Anne's story

Is there hope for a young woman whose life has been a nightmare of drugs and alcohol?

Most of the women at Kiva seem as though they could be anybody's slightly mischievous little sister.
  • Most of the women at Kiva seem as though they could be anybody's slightly mischievous little sister.
  • Image by Robert Burroughs

From the outside, the Kiva house looks like a magazine portrait of the tidy, all-American dream home. It sits on a two-acre lot on the outskirts of Lakeside and has a broad view of the foothills to the east, a brightly painted mailbox, and a large elm tree shading the front yard. The smell of cooking drifts from the kitchen window across the spacious yard, where an old dog naps in the sunshine and an energetic four-year-old boy on a bicycle happily terrorizes the winding walkways.

For the first year my husband gave me $300 a month to live on. That was enough to keep me in drugs for about two days.

For the first year my husband gave me $300 a month to live on. That was enough to keep me in drugs for about two days.

Inside the Kiva house (the name comes from the Hopi word for a ceremonial dwelling) things aren't as tranquil. There are about twenty women living at Kiva, all of them drug and alcohol abusers ranging in age from eighteen to about thirty-five. Some of the women have brought their children to live with them during their stay at Kiva — a luxury possible at only a handful of drug rehabilitation centers in the United States. Most of the women at Kiva, particularly those who have been there for several months, seem as though they could be anybody's slightly mischievous little sister, interested mostly in music, boys, and what's for dinner. And then some of the newer arrivals straight out of the detoxification clinic look as if they've been kicked down a long flight of stairs and the only two steps left were prison and death.

Anne is not so different from most of the women at Kiva. She values her privacy and so requested anonymity. Details from her story could fit into any of the other twenty stories you might hear there. She has a restless energy that in her past has found a thousand devious ways of expressing itself. She feels a debilitating anxiety in the presence of other people. She chain-smokes, and she suffers from a variety of health problems related to her addiction to alcohol and methedrine. She also has an almost brutal honesty, which is a result of having nearly killed herself with lies.

People who recall the Anne who first arrived at Kiva more than ten months ago describe a nervous, erratic, female animal with long, dirty blond hair, festering sores over most of her body, and a vicious, snarling anger that made it almost impossible even to speak with her. The Anne of today is an attractive, neatly groomed woman of thirty-four. She is more intelligent than the average person, which, for a recovering drug and alcohol abuser, is not particularly helpful. She thinks, plots, and schemes too much, and she often ends up outsmarting herself. She has exhausted most of the counselors at Kiva, who say Anne's recovery process after she leaves Kiva will be a long and difficult one. Yet everyone agrees it's a miracle Anne has gotten this far.

As she speaks, Anne is sitting in a chair in the yard overlooking the large winter garden, which has been her special project at Kiva.

The other day I was looking at a picture of my family at Easter. There were my parents, and my two brothers, and my sister. They were dressed nice and were smiling, which was unusual at our house. Then there was me standing away from the rest of the family, and I looked very angry. That was my role in the family. I was always angry. Sometimes I'd ask myself, Why am I so angry?

I grew up in El Cajon. My dad was in the navy, and he was gone a lot. He was an alcoholic, and my mother was an alcoholic, too. We didn't have very nice clothes, and our house was always a pigsty, so filthy it reeked. I couldn't bring any of my school friends over because I didn't want them to see how we lived. There were always a lot of strangers around because our house was kind of a hangout for sailors who didn't have anyplace else to go. There were a lot of vicious fights, and the cops were always coming over to break them up.

I never felt like I fit in at school, and I spent a lot of time alone, but my grades were pretty good before I started drinking when I was twelve. I started off drinking my dad's beer. I remember thinking, God, this is a relief. I drank alone because I didn't wanna get in trouble with my parents. My mom had lots of prescription pills because she was dying of alcoholism. She had Dexedrine to pick her up and Valium to calm her down. She could get just about anything she wanted from her doctors, plus my dad was a corpsman in the navy, so he'd bring lots of stuff home with him. I'd snitch my mom's pills and talk my friends into getting drunk and loaded with me. It was always the same. At the end of the night everybody else would be just a little bit loaded, while I'd be falling down drunk. Then everybody else would go home at ten o'clock, and I'd be passed out in the bushes somewhere.

By the time I was thirteen, I started missing school, and my grades started getting bad. I didn't feel comfortable at school, and I couldn't go home, so I hit the streets. I hung out at the [name deleted] Motel, which was a real sleaze-bag place and still hasn't changed much today. But I knew I fit in there. There were drugs there and people over twenty-one who would buy alcohol for me. I had this long blond hair that hung down in my face, and everybody thought it was funny that I got so loaded all the time. I thought I was cool because of the amount of drugs and alcohol I could use. My tolerance was pretty high because I was consuming so much, but I thought I really had some kind of talent, I thought I'd finally found something I could do better than anybody else. The people at the motel started calling me Crazy Anne, and that name has followed me around everywhere since.

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