I photographed Krista back in 2009. See here. Two weeks ago she emailed me to tell me she had gotten clean. She stopped by my studio and shared her story below.
Krista: Uh, my name is Krista, I’ve been clean since May 13, 2011. I’m kinda fascinated by looking pictures of myself when, you know, I was using, um… and I’d like to keep them as a reminder because I know myself that I’d get high one time and I’d be right back, um, standing out there.
I always think it’s cool to let somebody know, like “Hey, I’m okay now.” You know? Uh, I just, you know, I just think people like you that do things like this would actually be interested in knowing that, you know, somebody got through and they’re alright, they’re not dead, they’re not still out there, they’re doing better. So I, you know, contacted you and here I am.
I couldn’t say that it was like a traumatic event that made me wanna get clean or, you know, I didn’t find God or anything like that, I just, you know, I feel like I just grew up, you know? I was thirty-three when I got clean; I’m thirty-six now, and I feel like I’ve wasted my life. You know… I don’t regret… I don’t regret it because I learned a lot of things, and I’m… I think that I’m a pretty good person and I don’t think I would be the same or be as compassionate or, you know, understanding. I think I’m at the point now that everything that I have and that’s… not material things at all, but like, the people and friends and everything that I have in my life, like, is not worth me losing, you know, just to feel good for, you know, a couple hours, it’s just not worth it to me anymore.
JS: So what are you doing now?
K: Well right now I’m going to school for veterinary tech, um, I’m a crazy cat lady, um… I always, I always loved animals, when I was growing up I used to ride horses and I always wanted to be a veterinarian, and uh, obviously I can’t become an actual veterinarian at this point, I’m kinda old, so I started, um, school for vet tech, I volunteered at the SPCA for two years, the first two years of… of being clean… um, I got this kitten, and he was like, the world to me, because that animal, as long as I fed him, you know, he loved me no matter what. And uh, it was like my kid.
Like I told you, when I look at these pictures it’s like… I don’t even know that person; it’s so weird. I didn’t feel sorry for myself, I didn’t want other people to feel sorry for me. I knew what I was doing was wrong and that I was killing myself, I just didn’t care, you know? I… a lot of people like to say that… well, and it’s true, that drug addicts and alcoholics are selfish, self-centered people. And we are, because we wanna do what we wanna do, and, you know, not care what anybody… how anyone else feels, but at the same time, I didn’t care about myself enough, you know, to… to do something about it. And, because I’d been living this way for so long, you know that’s what… that’s one thing that kept me doing what I was doing, and I just think certain things happened at the right time and… you know, in the weeks that preceded me getting arrested the last time, um, I would be standing on the corner, and just think to myself, “This really sucks, like I… this sucks, it just… I don’t wanna do this.” Um, but I also didn’t have the strength to go about doing something about it myself. So I think when I was kinda forced into the situation to do it, that gave me, like, the strength to just be like “alright, I’m gonna do this now, because I don’t wanna live like this anymore, I just don’t.” And I wasn’t enjoying it, you know, I wasn’t having fun walking the streets, but I kept thinking to myself, “What else am I gonna do? You know, this is all I know how to do.” You know, and I actually with my criminal record, I can’t even get a job at Wawa. And that’s what had, discourages a lot of people that I still know that have been clean for a little while, they’re trying to get their shit together, but nobody will give them a chance to, to do the right thing, because of their past, so… I understand that I just can’t use that as an excuse anymore.
Eric Kyle: My name’s Eric Kyle, I mean, what I’m doing I really don’t particularly care to be doing, but I do it anyway, and I’m not ashamed of it cos if I was ashamed of it, I wouldn’t do it. I mean, so, I don’t want to do it, I mean I know it ain’t…it leads to like, wrong types of situations, I mean, either dying or going to prison or, you know, losing everything you have, but we gotta live with the choices we make. I mean, some of them are not logical or reasonable choices. I mean, so, until I decide to change it’s what I’m gonna do. Hopefully like, with the will of god…will make me strong enough and give me the determination to stop, and get some help. It’s already been too long; I’m hurting a lot of people in the process. Financially, I mean, emotionally, mentally, I mean, and it impacts a lot of what…your family relationships, you know.
I really hope that somewhere down the line something change, I mean, it could be the will of…the power of god, change, then I can look back and think about these moments, and say, “Wow, you know what? That was me, one time, man, and look at me now.” I mean, you can change, I mean, you definitely can change, without any persuasion or anything, with help, I mean, and willingness, and blessings. You can make a difference, cos you understand what you’re going through, you understand cos you’ve been there, and you observe other people doin’ it. You’re gonna see where they become fallible to their mistakes and some of them don’t get a chance to come around and repeat…make some of the same mistakes. So when you feel as though your life…you know, came to the bitter end of life it’s time to change yourself. That’s it.
See also: Eric Kyle no.1
Diana: My name is Diana Cooper, my daughter’s the oldest; her name’s Crystal Conway. She’s seven years old, and I got…the second one is Michael Conway Jr., and he’s five and a half, he’ll be six March 23rd. And I got Jonathan Conway, he’s three years old. I lived here all my life, I mean I’m thirty-four, and I lived here all my life.
JS: Can you tell me a little bit about what it’s like raising three kids here in Kensington?
Diana: It’s horrible…It’s easy when I’m inside the house, because they ain’t gotta see what goes on outside, on the corners. When I take them to school, they go to visitation school, it’s a catholic school on the other side, it’s like, on Lehigh, B and Lehigh, and every morning I walk them to school I see them, them ladies do prostitution on the corners, and I don’t…my kids always ask, “Mom, what are they doing?” and they see them jumping in and out of cars, I mean I…and like, you can see them smoking their dope on the side streets and everything. I mean, no matter where I go, if I try to take another way, they’re everywhere. And on the way home, the same thing. You know? And I’d seen a couple of them fighting because one got the john before the other one I guess. I mean it’s horrible, and I see a lot of drunks around here…
JS: How do you explain that to your kids?
Diana: I don’t know what to tell you…I said “I don’t wanna ever…” I don’t, I don’t want my kids turning out to be like that. I don’t know what to say to them because, I mean, that’s not a job, that’s not a good way to make money. You need to go through school, get your GED or high school diploma, and get a real job. That ain’t…I told my daughter, “that ain’t what kinda job you wanna get.” I mean, that’s not even a job, I told her. I said “don’t…”, I don’t…that’s why I wanna move out of the city, move away from here, ‘cause that’s not really a job, I mean, it’s nasty, they got bad drug problems, why don’t they just get help, you know? Then they sleep on the streets and they wonder why they’re on the streets because they money they get they, they drug it up. You know? It’s because they ain’t got nowhere to go, and I said…and I tell them but there’s shelters they could go to and get cleaned up, there’s rehabs…why do they gotta do that? I mean, it’s horrible. And you tell your kids not to talk to strangers or jump in cars with strangers, but you got these ladies, I mean, they’re setting a bad example for these young girls, they say “oh, they can jump in cars with strangers…” and the kids don’t know why they do that, but…they’re supposed to be setting…and no matter who you are, you’re grown up, you’re supposed to be setting good examples for these kids, like, not to jump in cars with strangers. And they’re doing it, you know? It’s horrible. She don’t even…they don’t…my daughter said, “she don’t even know that guy, he just pulled over and picked her up.” And they look horrible too, them ladies on the ave. They look bad, very bad. And they found… did you hear about that… they found prostitutes murdered, from this one guy…some people say they deserve it because they’re out there desperate to make a buck. There’s jobs out there that you can get through welfare; they don’t need to do that, you know? And if they got a bad drug problem, there’s rehabs. I mean, they don’t care about their lives, it seems to me. And every time I see ‘em, I get depressed, cos I’m saying, why are they gonna ruin their lives like that? It makes me depressed. I’m like, there’s too much in life to do that, you know?