and have met some of the most extra-ordinary families. The love and acceptance, I am greeted with on the door steps of strangers, continues to humble me, decades later. Connected by addiction and the fierce fight for the ones they most, we partner together and go to war against the disease. I have witnessed the greatest acts of blind faith by the families who have trusted me enough to open their homes and lives. Holding their breath, standing on the edge of their greatest fears, they offer their loved ones into my care. Even after all these years, it is a reasonability I accept with the greatest sense of humility. Having worked with hundreds of families and thousands of addicts, when asked about their most painful consequence of addiction, the most common answer is the effect on their family. The deepest regrets and shame of addiction can be traced directly back to the loss of family and the distant memories of laughter, home and love. Addiction is a disease propelled by shame and secrets, and is a breeding ground for the most unbearable feelings. As families gather, sitting around dining tables, bittersweet feelings and brutal realities and the truth of family addiction becomes undeniable.


Intervention is a misunderstood process. The word will often conjure up frightening feelings, resulting in families postponing the call for help. Trying desperately to control and contain the disease, families suffer from many lost and unhappy years. Crippled with feelings of helplessness, despair, self-doubt, fear and misguided loyalty, families will delay asking for help. Sometimes, waiting too long. Addiction is a fatal disease and it takes countless of lives every day. Some of the brightest and most sensitive people, I have ever known, are extinguished from the planet, far too soon.


Intervention is a highly respectful, honest, and often the greatest gift of love, a family can offer. I know this, that deep inside, hidden in the soft under belly of addicts, there is a primal desire to survive and live. The act of intervention is accessing the piece, of the person, that wants help: the part that remembers the authentic self and where the flame of hope flickers. I know that addicts do want recovery, but are lost in the darkness of the disease and need the way out to be illuminated. Desperate for guidance and connection, the addicted will follow when lead by a caring, knowledgeable, safe professional.


Recovery begins when the path to safety is shining brightly and the doors of safe refuge are held wide open. Full Circle Intervention will guide your family home.

 

Sober and shameless, Kw

Good Morning America

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My mom and I have been invited to New York by Good Morning America to do a live-in studio interview this Thursday February 8.

We will be interviewed about our experience as an addicted family, family recovery and our
book The Lost Years: Surviving a mother and daughter’s worst nightmare. It continues to
humble me that our book and story has touched so many lives. 25 years ago, my mom, after trying everything to save me, finally made the decision to let me go. I’ll never forget the day, I showed up at her door, after once again, disappearing through the window in my bedroom, not to be heard from for weeks, saying “you are no longer allowed in my home or life until you are living a life of recovery and if I never see you alive again, I want you to know how much I love you” And she closed the door.

I wish I could say I got sober that day but it wasn’t until 3 long years later, beaten, hungry and cold, laying on the floor of a homeless shelter, that I became motivated to change. Our healing took years and writing our book was a cathartic experience and healed deep wounds in both of us. I have had the great privilege of traveling the country with my mom sharing our story to countless of families who are inspired by her strength and recovery. I stand next to her on stages, large and small, and bare-witness to the power of her words as they fall upon the beautiful nameless faces that have come to hear her speak.

I believe, it is not the adversities that come our way that define us, but what we choose to do
with that adversity. Although, I cannot say I am happy that addiction infected my family, I can
say, I am very proud of what we have chosen to do with it and how we use our experience to
benefit others.

Thursday morning, in front of 8 million viewers, we will share our experience, healing and hope. One of the greatest gifts of my recovery is being next to my mom as she talks about her recovery and inspires countless of families, to love enough, to let go. My mom is the hero of my story and I am very proud to be her daughter


Sober and shameless, Kw
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