ep. 23 - Kristina Wandzilak & Constance Curry, Authors of "The Lost Years"


This mother and daughter share their heartfelt story about the struggles, dangers and disappointments of drug and alcohol abuse and a beautiful reminder that you should never lose hope .it is never too late for a happy ending.

The Lost Years: Surviving a Mother and Daughter's Worst Nightmare
By Kristina Wandzilak, Constance Curry


Gail Davis: I'm thrilled to have Kristina Wandzilak and Constance Curry as our guests on this episode of GDA Podcast. Kristina and Connie are a mother-daughter duo who co-authored a book called [00:01:30] The Lost Years. The Lost Years refers to the period of time that Kristina's life spiraled out of control due to the use of alcohol and drugs. Kristina is now an interventionist, a frequent guest on talk shows, and has hosted her own television series. I don't want to give away the whole story, so let's just start by saying, "Welcome, Kristina and Connie."

Kyle Davis: Yeah, hey.

Constance Curry: Thank you, Gail.

Kristina Wandzilak: Thank you.

Constance Curry: Thank you, Kyle. We're glad to be here.

Kyle Davis: Cool. [00:02:00] I guess, probably, where we start every episode is, give us the background. Since you all two are a tandem, I'll let you figure out who starts.

Constance Curry: Well, I usually start, and so I'm going to do that now, because when Kristina was using drugs and acting out, and it was so, so a terrifying time in our lives, and I was so [00:02:30] bewildered, just not knowing where to turn or what to do. That's where our struggle begins. We just have an amazing journey, where we go from that to having a book together, and traveling together, and sharing our lives together. So, it's a fabulous journey.

Who would have ever thought that such a terrible thing in our life could turn into such a gift? But that's the way it's been; so, we like to share that [00:03:00] experience with other people and let people know there's hope. There's always hope.

Gail Davis: Yeah. That's one of the things I find so inspiring, is that moment in the story when Kristina says, "If ever there was someone you should have given up on, I was the one." I think it just opens the door for everyone to realize that no matter how dire the situation is, like you said, there's always hope.

Constance Curry: Absolutely. [00:03:30] Another thing I think that's important for people to know is that they're not alone. They are not alone. There are other people out there that have the same similar experiences with drugs and alcohol, with gambling, those so many issues in life today that our book, I think, relates to and our story relates to, because the recovery is the same no matter what the disease, it seems.

Gail Davis: Mm-hmm (affirmative), and it can [00:04:00] happen to any family. I think that's the other thing. When I'm describing your story to people, I'm like, "Man, Connie was a cheerleader in college, you know. She was a stay-at-home mom. She baked cookies every day. She read to her kids at night. Kristina was a competitive swimmer." I mean, how did this happen? Maybe that would be a good place, Kristina, for you to jump in and share, how did it happen?

Kristina Wandzilak: Yeah. It's such a great question. [00:04:30] My quest for the last 23 years in being sober ... Certainly, with all my work with families, and writing the story with my mom, it's really a quest to find that answer to how it happened to us. If there was ever a family that it didn't make sense in, we were that. I was loved all the days of my life. As you said, my mom stayed home. We went to church every Sunday. [00:05:00] We had all the ingredients for a healthy family.

It happened so innocently in many ways. I was curious. I tried alcohol when I was 13. From the very start, I loved it, and it just happened so quickly from there -- from 13 to 16, being addicted to meth, and cocaine, and crack, and all those, and by the time I was 18, [00:05:30] homeless, essentially. My mom finally let me go, where I descended into the depths of addiction. I mean what I say, that if there was ever anybody, if there was ever a time to let somebody go, in so many ways I was it.

I was awful. I was a liar and a thief. I think, ironically, the greatest gift that my mom gave me, the most helpful [00:06:00] thing she ever did for me, was to close the door on me, which is so counter-intuitive to families. Essentially, that was how she never gave up on me, ironically, was by letting me go and allowing me to ... the consequences of my choices and allowing me to hit a bottom, where I had nowhere else to go. I had nowhere else to go but to get help and to find sobriety and recovery.

Gail Davis: [00:06:30] I've heard you say so many times your mom's the hero. Connie, where did you get the strength after that third time of trying to get Kristina help? When she escaped and came back home, where did you get the strength to stand in that doorway and say, "You're no longer welcome in my home, until you choose to go through treatment and a life of recovery?"

Constance Curry: Well, people say, "Oh, you were so courageous. I could never have that much courage." [00:07:00] I don't think it had anything to do with courage at that point. It was that I accepted that I had no power. I accepted the reality that I had no power over my child and her choices. So, the next thing was to let her experience those choices, because no matter how many times I tried to fix it, tried to make it better, tried to take her home again so we could start over, [00:07:30] it just never worked. We'd start over for two weeks and then we'd be right back where we started.

I just couldn't do it anymore. It was as if I just laid my burden down. I laid my burden down, and that was it. I don't know if that's courage, but I was also acting with the support of my therapist and I had a program of my own [00:08:00] that supported letting a person go after trying everything you could come up with to try. That's basically how I felt. There was nothing else to do.

Also, of course, when she left, when that happened, I didn't expect that she'd be gone for a couple of years. I thought she'd be back next week, saying, "Mom, come on. I'll go to treatment." But she is one stubborn girl, [00:08:30] right?

Kristina Wandzilak: I always say, the most loving thing my mom did for me was to close the door, to let me go. It was the most loving thing she did for me. It was only then that I had the opportunity to get help, ironically. That's why I say that she's the hero of this story. She's the hero of this story, because she found the strength to love me enough [00:09:00] to let me go, and that was a turning point in my life.

Although my life got terrible during those three years, it was the turning point. It was the only way. It was the only way that I was going to get better. If my mom had not closed the door on me, I would have used myself to death in her home. I am certain of it. I stood more of a chance to find help and recovery out on the street than I did [00:09:30] in her home.

Gail Davis: I've watched so many of the shows, Kristina, where you do the interventions with the family. It can't go unnoticed, the attachment often that the mother, or some other member of the family, has with the addict, and how they always want to sit next to them in intervention, and they want to protect them. I know you always seem to start that by, "Excuse me. Can you move over there?" and really trying to just get the separation [00:10:00] going. That's never gone unnoticed to me. I'm a mom and I totally get it.

Kristina Wandzilak: So difficult.

Gail Davis: What do you say? It's a family system disease, that it's never just the addict. There's a whole family system supporting the behavior.

Kristina Wandzilak: That's exactly right. For every one addicted person, they say that there are nine other people affected directly and indirectly. So, the collateral effects of addiction, the ripple effects of addiction, changes [00:10:30] family systems for generations. You can have one person using and many, many people profoundly affected. That's what happens in families, that all the focus is going to try to save one, but the whole family is suffering.

Essentially, my mom made that ultimate choice. In trying to save me, she was going to lose all four of her children; so, she really cut the weight. It's like you have to [00:11:00] cut the dead weight. So, she chose to save the others, to let me go in hope and the belief that I would be able to in time save myself. That's what makes her heroic.

Kyle Davis: Now, during that three-year period, what happened to you? Where did you find yourself? From what I've heard, everybody has their own rock bottom. We laugh about that for me. Anyways, at what [00:11:30] point did you say, "Hey, I've had enough?"

Kristina Wandzilak: When my mom closed the door on me, as I say, I wish that was the day that I changed, but I didn't. I set out to make my own way. What happened in the course of three years is I became unemployable. I had lost my place to live, because I couldn't hold a job. Eventually I ended up robbing [00:12:00] 22 homes; so, I engaged in 22 home invasions to support my habit. I turned to crime, and I ended up homeless in San Francisco, eating in dumpsters and doing whatever I had to do to survive.

I just can't believe even still today sometimes how far I descended into addiction, to the point that I was just a faceless, nameless person [00:12:30] in the street. I did not draw a sober breath for three years. I was intoxicated every day for three years. The end for me came ... I suppose it wasn't any day different than any other day when you're out there out the street. I was arrested for being drunk and disorderly. I was put in a homeless shelter.

On the floor of this homeless shelter I had my moment of clarity, or my awakening, in the sense of I [00:13:00] was dying on the floor of this shelter. I was overcome with this incredible sense of regret, and self-hatred, and a panic that my life was going to end, and I didn't mean for it to be this way. That's the thing about addiction. I didn't mean for it to be this way. I didn't mean to cause harm to the people that I love most. It just go so out-of-hand so fast, and I couldn't stop it.

So, on the floor of this homeless shelter, I had this realization that my life [00:13:30] was going to end, and I never meant for it to be like this. The last thing I remember thinking before I closed my eyes to die was, "How sad my mom will be that it ended this way." Obviously, I didn't die. I came out of that homeless shelter, but I was completely defeated. I just knew that I could no longer go on the way that I was. I just couldn't go on the way that I was, but I didn't know how to stop it.

It was like I was at this jumping-off [00:14:00] place, or this true turning point in my life, that I couldn't drink and get high enough to ease the pain that I was in, and I didn't know how to not drink or get high. It was only then that I could call my mom. She asked me if I was calling for help, and I said, "I am." I went to treatment at that point for six months.

Even though I went to treatment, my mom and I, our healing was very [00:14:30] slow. She didn't rush in to see me. It wasn't this big celebration. My mom just handled it so clearly, that "This is where you can go, and I hope that you make your way there, and I hope that you find recovery, but I'm still going on with my life, and I'm still taking care of the family. We wish you well." One of the most important things was that she didn't rush out to get me, or save me, or even drive me to the treatment center. She just provided [00:15:00] me the place to find my recovery.

Kyle Davis: Yeah. I find it interesting. One of the phrases that you said was that you became a "nameless and faceless addict." As Constance actually knows, I lived in San Francisco for a while. I worked in what is essentially SoMa, or South of Market, and right across the street was the Tenderloin, and you see all these nameless, faceless people. I mean, one street's a shooting gallery of heroin addicts. [00:15:30] The next street is a bunch of meth and crack pipes. I've seen everything. It's interesting, because you look at every single one of those people, and it's just like they're a shell of what they once were.

Constance Curry: I know. At some point they have a mother, or a child, or somebody that cared about them once. Whether they care about them now, I don't know, but it is so sad to see what addiction can do to [00:16:00] people. I hope that when families hear us, because we do like to have the high school students come to our events when it's possible ... What I hope they get from it is that you just never know if you're going to be the one, if you're going be the one with that disease.

How do we know, after drinking in college, for example, that all [00:16:30] those people that drank too much at the fraternity parties and then they go off to make their way in the world ... How do we know who's going to be the addict, who's going to be the alcoholic, who's going to be the family man or woman? It's scary to know if you have the marker or not.

I think that's important for young people to know that it's dangerous. I mean, parents can say this, and teachers can say this; but, the truth of the matter is, we just don't [00:17:00] know when we try things how they're going to affect us.

Gail Davis: So true. I know this is an audio podcast, and so people can't visually see what Kristina and Connie look like, but they are the most normal-looking mother and daughter. Beyond that, Kristina's drop-dead gorgeous. To hear her say she was dumpster diving and faceless, you can't even reconcile it, when you meet her, in [00:17:30] her confidence and her beauty. So, that message of hope certainly is a strong one for people.

Kristina, well, just the coming back ... First you go through treatment and you get off the addiction. But, now, how do you apply for a job? Where do you live? How do you rebuild a life? I mean, truly 'the lost years.' What a fantastic name. How do you rebuild?

Kyle Davis: Well, actually, maybe how about we start with, [00:18:00] what was your first week of recovery like in the center?

Gail Davis: Oh, okay. Okay.

Kyle Davis: That might be a little bit better.

Gail Davis: Okay.

Kristina Wandzilak: Well, I think treatment was really important for me, because I was homeless and I needed, I just needed to get off the street. So, it was really important for me. My first week in treatment, detoxing ... Oh, it was so awful, and I was so lonely. The thing about homelessness, [00:18:30] besides the cold: it's so incredibly lonely. I mean, I don't think anyone spoke my name for half a year.

Being in treatment, it was healing, and easing the loneliness, getting off the substances, learning how to eat, and shower, and brush my teeth, and all those things that people take for granted that you just get away from when you're addicted. When I left treatment, I lived in [00:19:00] a van. I moved into a van, where I began to put my life back together. I have to say, coming back from homelessness has been the most difficult thing I've ever done in my life.

To get a job ... I had to address. I had no phone number. I had no references. I mean, I hadn't worked an honest job since ... I don't know ... I was 17. I mean, I had nothing. I didn't have a high school diploma. I had nothing. To go out and try and get a job ... I heard [00:19:30] no more then than ever in my life. It's so painful to be nobody, right? I was nobody, and I just needed somebody to give me a chance. I knew I could turn my life around if somebody would give me a chance. I just needed that one shot.

I did. I don't know. I must have applied to 50 jobs. One person, one man, gave me [00:20:00] the opportunity. From there I began to heal my life and to change. I went from there to get a high school diploma, and put myself through college, and studied addiction, and eventually got out of the van. You'll be happy to know that I don't live in a van anymore.

It took so much tenacity to come through that. The fact that I didn't drink during that time really [00:20:30] even today kind of blows me away, because I had nothing to lose by drinking. I didn't have any family or friends at that ... I didn't have a job. I mean, I could've drank and nobody would have known, right?

Gail Davis: Right.

Kristina Wandzilak: I just knew that I didn't want to die addicted. I just didn't want to die addicted; so, I did whatever. I earned, and scraped, and fought for every single second of my sobriety. It was a very [00:21:00] difficult and painful time.

The feelings that come with self-pride and esteem ... Every day that I stayed sober it was like I was filling myself up on the inside. I was gaining something that nobody could take from me. I had this sense of pride in myself. Although I lived in this van and I had absolutely nothing, what I did have was 90 days, or six months, or eight [00:21:30] months of sobriety that I earned. For the first time in my life, I earned it honestly. One day at a time, I earned it.

That feeling of pride is equally seductive, if not more, than any high I've found out there in a bag, or a bottle, or on the street. To lay my head on the bed at night and know that I told the truth all day, that I am becoming a good person, that I can do this, that I [00:22:00] didn't drink, and I was one step closer to reuniting with my family, that was the best high and the best feeling I've ever known.

Kyle Davis: One of the things you mentioned when you went into treatment was that it was kind of like retooling yourself. It was almost as if you came in from the wild and you were becoming a human again, if you will. What was it like to come back into the family unit?

Kristina Wandzilak: [00:22:30] It was really difficult, and scary, and very tenuous, and clunky, I think, in the beginning. My mom was very clear. I think I wasn't allowed in her home. The first time I went home for dinner was when I was nine months sober. She sat on the front deck. I think I write about this in the book, because it was such an important conversation. Well, I don't think it was a conversation. She just told me [00:23:00] that our relationship was contingent on my sobriety, and should I relapse, I wouldn't be welcome in her home again. So, it really helped solidify my decision to stay sober.

Constance Curry: It's difficult for the family to trust again, and that trust has to be built one day at a time and one incident at a [00:23:30] time. We'd visit back and forth, but I was not going to trust her to come home until I really felt like she would be sober when she showed up at the door. So, it's difficult, all these things. There's healing that has to happen between the parents, but also the siblings and friends. There's a lot to an addiction. Like Kristina says, nine people affected, certainly. [00:24:00] There were that many in our group, for sure.

Gail Davis: Kristina, I know it's been at least 20 years that you've been clean and sober. How important is it to you to continue to work the program today?

Kristina Wandzilak: Yeah. In September I had 23 years consecutive sobriety.

Gail Davis: Oh, awesome. Congratulations. Congratulations.

Kristina Wandzilak: Yeah. Thank you. For me, it's really important to continue on my path of recovery and do today [00:24:30] the same things I did then. My recovery is no longer so much about not drinking. It's not that I'm afraid or have to fight the desire to drink anymore at all. For me it's about enlightenment and continuing on my path of living a life of purpose, passion, and meaning.

That's what I find in my recovery. It's a path to enlightenment, always [00:25:00] challenging myself around how I can be better and do better in the world so that I can wake up in the morning and ask myself, "How can I be of service? How can I use this experience that I survived and recovered from to benefit others?" Really, I feel that my recovery and being out there in the recovering world is less about fighting the urge to drink, if that makes sense-

Gail Davis: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kristina Wandzilak: ... but to be an example that it is possible. If I can change my [00:25:30] life, and my mom, and I, and our family can come through this better for it, there's hope for anyone. So, that's why I continue on my recovery path to be an example, to be of service to others, and just really spread the message, not just in words or writing, but action and right living.

Gail Davis: Tell us about the treatment program. You have a new treatment program that you've [00:26:00] established. What can you share about that?

Kristina Wandzilak: Thank you for asking. I guess a year and a half ago I opened an 18-bed sober living community. I found this beautiful property and transformed it into this amazing community, where I have 18 men and women who are living lives of recovery. They have jobs, and they go out into the community, and they have this safe, sober place to live.

Then, at [00:26:30] the beginning of this year, I founded and opened an intensive outpatient program; so, I have the opportunity to provide addiction treatment on an outpatient basis, meaning, unlike residential care, where somebody would go to live for 30, or 60, or 90 days, they come to full-circle, intensive outpatient and receive the same treatment, but it's spread out over a longer course of time, three [00:27:00] days a week for nine hours.

Therefore, individuals are able to have their jobs, or work on their careers, or be in college or in school, able to raise children, and continue on in the lives that they have while they're treating their addiction. It's been an incredibly challenging endeavor, but I have found it to be incredibly fulfilling. I love seeing the [00:27:30] clients get better and that I get to be out there on the front lines.

I get to meet people at their most broken and I can see them through with intervention, and then the treatment program, and then the full-circle living. So, I get to meet people at their most broken and then have a front row seat to watching them redeem themselves, and pick up the pieces of their lives, and heal themselves, their families, and really begin to emerge [00:28:00] into the lives that they've always wanted. It is an extraordinary way to spend a life, and I consider myself incredibly lucky every day that that's what I get to bear witness to.

Kyle Davis: One of the things that a lot of people do is they watch all these intervention shows, where they grab somebody and they bring them into a room, and "Hey, surprise. Now we're going to read you all our letters." I have an understanding that you have a very different [00:28:30] principle or different way of handling that. In case people are wondering and may want to help a friend or family member out, what are your thoughts on that?

Kristina Wandzilak: Yes. Twenty years ago, when I started doing intervention, I had a very hard time with the traditional model with the surprise element, where you catch someone off-guard and you list all the things that they haven't done or should be doing, ask them to go to treatment immediately. My challenge with that model [00:29:00] is that I believe that model is very addict-focused.

I come from a family with some perspective. Through my own experience, and certainly through my professional experience, I've come to learn and know that addiction is a family disease. It's a family disorder, and the whole family needs help. The whole family system needs intervention, and everyone in that family needs treatment. So, I don't do that traditional surprise element. [00:29:30] I took it out.

I do a very inclusive type of intervention. In other words, the addicted person, when the time is right, becomes aware of the intervention. They are invited and encouraged to participate in the family recovery; but, whether the addict comes to the intervention or not, we still move forward with helping the family. In other words, the addict may or may not want help. The addict may or may not be ready for change, [00:30:00] but the family is, and so it doesn't make sense to me to have a whole family waiting for one person to get ready or not.

My family intervention is really in working with the whole system, with everyone that wants to get help. The addicts can come and join us or not; but, with or without them, the family's getting better. I mean, that was a very radical [00:30:30] thought many years ago, but it just never sat right with me ever. Knowing what I went through, knowing what my mom went through, it never sat right with me to make it all about the addict. So, that's how I'm different.

Kyle Davis: It's not all about you.

Kristina Wandzilak: That's right.

Gail Davis: That's awesome.

Kristina Wandzilak: I get parents in my office who are just so devastated, [00:31:00] and so afraid, and lost, and hurting. They hang the health of their whole family system on the most dysfunctional member. This gets to the message in my intervention. It's that you can be happy, and joyous, and free, as they say. You can find recovery whether your addict does or not, because the truth is, addiction is a fatal disease. Some people [00:31:30] survive, and a lot of people don't. So, to help a family heal, and move forward, and begin to pick up the wreckage of the addiction in their lives is truly where my work is.

Gail Davis: What do you see trending in the United States right now? Are we improving? I think someone mentioned before we started recording maybe there's a new resurgence of heroin problems?

Kyle Davis: Opioids in general.

Gail Davis: Yeah. What [00:32:00] are you seeing, Kristina? Are we making any progress?

Kristina Wandzilak: Yes, I do. I think addiction is so much more mainstream today. Like, people talk about addiction in a much more comfortable way. I think there's less shame with addiction in the general public. I think people are having more provocative and open conversations about it. I think as a whole people are beginning to understand that it's not a moral deficiency, but [00:32:30] it is a disease, and that it affects really good people in decent families all the time.

I think part of that is the epidemic of opiate addiction, through the prescription pill epidemic, really. It's forced addiction into the media and into the mainstream, where I think that we're far more open today about it. It's not that dirty little secret anymore [00:33:00] when you have an addict in your life. It's, I think, far more acceptable to talk about. Would you agree with that, Mom?

Constance Curry: Yes, absolutely. I mean, there was such shame when you were acting out. I can remember thinking that I wouldn't allow you to go and play with a neighbor whose child was addicted, because I would think [00:33:30] that somehow you could get in trouble. Here I am, the family with somebody addicted. It was such an odd feeling. Absolutely, people are much more accepting and open to help. The families, there's more out there for them. So, yeah, it's definitely more accepted and there's just more opportunity to get better. It's everywhere now, if [00:34:00] we just open our eyes to it.

Kyle Davis: I think one of the things about addiction, regardless of what it is -- It could be drugs; it could be alcohol; it could be ... I don't know-

Gail Davis: Food, maybe?

Kyle Davis: ... gambling, food, whatever it may be. I think now, just kind of with the variety and the options in what's available, it's so much more present as well, regardless of what the addiction is. So, I think people are far more comfortable with it, too.

I mentioned about the opioids and all that stuff, [00:34:30] but two interesting things that I've ... Well, one I've known for a while; one that I just heard recently. Somebody said that the drug problem isn't coming across the border; it's coming to you by your pharmacy. That's the first thing. The next thing is, like, you hear in the news a lot about New Hampshire and stuff having a really high opiod, and OxyContins, and all that stuff, but there's like a real secret underground addiction problem in Utah because of the same thing. They just don't talk about it.

Kristina Wandzilak: Right. Yeah.

Kyle Davis: [00:35:00] It's just interesting.

Constance Curry: It's very pervasive and it's more available. I don't know what's going to happen now that we're going to have medical marijuana and then marijuana here in California. It's very disturbing to think about all the options that young people are going to have as far as this marijuana is concerned, because it's such a different drug than it was, say, in my day. I was not really exposed to that. It's [00:35:30] very, very frightening to think how common it's going to be and how easily young people can get the drugs.

Gail Davis: It's scary.

Constance Curry: It definitely is very, very frightening; so, I think the more education young people can have, and the more education that families can have, and the more open we can be about the conversation, then we know where to go for help. People know what to do for help. Of course, the 12-step programs [00:36:00] are more and more prevalent, so all this is going to help us, I hope, but we'll see.

Kyle Davis: Now, to put a nice little bow and wrap this up, I know that one of the questions that my mom is eagerly asking me to ask, because I think she's really happy and proud about the story, is how the three of you all met.

Gail Davis: I do like the story. Don't you, Connie?

Constance Curry: Oh, I love the story. I do. I mean, my brother and his wife belong [00:36:30] to this church, the Good Shepherd Church in San Antonio-

Gail Davis: No, Colleyville. Colleyville.

Constance Curry: Oh, excuse me, in Colleyville. So, they suggest that we come and speak at their church.

Gail Davis: Mm-hmm (affirmative). [inaudible 00:36:46]

Constance Curry: Evidently, the priest had read the book, which I thought, "Gee, I don't know. He's a very open-minded priest if he read this book and wants to invite his whole community to come." But there were maybe 300 [00:37:00] people, don't you think, Gail?
Gail Davis: I think there were. I remember one of the organizers called me, and she said, "Are you coming tonight?" I said, "No, I'm not, because I'm having a big birthday party on Friday and I have guests in from out of town." She said, "Well, you just can't miss this."

It was ironic, because my mom was in town for my birthday, and I said, "Would you like to go hear this mother and daughter?" and I gave her the thumbnail. She said, "Yes, because my friend, who I play bridge with, is going through this. Her daughter [00:37:30] is addicted to heroin, and now she's raising her three grandchildren. Maybe I'll find something that I can tell my friend." So, just to your point earlier that it's so pervasive and everybody has a connection somewhere.

My mom and I go down there, and the minute you all started talking ... You read excerpts from your book, but I could just see so much appeal. I remember giving you a card and saying, "Let's talk about the speaking industry." I don't think at that point you guys knew there was such a thing out there, that [00:38:00] people actually get paid to go and give speeches, but it sure has been wonderful. I know that we've worked together ... I don't know ... 40 or 50 times. The feedback has always been so positive.

Another thing I think I should note is that a comment I always hear is how well attended the presentation is, how many people sign up for it. I think it speaks to that need and also to the thing that you mentioned earlier about the shame. For something to be [00:38:30] offered, and people to be able to walk in, and it's not like actually going to Al-Anon or going to AA, but literally just saying, "Oh, this is educational. Maybe I can go hear something," I think has changed a lot of lives. It's always given me so much professional pride to have you all as friends, but also to help you share your message.

Constance Curry: Thank you so much. Tell the story about your mom, when we went to Oklahoma.

Gail Davis: Oklahoma. My mom [00:39:00] is such a go-getter. You've got to love Barbara. She fell in love with the story, so she decided that she needed to have Kristina and Connie in my hometown of Altus, Oklahoma. Go, Bulldogs. My mom organized an event at the community ... I'm trying to remember. I think it was at Western Oklahoma State College. They invited the entire community. We had such a turnout. I believe we had a news show on the Lawton television station. My [00:39:30] mom, boy, she is quite the event planner when she gets behind an idea. It was really a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun.

Kristina Wandzilak: It was amazing.

Constance Curry: I think they put a note inside the utility bill, telling people [crosstalk 00:39:48].

Gail Davis: I can't believe you remember that. Yeah. She went down. She got a little action. That's so funny.

Constance Curry: And the prisoners from the prison -- the woman's prison -- came, [00:40:00] and they were all in tears by the time they left. It was quite something.

Gail Davis: Yeah. We went to the high school. Yeah, we really turned Altus on its head. We were all over.

Kristina Wandzilak: Yeah, it was a great event. I think that is the spirit of our story. The details of the story certainly is addiction, but the spirit of the story is really a love between a mother and a daughter, [00:40:30] family, strength, and love, and loyalty. I think the spirit of the book is about the possibilities of change. No matter what comes your way, you don't have to be defined by what happens to you, but you can be defined by what you choose to do with it.

Whether it's the loss of a loved one, or eating disorder, mental health, or a terrible divorce, or whatever your lost years are, I think the [00:41:00] spirit of our story is that there is hope that change is possible and that we can come through better for whatever, better for it, if we choose to heal and to dig through the ashes. I think it's constantly digging through the ashes for the lesson and the gift in all of the tragedy.

I think that's what resonated so much with your mom and just so many people at many of our speaking engagements, where they come up and say, "I don't have addiction in my life, but the [00:41:30] story inspired me to go out and get a new job, or go and apply for that job I've been afraid of, or leave my marriage, or find another ..." whatever it is. I think that's the beauty of The Lost Years.

Gail Davis: It's a story of redemption in a way. It's a beautiful story. It's a feel-good story. A lot of people think, "Oh, is it dark? The Lost Years?" I'm like, "Not at all." Yes, there are some struggles, but what comes out in the end, [00:42:00] that's really the beauty.

Constance Curry: Yeah. Everyone has lost years of some kind, and so I think the title is so wonderful and it speaks to our message.

Gail Davis: Is there anything new on the horizon we need to know about, Kristina? It seems like you're always cooking up something.

Kyle Davis: Cooking up something.

Gail Davis: That was a bad pun. I couldn't get out of it. I was already into it.

Kyle Davis: I literally watched Breaking [00:42:30] Bad all day today, so blue sky meth, here we go.

Gail Davis: You know what I mean.

Kristina Wandzilak: Yeah. It's funny you should ask. In the last two years, I opened my 18-bed facility, I started the IOT, I filmed a television show. So, my lovely staff, my lovely team of people, came to me collectively ... I think this was my intervention ... and they all said, "You are not allowed to do anything else. Like, no more big ideas for at least [00:43:00] two years."

Unbeknownst to them, however, I am working on another book and certainly talking about filming some more episodes of Codependent. We'll see how that comes along. For now we have intervention, the sober living, and the intensive outpatient.

Constance Curry: Our book is coming out in audio.

Gail Davis: Oh, wonderful. I did not know [00:43:30] that. Fantastic. I keep waiting for someone to make it into a movie. I know it's going to be a blockbuster when someone has that vision.

Constance Curry: Well, we'll see.

Kristina Wandzilak: We'll see.

Constance Curry: We've thought about it before.

Kristina Wandzilak: It was really fun with the audio, Gail, because we had to choose the narrator. It's always so interesting to listen to these voices and try to choose the one that sounds like you, or carries your tone, or your ... [00:44:00] I don't know. It's a very interesting process to bring a story to life.

Gail Davis: I would like to do a shout-out for the book. For anyone that hasn't read it, it is a book that you cannot put down, The Lost Years: Surviving a Mother and Daughter's Worst Nightmare. They alternate chapters, and they're very short chapters. If you're a mother or a daughter, or you have a mother, or you have a daughter, or you have a sister-

Kyle Davis: If you're [00:44:30] a person.

Gail Davis: ... if you're a person, it's the most compelling ... It's just a fantastic story, so I would encourage anyone ... It's a wonderful gift. I've given it away so many times to families that are suffering addiction within their family, because it does go to the depths of what happened and it does have the happy ending; so, it's a great gift to give someone that's struggling.

Constance Curry: Oh, thank you, Gail.

Kristina Wandzilak: Thank you.

Gail Davis: Thank you.

Constance Curry: Thank you, Kyle.

Kyle Davis: As we've thumbed through my signed copy that I totally [00:45:00] forgot about ... We flipped it open and it's like, "Oh, that's my name." Cool. Hey, it was a real pleasure.

Look. If you guys want to book Kristina and Connie -- or Constance, if you will -- feel free to give GDA Speakers a call at 214-420-1999, or you can visit gdaspeakers.com. To read the transcript from today's podcast, you can do so by going to gdapodcast.com, where you can also find blog posts, [00:45:30] a whole bunch of other fun stuff, and social media links. Yay.

Gail Davis: Yay. Perfect. It was great.

Kyle Davis: Cool. Thanks, everybody.

Gail Davis: Thank you all.

Constance Curry: Great. Thanks. Great.

Kristina Wandzilak: Thank you.

Constance Curry: Thanks for having me.

Kristina Wandzilak: Bye.

Constance Curry: Bye.

Creative Commons License
ep. 23 - Kristina Wandzilak & Constance Curry, Authors of "The Lost Years" by GDA Podcast is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.