CORNING – If you had never known Wendy Kinyon and met her for the first time today, she’d likely come across as any other busy mom. She keeps a meticulous color-coded schedule in a spiral notebook that she consults regularly throughout the day.
A handful of fine-tipped colored pens laying on the table beside her represent each person in her household. And by the looks of Kinyon’s calendar, she runs a tight ship between work at Carver’s Ridge, her children’s activities, pursuing her bachelors degree at Northwest Missouri State, penciling in time with her fiance and planning their upcoming wedding in February 2020.
But when asked what life had been like getting to this point, she described it in one word – “Hell.”
The spiral bound planner also serves another purpose: for every day that passes, each is a celebration as she continues to document her milestones and successes during her five year recovery.
“Everyone has their drug of choice and mine was meth,” said Kinyon, who celebrated five years clean on March 5, 2019.
Kinyon remembers the date because it was the last time she used drugs – handfuls of Klonopin, Xanax, Tylenol, sleep medication and any other medication she had in her possession in addition to the gram of methamphetamine already in her system. She estimates the number of pills could be anywhere from 100 to 300.
“We don’t know how many pills I took, but it was an insane amount,” said Kinyon.
Some thought she was attention seeking, but Kinyon said she wanted to die. She thought her children deserved a better mom.
Imagining with herself out of the picture, her kids might have a chance to thrive in ways she felt she never could.
But her plan back fired. Following her overdose, it was her children who found their mother upon returning home from school after having spent the night at their fathers’ houses.
Needless to say, her children were removed from her care and placed with their fathers.
‘I was naive’
As Kinyon, now 34, recalls the events that lead her down the path of substance abuse, she recalls the painful moments in her life that deeply affected her – beginning with her parent’s divorce when she was in the third grade.
“My life changed when they got divorced,” she said.
Kinyon said she continued to look toward her mother for support. However, her mother had continually put down her father.
Kinyon said, as a child, she was always one to do the right thing – asking before going somewhere or making sure her mother watched her do simple things such as cross the street. But, when she hit high school, things took a turn.
“My mom used and all of her boyfriends were big dealers. I didn’t know it for the longest time,” said Kinyon.
But, Kinyon discovered her mother’s drug problem after she confided in her mother that she had used “crank.” Kinyon said she had stayed with an older cousin in the Des Moines area during freshman year and the pair partied. She didn’t know her cousin used drugs at the time.
“Everyone was using and that was the first time I had used. I went home and told my mom. I freaked out because my sister had went to prison for it,” Kinyon said.
Kinyon said she “freaked out,” because she did not realize that the drug she took was actually methamphetamine.
“I was so worried that my life was going to end and nobody was going to like me and all this stuff,” said Kinyon. “And my mom said, ‘don’t worry about it. I do it, too. If you ever need any you can always come to me. Don’t go buy it.’”
So Kinyon thought it was okay.
“I was naive,” she said.
‘A roller coaster’
Kinyon, a 2003 graduate of Creston High School, said high school was a roller coaster. She was expelled twice for what she said was a lack of attendance.
“My mom was never around, so I would just call myself in,” she said.
Kinyon said she graduated from the alternative school at semester of her senior year. A pregnancy with her her oldest child Damon got her back on the path of sobriety for nearly a decade.
During that time frame, Kinyon was engaged and had a small boutique of children’s accessories on Elm Street. When Kinyon and her then fiance split, her business was no longer financiall sustainable and she could not afford to keep it open. She then took her entire inventory online. The break up lead to her moving out into an apartment where she found herself interacting with old friends of her sister, mother and family. She began using again, and intrigued at the prospect of making money, she started to sell it out of desperation.
“I thought, if you’re all still using and nothing is happening to you then why cant I?’” she said.
‘The day I got clean was the day I lost my kids’
Kinyon said, when her kids were removed from her care by the Department of Human Services five years ago, she had been up for a month at the time.
“I was down 100 pounds and I wanted out. It was so crazy chaotic, and I didn’t want to live that lifestyle,” she said.
She had officially hit rock bottom. She had an addiction, but not a car, a job or her children.
“The day I got clean was the day I lost my kids,” said Kinyon.
To get her children back, Kinyon followed the stipulations set forth by the Department of Human Services. After nearly nine months, she was granted an overnight visit. She now shares custody.
Kinyon said getting sober was difficult without a support system. The process made her feel alienated.
“You can’t go back to the friends you had a long time ago, because they think you’re a mess and they don’t want to deal with that,” said Kinyon. “And, you can’t go back to your friends who are using because you don’t want to be associated with them because you don’t want DHS or anybody else thinking you use.”
To become clean, Kinyon said she attended “Celebrate Recovery,” – a faith-based recovery group that meets at Hope Lutheran Church in Des Moines.
“I think that helped me out a lot. I had a sponsor at the time and I think that she was there for me a lot,” she said.
Ultimately, she said it was her children that inspired her to endure the process.
“I couldn’t lose them,” she said. “They are my life and the only reason I wanted to kill myself was so that they could have a good life. I am a very determined person, so when I figured out I could get clean and that there are people out there that could help me ... I knew I had to do it to get my kids.”
Kinyon said every day is a struggle, but to manage her stress, depression and anxiety, she will unplug and take a day off.
“Sometimes you just have to take a day off, regroup and start again. That’s what you have to do. And, I look at my life and where I’ve been at and where I’m headed and that helps a lot for me ... how far I’ve come,” Kinyon said.
And when she needs to take the time for herself, she has a partner there to help.
“Nick is amazing. I don’t even know how to explain it. He’s just always there for me,” she said. “It’s amazing.”
Kinyon said what she loves about Nick is his ability to accept and overlook her past and see the person she is and has the ability to become.
“He knows my past and he doesn’t care what people think about him, and I do sometimes. I try not to. But he’s never looked at me like that. He’s just says, ‘I don’t see that person. I can’t even imagine who you were then.’”
Kinyon and her fiance Nick Edwards recently purchased his childhood home in rural Adams County. After she received her AA/AS degree in graphic design from Southwestern Community College in 2018, she enrolled at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Missouri, where she is completing her bachelor of arts in graphic design.
Currently, she works as a graphic designer at Carver’s Ridge in Corning, which sells custom laser carved rocks, stones and other gifts. She has shared custody of her children. Upon graduating, she hopes to some day work for a company or own a business that provides rebranding services, such as selecting color schemes, logo design and more.
Kinyon and Edwards will marry in Cancun, Mexico, in February of 2020.