Full Circle Intervention

Begin, Again

They shattered.

Into a million little pieces.

Bleeding out across the floor, and pooling around my worn out running shoes. The blood of their father, the weight of his name, the memories of their childhood, his smile, his large hand wrapped around theirs, were soaking the floor.

Stretching out for them, they crumpled like binder paper. As if, I was reaching for a ghost, as hard as I tried, I could not keep them from fading out of sight. In a second of time, my children, evaporated, right in front of my eyes.

I have never seen those children again.

My family died the day John shot himself.

I had to find a way to rebirth my son and daughter.

With no map or human understanding of what had happened, I had to put them back together. My children had become a shattered puzzle, blown apart with the pull of a trigger. I desperately shuffled through the pile, and piece by piece, began to rebuild.  

I took great care in their reassembly.

I did not want my children to fall into the belief that they need to be defined by their loss, or have his death be their legacy. I wanted them to love themselves, to honor their father and to keep the very best of him alive. I was not going to allow my children to fall victim to the trauma or use it as an excuse not to live their best lives. I would not allow his loss to rob them of the ability to achieve their goals, to experience the beautiful feelings of success and the disappointment of failure or to dream big and grand, and, one day, to fall madly and deeply in love. I would not allow to shrink.

 We live in a culture that pathologies and diagnoses much of the human experience.

The way we grieved did not follow the outline of a clinical study or the chapters of self help books. I wanted them to heal, in their own time and on their own terms.We each did the best we could to recover from the loss of John. I made mistakes. Some big mistakes but what I did perfectly right, was love my children. My world became very dark and I did my best to fumble through the lightless road in front of me. My son did not speak his fathers name for years, and my daughter threw herself into weekly therapy and writing. We three, chose our own paths to ease the ache we felt. Our journeys were different but the destination was the same, arriving at the start, where the world was new and the horizon, expansive for exploration to become new people and rebuild the foundation of self and family.

Since Johns death, I have raised my children with the belief that they do not need to attach to the label of trauma survivor, rather, they can heal. They can move forward. They can thrive. I wanted to protect them from the pressure of being sentence to a life where they are defined by their fathers suicide, having their successes and failures, tainted by the choices of the generation before them.

With the love of family and friends, the strength of their dad, and a faith in God, they are strong confident people, with the uninvited wisdom, that terrible things can happen, we can feel unspeakable pain and in an instant, whole lives can shatter. They also know, that we can begin our lives again, from the rumble of a life blown to pieces, we can rebuild, we can rise, and beautiful joyous days will come again.

None of us are the same people we were, the years before September 5, 2011.

At the age of 40, 11 and 9

We were reborn.

And we Began, Again….

Sober and Shameless, Kw

 

 

 

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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