An Easter egg saved my life

This woman hit rock bottom until she found comfort in an unlikely source.
Me at 12 and after I hit rock bottom source: supplied

Kim Den Hertog, 50, Surfers Paradise, Qld

I’ll never forget the moment I first tried heroin.

I was 15 and hanging out with a bad crowd. I’d already been experimenting with alcohol and marijuana for years.  Looking away as a friend pushed the needle into my vein, I felt a sudden rush of warmth. It was like nothing I had ever felt before. To me, it felt like love.

I didn’t even care that it made me so nauseous I spent the night throwing up. I just wanted to chase that feeling.
Love wasn’t something I had a lot of experience with. I was adopted when I was little and didn’t have a good relationship with my adoptive father.
When I asked if he loved me, he replied, ‘Who could love something like you?’
I felt like I was alone in the world.

I had also been sexually and physically abused when I was young.
When I was eight years old, my parents divorced and I began sneaking sips of alcohol and stealing my mother’s cigarettes.
Leaving school at just 14, I got a job with a travelling carnival helping run the sideshow games. I hung out with a wild crowd and was regularly drinking and taking drugs.
After that first taste of heroin, I began to use it quite regularly. It was just a fun way to pass the time.

Me at 12 and after I hit rock bottom source: supplied

“Nothing else mattered to me except how I was going to get my next hit.”

While I didn’t have much money, I always found men who were happy to buy me drugs in exchange for sex. Because of my experiences, I didn’t really associate sex with love or intimacy. To me, it was just something I could use to get what I wanted.

When I was 18, I fell pregnant and stopped taking heroin. But when my daughter was born, I just didn’t know how to connect or bond with my baby. I knew I couldn’t be the parent she needed, so my mother, along with the parents of the baby’s father, took her and raised her.

Before I knew it, my heroin use took over everything else again. The next few years were a blur. Nothing else mattered to me except how I was going to get my next hit. While I tried to stop, coming down off the drugs was torture.

In my 20s, I managed to get clean and moved in with my boyfriend. We had two children together, but our relationship was difficult and I secretly started using heroin again. After seven years, we split up and for the first time I entered a rehab facility while my ex took custody of the kids. Although outwardly I seemed better, I didn’t feel like I’d changed very much on the inside.

Moving to the Gold Coast, I started a new life. I stayed clean for two years until a doctor prescribed me some valium tablets. Before long I was abusing the tablets and soon relapsed back into heroin use. I didn’t value my life and my father’s words always stuck in my mind. Who could love something like me?

To pay for my habit, I began working in the local brothels. After a couple of years I went so far off the rails that I was working and living on the streets. I was attacked, robbed, beaten and feared for my life more times than I could remember.

Heroin was the only thing that made me feel better. But seven years ago, a miracle changed my life for good. I was standing in a park waiting for my dealer to arrive when I saw a woman walking towards me. I stiffened, waiting for her to abuse me – like so many others had.

But as she approached, her smile was warm and open. She held out her hand towards me and I saw she was carrying a shiny Easter egg. As she handed it to me, she introduced herself as Debbie and we talked for a while.

Source: Fotolia

“I learnt how to heal myself”

I was distracted because I was craving my next hit, but I gave the kind stranger my phone number. She called me later that week and asked if she could take me for coffee. When we met, I was surprised that she didn’t preach or condemn me. She just listened. For the first time in my life I felt understood and respected.

After that we met regularly and I opened up to her about my work as a prostitute. That’s when she encouraged me to seek help for my addiction. I’d already heard wonderful things about a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre called Transformations, and decided to give it a go.

I didn’t have a penny to my name, but a friend kindly offered to pay for my treatment. Heading there for 12 months, everything changed. It was tough going through withdrawals but it was worth it. I didn’t just get clean, I learnt how to heal myself inside and out.

With the help of group therapy and counsellors, I discovered I wasn’t an unworthy, unlovable little girl like my father had said I was. I was valuable and deserved a good life. From that day on I never touched drugs or alcohol again.

Me today, happy, healthy and preaching. Source: Facebook

My adoptive parents have passed away and Transformations has helped me reconnect with my kids. We bgean to rebuild our relationships. It wasn’t easy, but eventually I earned their trust again.

I learnt to love the little things in life again, like a good meal or enjoying a walk on the beach. I also dedicated my life to helping other addicts find the same happy ending working for Transformations as a counsellor and case worker.

Then with the help of the Transformations City Church, I started Flawless Ministries. My organisation works to improve the lives of women in the sex industry and visit brothels with care packages. I never judge the women. I just show them love because I know what a difference that made for me.

If it wasn’t for that kind gesture from Debbie, who knows where I would have ended up. Everyone needs help sometimes. That’s why I’m sharing my story to show other women that it’s never too late to change. I know that a good life is possible – as long as you love yourself first. 

First published in That’s life! issue 12, March 26 2014

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