A New Dawn came about stemming from Kat Dawn’s real-life experiences when going through addiction recovery. Kat is the President and Founder of New Dawn. She understands how vital it was to receive simple acts of kindness from others in that time period. After five years in recovery, she decided the time was right to make it official as more and more people wanted to get involved. In 2017, she established A New Dawn to bring like-minded people together to help those who are deserving of help. Kat is joined by colleagues Nicole Stauffer, Jaci Lynn, Rikki Lee, and Nicki Dinehart to talk about how they got involved with the foundation and address hard subjects like domestic violence and substance abuse.
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A New Dawn: Claiming Lives Back with Kat Dawn, Nicole Stauffer, Rikki Lee, Jaci Lynn, and Nicki Dinehart Part 1
A New Dawn Talks Domestic Violence And Substance Abuse
You all are in for a treat here. It is going to be amazing. We’re going to talk about whatever comes up. We have very few rules here. We went over a couple of them. We said essentially this can’t turn into a solid string of profanity. Still no guarantee that that’s not what’s going to happen. I would love to introduce the members of A New Dawn. We’ll start out with the head and then you can introduce yourselves and let us know your name and how long you’ve been with the organization?
I am Kat Dawn, President and Founder of A New Dawn. I have been with the foundation since it was founded in October of 2017.
I’m Nicole Stauffer. I am Vice-President of A New Dawn. I have been with A New Dawn since its founding on Halloween of 2017.
I’m JC. I’ve been with the company with our situation since pretty much the beginning. I didn’t want to be on the board until now because I didn’t think I could give it the time I wanted to but that’s changed.
I’m Rikki and I have been with them since shortly after three weeks after they found it.
I am Nikki and I am actually a Dawn. I’m the public Dawn.
She’s our poster child.
I’ve been around since about a year.
I’m glad to have all you ladies with us. This is a crazy group of people, not only for the reasons that you’re going to find out now. It’s full of personality. If anybody has read the previous episode, my founding story got started in domestic violence with my mother and protecting her. That just led into a life of service. Of all the charities that I belong to, my heart goes out first and foremost to the protection of abused women and children. When I met Kat at an event, instantaneously we were connected because of our hearts and what she does. Watching, learning and meeting every other lady around this table is amazing. We just came out of a fantastic event. I’d like to start out with you Kat. Give us a little bit of your background, a little bit of your story about how this whole thing started. Start with the origin. How does somebody like you end up in this situation you did, make it through it and then ended up serving at a super high level like you have? Work us through that.
I am a woman that is a domestic violence survivor and a heroin addict in recovery. I never thought that I would be either one of those things. I don’t think that any of us. One of the things that I really do feel is very different from my story than a lot of the women that we work with, is that I grew up in a home where I wasn’t abused. When went into adulthood, I experienced abuse and started experimenting with substances. It was a whole new world for me.
We’re going to address this head on, we’re not going to gild the lily. We’re going to talk about some hard subjects. One of the things that I really want people to understand is that when you think about domestic violence, when you think about being abused, being a drug addict, that a lot of people’s stories start from a really screwed up beginning. You on the other hand had a little bit of a different scenario. Traditionally where we think, “We’re going to have problems if we have daddy issues,” your daddy was really kind, loving and supportive of you. Those of you that are trying to raise your kids right, you still end up with screwed up kids like Kat. Part of the conversation that I want to have with you is keeping it raw and real. A lot of times people talk about this subject and they want to that put their pretty face on. When we talk about domestic violence, we say the words domestic violence. We don’t think about the fact that every single domestic violence case has a different story. There’s a different face behind every single one of them and how unique they can be. There are no rules or a pattern that follows for somebody to be a domestic violence victim.
We’re your sisters, we’re your daughters, we’re your employees, and we are everybody. I did not start using drugs until I’m 35. I’m little miss overachiever before that straight down the line. Then I take a left turn completely.
How was your upbringing?
Amazing, I had wonderful parents. They did the best they could. It was pretty strict but it wasn’t their fault.
You were like the typical pastor’s daughter.
Worse than that, I was little Ms. Gymnast. I was a straight A student element, homecoming and all that stuff.
Starting to see a pattern developing.
We’re both adopted. That’s an interesting little scenario that goes with it. I’m curious how many people are adopted that go down this road.
Talk about that a little bit. You had a great family that adopted you, took you out of your scenario and took really great care of you and gave you good leadership. Talk about that family. Did you know that you were adopted? I didn’t know I was adopted since was seventeen.
I did know I was adopted.
[bctt tweet=”Addiction hides in all those secrets, all the things that we hold down, things we don’t talk about and we don’t confront. ” via=”no”]
How did that play into your psychology even when you were growing up?
I had parents that whenever I ask questions and had curiosities or anything I could ask them. They were really open. I remember looking in the mirror all the time as a child and thinking, “Where did that come from? Where did these eyes come from?” My parents were very white. I felt genetically rowdy from a very young age. I had a certain energy level about me that they didn’t love. I grew up with two older brothers who were also adopted, not the same parents. In a lot of ways, I felt we were more family than I was to my parents. We understood each other’s emotions, curiosities and questions. Every man in my life up until I started to approach adulthood that were family members and stuff, they were really good to me. I had a very patriarchal home with my dad and my mom. That was something I rebelled against from the very beginning because my mom was the stay-at-home mommy, dad went out and makes bacon. Right at home, mom took care of it. I always knew from a very young age I thought I would be the stay-at-home mommy but I also wanted a degree. I wanted to stick out. I wanted to pave the path.
You get out of the house, you move into your first relationship. Talk to us a little bit about what that looks like. Did you go to college?
Did you graduate?
No, I epically failed. I got out and I started experimenting with the marijuana and booze. I started to realize I was being accepted by this cool group of kids. In high school, I felt very comfortable in a religious environment and those are the kids I hung out with. It was all a cover. In reality, I didn’t belong with that group of kids at that time period.
How much of a cover do you think that most people live with at any age? I would say that 99%. That’s what we’re looking for. We’ve got to get below that. If there’s ever going to be a change, if we’re ever going to affect anything, we’ve got to get below that. Your mask was, “My gang was the gang. Your gang was a bunch of church kids.” That was how we started out. It’s just a gang is essentially a metaphor for a group of other people that accept you for who you are or the set of behaviors that aligns with theirs. You’re in this church setting, everybody’s like, “We’re putting on the pretty face for everybody else.” You start doing drugs, start drinking a little bit, then what?
I should rewind because I do think that this is important. I did say that every man was wonderful to me, but that’s not completely true. When I was a teen, I did have a superior who molested me as a team that was associated with my church.
How old were you?
I was eleven.
It’s crazy to me how many stories you hear about that scenario. That’s crazy. I’m sure that percentage plays out throughout the rest of the world. It’s insane.
I’m going to say this because I feel it’s important to say. I know a lot of women will hear this story and they relate with it. I only shared it with Rikki and a little bit with you. When I was molested, my body responded in a positive way, meaning I climaxed and I was eleven. What I had been raised to think about my body, masturbation and sex. I want to say this because I know there are other women out there. I share this with them and I’ll have them cry because I felt so ashamed as a young girl because I was taught that was bad. I thought, “My body enjoyed it.” Even though this man was four times my age that did this, “What a predator,” it was very confusing. I didn’t feel I had a place to talk. At that time, I didn’t feel violated because my body was like, “What was that?” That did happen.
Once, twice, multiple times?
I’m always interested in this. When you say you don’t feel you were violated, was there a mental manipulation where he made you feel you might be in love or in a relationship? I’ve had multiple of these conversations in this world of domestic violence and it’s always amazing to me these scumbags take advantage of under-aged girls and how they do it.
He made me feel beautiful. I was a very petite eleven-year-old. My breast came in later, and everything that all my friends were starting to get, I didn’t get them. When I had somebody like that take interest in me, I was like, “Cool. Maybe I am.” He made me feel beautiful. For a long time I struggled with my eyes. He used to always tell me that it was because of my eyes. He would have me look at him.
He was grooming you?
I’m genuinely interested in this answer because I have daughters. I’ve taken them on dates. I open the doors for them. I treat them like ladies. I’m interested if your dad did that for you. There’s a gap there of understanding, trying to go, “My dad loved me, he took care of me. He did the things that were supposed to do as fathers and yet there is still this gap of non-acceptance in your mind.” Did that come from being adopted or did that come from the environment of other girls had other things? What was it that created that?
For me personally, it’s something that I do very different with my children that I had done with me, is we are very open about our bodies and our sexuality. There is zero shame. I didn’t have that kind of communication with my parents. I really think especially with dads and their daughters, it’s really important for them not to just see them as their baby girl. It’s important for a dad to recognize you are female. Do you have menstruation and do you have breasts?
That’s a tough thing for us to talk about.
That’s the gap because dads and their daughters are not having these conversations. They need to be had because it’s not the same coming from a mom. Not only that but how our dad treats us, accepts us, loves us and loves our body too, especially when we aren’t doing baby girl things with our body anymore. Dads need to be having these conversations with their girls.
More than you’re hormonal or you’re having your period conversation.
When they ask, they’re ready to hear it. My daughter’s eleven and she knows what menstruation is. She knows what sex is. She knows what a flaccid penis is and she’s not scared. That’s okay that she asked.
A lot of the commonality I will say with substance abuse and everything is some really dysfunctional sexuality going on. We went right down to the core. How much do we work with women and their sexuality to break their cycles? It’s huge.
There’s this bigger picture when we shouldn’t be doing something or we’re told not to do it, then it becomes this thing. For instance, bullies. A lot of times there are these maniacs that are out there bullying and pushing people around, spreading lies. Everybody around this table all have this in common where because we stand out, because we do different things, we become targets. On the other side of that, we’re taught that we need to be this other side of us, to leave it alone and to let these crazy people. You leave it, let it lie. Let’s not talk about anything because then they’ll go onto the next phase of work. There are people that are doing this over and over again because nobody opens their mouth, because they allow the bullying. I’m talking about cyber bullying. I’m talking about the trolls on the internet.
I’m talking about all the sexual stuff that’s going on, the domestic violence. Especially in all of your cases, there’s a reason why we don’t speak up when it happens. I want to investigate what that is and how we can avoid that. How you’ve created this entire environment for women to come in, to be vulnerable, to be able to talk and to feel safe. Let’s advance the story a little bit beyond. You’ve been molested and I can see where now that would impact as you get into this next realm of your life. You haven’t told that publicly. I’ve never heard that. I’ve known you for a bit and we’ve had multiple conversations. It’s those things that we don’t want to talk about. That’s the linchpin sometimes for people to hear the audience.
That’s where addiction hides though, it’s in all those secrets, all the things that we hold down, things we don’t talk about and we don’t confront.
I fully believe that that is why the show is here. That’s why I wanted you guys to be the first guests here and that’s why I wanted you to be here for this conversation. Go ahead and advance the story for us a little bit.
We’ll put it this way. I tried to go to college. It didn’t work because I got caught up in the party world because it was fun. I don’t have any other excuse. I threw away full ride scholarships for music to multiple different universities. I was having a good time and then I discovered sex. It was wonderful and it was fantastic. I married my first husband. During that time period, I had several different miscarriages. There was massive abuse going on between both of us. That’s something that is always about the victim.
Are we talking verbal?
All of it.
When you say both, you were being a prick, he was being a prick?
You’re putting your hands on him?
Yes. After I had a couple of miscarriages, they gave me pain pills and I never had them before. I started taking them after I had these miscarriages where I was already depressed. I had messed around with booze and marijuana before then. After I had gotten married, I stopped doing that.
You weren’t binge drinking?
Not at all, we were doing the religious thing.
Perfect family on the outside.
Were you married in the temple?
[bctt tweet=”Knowing who we really are and dealing with the crap as it comes up is a much healthier option.” via=”no”]
Yes, that happened. We eloped first. A year later, we went and got sealed. I started taking these pain pills and this was back in 2008. Zach was born in 2008. They’ve tightened up the law on how they do pharmaceuticals. Back in 2008, they would give narcotics like they were jelly beans. I started to realize, “These are awesome. These are amazing. I didn’t even have to go into the doctor.” I only did call him and say I’m out and he’d send me more. After a couple months of doing that with the pain pills and I kept calling around like I’m still in pain. I wasn’t in pain but they were amazing. I want more.
These are opioids?
The big opioid addiction is huge.
They were starting to cause me to not have normal sleep cycles and all these other things. I went into the doctor and I was like, “I’m not sleeping.” They were like, “Ambiens. Here’s the Ambien to make to make you sleep.” They are ones that are also highly addicting. Taking those two together, very high dosage. Mind you, I’m prescribed these still and I’m like, “It’s okay. I got this.”
This isn’t street drugs. You’re not dialing out into lines.
Then I started having intense depression. I went back to the doctor and I was like, “I’m having anxiety and depression.” They’re like, “Xanax.” I’m in all three pieces at the same time from this doctor. I kept upping my dosage because these are all drugs that you build up a tolerance to. You don’t get to have the same effect forever. You build a tolerance up. I built up my tolerance so high on all of them but the doctor was like, “I really can’t up your dosage. These would kill a horse.” I was starting to experience withdrawals. Even taking my dosage, I was experiencing withdrawals. I am smart person, so then I was like, “I’ll go to another doctor.” I started doing this thing called doctor shopping. I did it in Utah County, Salt Lake County, Davis County, Weber County and Box Elder County.
This was before there were computers follow you?
How long did it take to get? You went from, “This isn’t enough. I go to my second doctor.” What was the time span between that and the third doctor and the fourth? You’re talking about five doctors.
Once I figured out I could doctor shop, it was about a month. When I did it I was like, “I’ve got to get them all before they figured it out. I’ve got to go build me a stash. They’re going to figure it out. It’s going to happen.” I did not realize what I was doing was illegal at that time. I thought I was cheating the system. Then I took it to another level and that’s when I started experimenting with identity fraud.
We’re going to go ahead and jump from doctor shopping into identity fraud.
You can’t do it under you for too long. They’ll find out.
I had to steal somebody else’s identity that had good insurance.
Where does one shop for the proper person to steal?
Your friends, your neighbors.
Everybody that loves you and trust you.
I didn’t actually take it from them. I took it from their people.
If you weren’t screwing over your friend, you’re screwing over their friends who you know.
It was a whole other level of craziness.
Are you doing falling outs? Are you forgetting your kids? Are people catching on?
Yes. Then I started getting little notices in the mail as far as like flags on my insurance and stuff. I was like, “That’s fine.” On the other end of it, some real serious dysfunctionality was going on in my marriage, multiple affairs.
On your side or his side?
Did you know about it?
Did you get pissed at each other or it started to be okay?
He was a bastard because you caught him and then you retaliated?
I retaliated hard and bad.
There was also some pornography that was in that relationship. Everybody has different outlooks on pornography, as far as what’s okay and what’s acceptable. I’ve also changed a lot as I’ve grown and gotten older. Being a young girl and uncomfortable with my sexuality at that time, that was very confusing for me to have that dynamic. It always felt like competition. I always felt like I was fighting for attention. It made me crazy. It made me nuts. There were lots of chaos and lots of craziness. Then the doctor shopping started to catch up on me and I got charges filed on me. When I got the charges filed on me, I still was like, “This isn’t that big of a deal.” It was 27 felonies and they cut me off and that’s when my story started to get really scary.
Rikki and Kat go back a long time to what age?
Rikki, all of the stuff she’s talked about, all the way back to molestation, all the way through this, you are her friend?
Yes, I am.
Do you see the outward side is? Do you know all of the ins and outs of what’s going on or is she not confiding in you?
I didn’t know she was molested until we were adults. When we hit junior high, she was filling all that guilt. She went and became friends with people who were very religious. I preferred a much rowdier group of kids. That was not my cup of tea. During junior high and high school, we took different roads. I was still a good kid. I just preferred the rowdy kids. I always loved her. There was always that unconditional love there but we took a little break there.
As a close friend, because I’m sure there are people wondering, “I wonder if my childhood friend’s going through some crap.” How easy is it to hide? Were you trying to hide stuff from your close friends? Were you trying to still keep it together on the surface where it looked good and you weren’t letting anybody know, you weren’t sharing any of this at this point?
I was embarrassed and ashamed when what happened to me happened. I told Rikki this that I remember having thoughts in my head that this was wrong. I need to tell somebody that this happened to me. Her mother, when I would go over to her house right after it happened, was the one of the only human beings that I thought, “Maybe I could tell Wanda.” How do you describe your mom and dad?
Not like everybody else around the neighborhood, they were very open. We didn’t go to church. My dad had long hair down to his butt and big old beard, hippie folk.
[bctt tweet=”There’s an education no matter what path you go down. When you get into the jail scene, you learn how to be a better criminal.” via=”no”]
Sometimes I wonder how different my life would have been had I confided in Wanda, that’s her mom.
It’s always interesting to know from people that are watching a parallel and then you find out and you’re like, “Why didn’t you say something to me?” You think to yourself, “Why didn’t I ask?” Are we living this life? The whole entire reason for doing this is to dive underneath of that stuff. We accept so much surface bull crap that causes so much pain mostly from ourselves. If we accept it from ourselves, it’s going to be the same exact thing from the people that surround us. You end up just bouncing off of these masks or bouncing off of each other instead of being who we really are. Knowing who we really are and dealing with the crap as it comes up, which is a much healthier option I have found.
I think it becomes generational. Look at our grandparents and holding all that down, “Suck it up. Be a man. Don’t cry and all those things.” I grew up in that generation. My parents were like that. They never liked the ‘50s, “Don’t cry, suck it up and rub some dirt in it.” You didn’t talk about those things. It wasn’t that environment. With my son, I’m much more open and almost you can go too far with it too.
There’s a pendulum because everybody gets offended by everything. Let’s move it further down the road a little bit. You go through that, you’re cheating. Let’s go to the 27 felonies. That sounds interesting to me. The 27 felonies show up all at once? From the identity fraud, the insurance fraud, all that stuff?
Yes. What happened is they were able to catch me, which is epic that it was only 27.
This is more than ten years ago?
Yeah. They cut me off. Up until this point, I had never done anything other than marijuana as far as illegal drugs that was it. That was the only illegal drug I’d ever done.
Rest of it was prescription?
It’s not illegal.
They cut me off and that’s when it became serious. I had a neighbor at the time that we used to trade pills with one another. We’d swap when I needed something that she had or I had something, we’d swap. I was vomiting, sweating and I wasn’t able to function. I went to her and I was like, “I need to buy some pills off of you.” She was like, “I can’t, I’m going to run out myself but you can have some black.” “What’s that?” She’s like, “H.” I still remember the conversation because my kid was on my hip.
First kid, how old?
Baby on your hip, you know about black, you know about H.
She was like, “Heroin.” 45 minutes later and she was like, “It’ll just take the edge off and this is what I do when I run out of pills.” I was like, “No.” 45 minutes later, sure enough, I was showing back up at her doorstep and I was getting heroin for the first time. That’s when I was like, “This is amazing. I can afford this. This is a tenth of the price.” It’s way easier to find.
Are you smoking it or what?
At this point, I’m smoking it. That exposed me to another world too because I had to find heroin from different people, not just her. That exposed me to a different group of people. I started to get locked up intermittently and then I get bailed out because of the charges I was fighting. I would run from court and I will go to court. I meet people in jail and that exposed me to a different group of people I’ve never been exposed to as well. That made it easier to get drugs.
Jails give you better connections. There’s an education no matter what path you go down. When you get into the jail scene, you learn how to be a better criminal.
It doesn’t do what everybody thinks what normal society thinks it does. It doesn’t rehabilitate you. They house you and it gives you better connections.
I’m going to try to condense it small but it was a lot of chaos. I’ve gotten multiple different relationships. I specifically found relationship that I knew he would supply me drugs. He was definitely my most physically abusive relationship. During that time, I got pregnant.
Marriage or boyfriend?
Boyfriend. This is the fun part, I don’t know who the father was because I was using my body as a way to get what I wanted, whether that was money, drugs, car, whatever it was. I was using my body and I had no idea who the father was.
These are very important subjects. You’re starting to see a habit, trend or a pattern that can evolve in anybody’s life regardless of your background. Keeping vigilant on ourselves, family members, on the people that we care about, hearing this story might help you view things from a different perspective. It might keep your eyes open. The greatest thing about this show and the greatest thing about A New Dawn, all of the marketing and what they’re doing in the marketplace is for that awareness. I know that there are people that they’ve done local spots on the news. Somebody has seen it that has been held prisoner as a domestic violence person in their own house. Being able to reach out and to see that the life that they’re living, the challenges that they’re having that it’s not right. It’s not unique but it’s also not normal for you to be held prisoner, to be abused or be controlled at a super high level. Let’s talk a little bit about your second child. We loved the second child very much. Who’s the daddy?
I didn’t know who the daddy was. I didn’t find out I was pregnant with him until I was about four months pregnant. I was highly addicted to heroin at this point and I was pregnant.
Kat, I don’t see that anywhere on the proper care of a newborn child.
When I found out that I was pregnant with him not only because I went in I was like, “I feel weird.” They were like, “You’re pregnant and it’s a boy.” That’s far how long I was.
You don’t know what the sex is until about 26 weeks.
I considered an abortion but I was too far long for an abortion. That wasn’t a thing either or an option for me. I was going to carry that pregnancy. The doctor knew I was addicted to heroin and helped me with a methadone and put me on a regimen.
It’s a pharmaceutical form. It was trying to wean me but of course I abused it still. When I had my second son, he was addicted. I was still very much in an abusive relationship and the circumstances that he was born into and I took him into, we’re very unhealthy. I started on that relationship and then I started sleeping around on that relationship. I was just really acting out sexually. It was a very common tone for me. That relationship came to an end and we ended up getting a DNA test. It was my first husband’s son. My two boys have the same daddy. I was being very dysfunctional with baby daddy, boyfriend, and other relationships. It was crazy. Heroin introduced a totally different side of me. One thing that I will say about myself is whatever I’m doing, I will be the best at it. That goes everywhere in my life and that’s the route I was starting to go. That’s when I also started to play around with prostitution and escorting. I started working for escort services. I started bringing in a lot of money here locally in Utah.
What kind of money were you making? When you say you make high-dollar, what’s a high-dollar night?
Here in Utah, my best night would be like $7,500.
How about not here in Utah?
In California, I would get up near $20,000 when I’m in the financial district for one night, but it was all gone. Does anybody know what the financial district is in San Francisco? The money that floats around there was insane but there’s a lot of toxicity going on there, a lot of functioning addicts and predators.
What was your habit about then? How much did you have to cost a day?
I don’t know the answer to that. I had also gotten to a point where I wasn’t paying for it either and I was starting to use the money on stupid stuff like fancy cars, Cadillacs, BMWs, huge massive SUVs. I would get in relationships with drug dealers so I didn’t have to pay for my drug.
Keeping your expenses low and your profits high, that’s a really good business strategy. We haven’t come to the idea of running a business yet. There are ramifications.
Another thing that is important to say about my story is baby daddy met his now wife, who is heaven’s angel.
While you two were still married?
No, we’ve got a divorce at this point but he met her pretty quickly right after. His life started to turn around for the better. He and her recognize the need to step in and take the boys from me. It was obviously very ugly because I probably don’t have to tell you, it did not go over well with me.
[bctt tweet=”Nobody’s broken. Every single thing that we go through in life is to test us. ” via=”no”]
No matter how screwed up your situation is, you still have that mother’s instinct, “You’re not taking my kids.”
Even though, I had overdosed multiple times. We were living from place to place.
None of that registers?
At this point, I was finding abuse. I was seeking out abuse. I know that sounds crazy. I was trying to find someone to beat me, to drug me, to give me money, all of it. Rinse and repeat, if you beat me, I need the drug. Meanwhile I’ve got all this legal stuff going on too. The cops are coming. I get scared when I see siren lights. I’ve got multiple warrants out for my arrest with multiple counties. I had done little sentence of jail here and there. Three months here, six months there, nine months there, six months here but nothing big or huge.
What’s the next big card to fall? You’re doing all of this, you’ve got the kids, they’re trying to take them away from you. The next big card to fall is what?
I was abused very badly over Thanksgiving weekend of 2011. I hit a breaking point that I never had before. Before that I had always been like, “Let’s go again.” That’s when I turned into a runner. I’ve never been a runner before but I turned into a runner. There was a switch that happened and I was like, “The kids are better off without me and even if I do stay, I’m going to get killed.” I abandoned my kids. I left them. At that time they weren’t with dad, but dad got called.
Who did you leave them with?
Neighbor but they called her nanny. I specifically dropped them off with her. She was going to watch them and I never came back. I ditched my cell phone and my ID. I ditched everything and I purchased a fake ID. I got on an airplane and I bought myself a ticket one way to California. I was going to go out to the financial district and high-dollar prostitute out there because I was in a circle of girlfriends. We had gone out there before, flip tricks and then come home. I decided I was going to go out there and I was going to stay. My intent was to never come back here again, to never be Kathleen Wilkes ever again. I went out there and I’ll never forget how bad I was withdrawing from the plane ride. I didn’t have anything on the plane. Of course I had stashed what I needed. I got off the airplane and immediately went to the bathroom. All I had on me was a backpack with two changes of clothes. I didn’t take a suitcase, I didn’t take anything. I didn’t have phone, nothing. I had some paranoia that was starting to go on and I was like, “They can follow me, they can track me.” I was trying to be out of some CIA movie.
I got off and then got on public transportation straight into San Francisco. You know your people, you know where you need to find your drugs and that’s the first thing that I did. It got really messy. I did some high-dollar prostituting but it always ended in the tenderloin. It’s the nasty part of the city of San Francisco. It’s awful. It’s really bad. It’s a serious epidemic down there. Even though I would go and make money, it always ended with me sleeping on the street. While I was in that environment, I was exposed to the worst trauma of my life physically. I was raped multiple times. It was bad but I was so high. I was missing my kids. I didn’t feel like I could go back home. Meanwhile back at home, my friends and family thought that my boyfriend had hurt me.
He has been called for questioning. I was on the news, “Missing mother, Kathleen Dawn Wilkes.” I had no clue that they even did this. I was like, “I bet they are so glad I’m gone.” They thought that I was dead. I was out there for about nine months, a year. I overdosed while I was out there and I had a fake ID on me. They ran my prints, while I was in the hospital there. That combined with the relationship that I had. I hate to even say relationship, somebody I was manipulating. It wasn’t even a relationship. It was a man I was manipulating. He felt bad for me and was like, “You need to go back home.” He didn’t know my full story. I’d given him some sob story of what I was walking back into but we did end up back up in Utah. Once we started coming back here to Utah, he started to realize who I was. I had also used a fake name and he found out what my real name was. When we got back out here, he turned me into the cops. Which hindsight, that was the best thing he could’ve done. I was not pleased, I was un-amused at that time. I also came back on the grid. I do think it’s important for me not to tell this part of the story as far as when I came back on the grid. I had gone off the grid for a couple of years at this point. Here I was, I came back. I had been found and not only been found but I’m now in jail. I’m going to let her tell what that was like as far as my social media and everything when I came back.
You see the report that she’s a missing person?
I saw that. Not only that, we had been talking. We hadn’t talked a whole lot but right before she came up as a missing person, we had been communicating. She hid her addiction very well. I had no idea. I thought my friend was going to come see me. I was living in Nevada at the time. She was going to come see me. She wanted to buy a dog from me and then she never showed up. A few weeks later she’s a missing person. I don’t hear anything for a long time and then all of a sudden, Facebook blows up. I call it the witch hunt. During her addiction she had manipulated a lot of people and pretty much all of them got together on her Facebook page tore her apart. The guy that she talks about that she had been manipulating, logged into her Facebook got everybody riled up and it was terrible. The only thing I did during this whole thing is I wrote to her brother and he said, “Where are the boys?”
I had a letter written to me while I was in jail and told me that I needed to do the duty, go ahead and hang myself. It would be the best thing for my kids.
It was crazy to me because I didn’t know that side of her. I never saw her while she was in this addiction. All these people pointing fingers and stuff, I was like, “What is going on? Where is she?” This cannot be real.
It’s not that we don’t know what we did. When people come at you that way, when you’re already at your lowest low, it doesn’t help the situation whatsoever.
I was in a fog. If they were going to attack me, they picked the wrong time to attack because I was coming off drugs. I was pretty foggy and painful. It was really intense. I went to jail and I did a pretty long stint. They put me in this place called the WRC, Women’s Recovery Center. That’s where I found sisterhood, relationships and trust. I still hadn’t reached out to my family. I still hadn’t reunited with my kids. I met some really epic game changers along the way. I’m having accountability and honesty. I started processing my trauma, all of that to change my life. On the flip side too, I was on probation. I still was not quite ready to surrender. One of the rules of probation is that you’re not allowed to drink. I drank and I got put back into jail for a probation violation. That was the last stint that I went to jail. It was a nice one.
How long was that one?
That’s where I met JC during that time period.
I was doing a year.
You were doing a year for what?
That one was possession.
Did you have 27 felonies?
No, that many.
Mine were pretty big. I’ve got a simple possession out of 180 grams and then 380 grams.
Yours were bigger. She just decided to go numerical. You decided to go for size. That was the difference. You guys meet in jail?
In the Medline.
That’s how we met. I should mention to you when I was in jail, I did a pretty easy time because I was Alpha and that made my time easier.
Alpha means what?
What does that mean?
She took control.
Either it runs you or you run it.
You’re the boss?
Towards the end, not when I first started the time but then I learned that was the way you survive. When I first went in, I was definitely Beta. I got comfortable. My last stint I was like, “I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing.”
JC, looks like she’s got something to say about that, let’s go and let her chime in.
Kat becomes obsessed with things like all of us addicts do. That happens in jail in different ways. There’s the exercising stint that goes insanity. All you hear is her running through and it’s nuts. She’s intense and then it’s reading every self-help book she can get her hands on, which is good. That’s not a bad thing.
Let me ask you some though because it’s always interesting to me that you get a lot of judging people. I’m going to talk about this at the very end because I think it’s important. You get a bunch of people that are judging you and you have two cases of it. One is you should have been torn apart on social media because you needed to be. This goes for everybody that there’s a portion of your life that I believe you are you’re causing pain. You’re either causing pain or you’re easing suffering. Those are the two separations I have in this life. If you’re causing pain, then the attack by loved ones and by the outside world is trying to get you to modify your behavior so that you will stop causing pain. There’s a use for that.
The second side of it is that when you get through that and I’ve seen this happen to you, I’ve seen it happen in the charity world. It’s this other side of the place where people are judging you because they’re bored and they don’t have anything else to do. They’re giving you your power. This is how I look at it. Back in the day when I was causing pain, I should have been attacked. That’s why I decided to start this show. It’s why the first episode was me outing myself. I’ve eight-miled my ass probably 50 times in the last five years. Nobody’s ever going to beat me in a wraps thing and embarrass me. It’s the same exact thing but when we get to the other side of that, there’re people that I feel genuinely energized by the fact that they’re given me their power. They’re attacking you to stop you from causing pain, which is the right thing to do. There’s this other group that are out there that are called trolls and we’re going to rename them. I promise you by the time my stint of podcasting is done, they’re going to be hated like Hitler. They’re going to be like Hitler. They’re trying to tear good people down. At some point in time, people come to you and go you made a mistake. That’s where you should lay down and die.
They need you to be sick sometimes. That’s where people feel comfortable with you when you start to change your life and start to change who you are. They have difficulty dealing with you. They don’t know how to interact with you anymore they’re used to you being that person. That’s a whole different level that you go through with your family members, loved ones, friends and then there are the haters.
I did think of it this way, it was like corner. I threw my choices. I walked my little happy ass into that corner and I sat down. I put myself in that corner. I did it. That said, there were people that surrounded and kicked me when I was in that corner. I’m grateful to them because not only did it make me fight and want to get out of the corner and sneak out of it through making good choices but for the rest of my life now, I recognize corners through my choices. I’m like, “I’m not going to do that decision because that puts me in a corner and I’m not going to ever be in a corner again.” Not only had that but like you said, “People that are in, I can see them.” I’m like, “They’re in a corner. They put themselves there but we don’t have to kick them.” You don’t even have to throw your handout to them. You don’t even have to help them.
Leave them alone.
They got it.
You have to earn your way out of that corner.
It’s like they’re just ramming their heads against the corner. You didn’t have to still kick me. I was clearly still trying to see how much more in the corner I could get. I learned the importance of laying low.
Getting yourself healthy physically.
Having a good female friendship again, reaching back out to Rikki and Nicole. These two are cores of my childhood. It’s not like it got easy, it didn’t get easy at all but it got honest, it got weird, and really uncomfortable. I learned that it was okay to be broken as a human being also financially. A lot of my stuff had gone around money. I had circulated hundreds of thousands of dollars within months and I had nothing to show for it.
Do you feel like a lot of your healing came from the blog that you started to write?
I thought that was amazing when you started doing that. She pretty much said, “I’m outing myself. These are all the things I did. Here it is for everybody to see. Quit calling me out.”
That’s a big message. That’s one of the main reasons that this exists is because that is freedom. I did a message on this about the idea that when the world is trying to tell us we’re broken, it was at the other side. I was watching what was going on at that deal. There’re so many eyeballs in that room that have bought the idea that I’m broken. This is my philosophy. It doesn’t have to be anybody else’s but I think that life teaches you lessons that you either absorb or you turn it into these trolls that don’t ever face their own crap. You buy the idea and it usually comes from somebody that’s close to you. Somebody that loves you, husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, mother, father, uncle, or cousins. Somebody that message is coming, “You’re broken.” They’re telling you that not because they want to heal you but because they want you to stay there where it’s comfortable for them. My belief system is that nobody’s broken. Every single thing that we go through in life, every one of us around the table in here, we’ve all gone through things and it’s to test us.
Broken means that, “I believe that you’re in a grave and you’re not breathing anymore.” That’s the only time that you’re broken and disassociated from this thing called life. The ability to be able to serve and take your game to the next level. I don’t believe anybody’s broken. We go through things that make us feel broken but that’s the opportunity for us to understand. We’re not broken. If we were in a factory, we are not throwaways. There’s no such thing as any of us that’s a throwaway. We’re not defective. We may feel like that and we make the choices to put us in that position but I don’t believe anybody’s broken. They’re looking for this message. The message that you ladies are bringing. The message that exists in the first place, by the ball that you guys did where we’re inviting more people in. The reason that Nikki is sitting here at this table is because of this. We’re not broken. She’s not broken. That’s the message that this portion of it brings is it’s like, “I messed up. I didn’t end up dead. My kids didn’t end up dead in this particular scenario.”
There are people that kill their kids. Their kids end up dead because of the abuse or the neglect. That’s not this particular story. That’s not this particular table at this particular moment but we know those stories exist. The idea is that even if you’ve done the worst, you’ve been at the worst and you’ve experienced the worst but there’s another side of that. That’s the recovery side that we’re talking about. You and JC met. You’ve got two amazing friends, Nicole and Rikki that are on the outside going, “Have you stopped kicking yourself in the lady balls?”
We don’t even see each other. We just have a relationship literally on Facebook because we’re both too afraid to be that close. Recovering sisters don’t do that.
You’re both in jail and only communicating?
No, this is after. We graduated, we went to each other’s graduations. We can actually hang out with each other without being prosecuted by the law. We still choose not to. It’s a choice.
Let’s advance it a little. I want to get to Nikki. At some point in time, you decide that you’re going to do something more with this. I love this part of the story because when we’re focused on ourselves, there’s usually nothing but pain to experience. We still feel sorry for ourselves. We beat ourselves up over the mistakes. There are a lot of people that had a life of trauma start to feel freedom, is when they start to serve other people. At what point did you realize, “I’ve got to heal myself, I’ve got to get better.” You’re feeding yourself with good words in books. You’re feeding yourself with better friends that care and love about you. What’s the next step to that?
It started in my sisterhood and my friendships because so many of us burned our bridges. There was absolutely no way for us to rebuild our lives if we didn’t stay loyal to one another and we weren’t there for one another.
I’ve heard you say before in the past that for most of your life, women represented competition. I hear that a lot. When you overhear conversations and you listened in this world, you’re looking at the other females in the world as competition and you reach out to Nicole. Nicole is such a loving, giving, and structured mother. Everybody refers to her as the mother of A New Dawn. When she’s going through this, what’s your perspective? What are you seeing? What is the instinct in you and a little bit about your background?
Like Rikki, Kat and I knew each other when we were six, seven, eight years old. Same exact scenario, junior high school comes around and the three of us disbanded and dispersed. It was that way for years. I didn’t get to see the witch hunt that Rikki saw. I saw six months or a year after the witch hunt. Kat and I had reconnected through Facebook. I remember she disappeared again. Then she came right back. That was right before you she to San Francisco. It was as if we were childhood friends again. I had no idea what was going on. Her boyfriend called me, “Kat’s in jail.” I mean, Kathleen and I went to church together. We did a lot of things together. It was completely left field. He and I immediately got in a car, pulled together and the car was dead silent. We didn’t know what to say. He and I barely knew each other. When we get into the jail parking lot, we sat there, we looked at each other and said, “If we’re doing this, we’re both going in. If not, we leave now. It’s now or never.” There was no hesitation between us.
You and Kat’s boyfriend?
We walked in and it’s not what you see on TV. It was monitors with payphone phone to your ear. There’s only one and there’s two of us, one to her. We sit there on this blank screen and wait until her beautiful face comes up. We’ve got our heads next to each other, both trying to listen to her. The first thing I said was, “What happened, Kat?” She bawled and I bawled and he bawled and we were just crying. She said, “We’ve got ten minutes before they cut us off. Write to me and I will tell you my story.” I still have all those letters, all of them.
Do you mind talking a little bit about your history and why you’re so passionate about this? You dedicate so much of your time and many things. It’s not my place but do you mind talking a little bit about why it’s so deep and impactful for you?
I knew her before and I’ve known her after. I did not get to know her like JC during. I had my own experiences of abuse as a child but not nearly to that extent.
Why do you qualify it though? I only asked because this is the great thing about this. We all love each other here and this is the stuff that we do. We minimize some of the experiences that we have. There’s a lot of people out there that are sitting in your deal. You’re like, “Everybody else has it harder than I.” You dismiss it and you disassociate from it. Why do you do that in a non-judgmental way?
It’s exactly that, “Kat had it worse than I have. She had 27 felonies, mine was just rape.”
There’s something I want to say so bad but I won’t, I’m going to let you. I want you to say it so bad.
For me it was actually Kat and Rikki know who my rapist is. He was my offender. My brother’s best friend, he was my next-door neighbor. I knew him since I was three years old.
What age were you when that happened?
I was eight years old when he molested me and then twelve years old when he raped me. I brushed it off though. That guy is quite literally one-minute wonder. I didn’t think it was real. It was so in and out, quick, done, we’re done. My first sexual experience is him, he was my first kiss, he’s my first everything, I have no idea what happened. Of course, I brushed it up. It didn’t last that long. He’s my neighbor and my brother’s best friend. It’s dismissed because I’ve known him ever since I had memories. I grew up and I got older and I did prosecute him eventually. It was pretty quick. It was within a few months of the act. When Kat and I reconnect, it hit me. All of that’s coming back. She’s writing the letters and explaining everything to me about what happened in her life. It’s bringing back everything that happened in my life and then how we both knew each other, even during that time. Even for a little bit, she knew me when I was raped. She didn’t know I was raped and we’re best friends.
You were twelve and eight when it happened? She was eleven, about same age?
Yes, I didn’t know she was molested by somebody four times her age.
We all have eleven-year-old daughters. We’re thinking about this going, “My daughter’s eight. My daughter is ten. My daughter’s eleven. My daughter’s twelve.” What environment or conversation would have made the difference between you keeping it to yourself and telling somebody else?
Honestly, none for me. My parents did everything exactly right and I tell them to this day, all the time I was safe when I came home. I passed out on the floor because I felt comfortable blacking out on the floor after it happened. There’s nothing you could have done. He was our neighbor. I felt safe with him in a sense, which is why I let it. He was an authoritative figure.
You said he was prosecuted and did he go onto to stop doing it or did he keep doing it?
He’s a serial rapist. He’s in prison.
I was one of six.
You’re one of six that came forward and prosecute him.
I was his very first with the molestation when I was eight and he was twelve. He had proceeded to get other women. He got me again when I was twelve and he was sixteen. That’s when girlfriends called me and other neighbors called me, “Me too.” I’m like, “Come forward with me,” and nobody would. Somebody else finally came forward. He was in the newspaper. My dad took a picture of the newspaper because who else reads the newspaper anymore other than your parents.
It was enough for me to read it and know who that was. I called the courthouse that day. I said, “How do I help?” This is the only other person in twenty years that has come forward and he didn’t stop, when I told him to stop. He’s in prison. It was good. He probably won’t stay there for very long.
The laws are difficult.
I’m not worried about it.
The healing that Mackenzie and Nicole have experienced is an absolute testimony to sisterhood and loyalty. She spoke at the domestic violence, Footsteps to Light.
She was a survivor of the year.
She had married him.
She’s been someone that Nicole has mentored.
I met her and she’s a very strong, beautiful, smart, powerful young lady.
She is, we are proud of her.
That’s what this group really stands for. I look at everybody around the table and you’re all so very different and yet you love each other. There’s a lot of work that goes into what you’re doing. All of this to be said, I want to remind everybody that this group belongs to something called A New Dawn. Just very quickly, start with you Rikki, why do you think A New Dawn exists?
Why do I stay up until two, three in the morning and some nights because of A New Dawn? I watched her transition. I’ve watched myself transition, I’ve watched women like Nicole transition. I’ve watched JC’s transition and from knowing Kat, seeing her sisters. She included me and brought me in. We would have parties and all this random stuff and we would randomly help people and it’s intoxicating. Sure, go get heroin. It does not compare to the intoxication of helping somebody else. Seeing the glow in their eyes when they get that one bit of hope from somebody, who may not have experienced domestic violence or who has experienced domestic violence.
It’s a bunch of addicts getting together and being addicted going, “The best drug out there is service.” It’s an addiction. Rikki, why put in all the extra hours? Every one of you has family, kids, and jobs. Everybody here has something else to do. What is it about this organization?
It’s people helping people. That’s all it is. You got to be a badass human lover. We got to look out for one another. That’s what it’s all about in a nutshell.
Have you experienced abuse, you didn’t raise your hand earlier?
For as much as that happens, I got very lucky that never happened to me.
You turned out as creepy cool as the rest of them.
- A New Dawn
About A New Dawn
A New Dawn came about stemming from real life experiences when going through addiction recovery. Every day, there would be that one good Samaritan that would want to help out, but didn’t know how. How do you ensure you are actually helping that person who is trying so hard to do better and make things right, when there is no clear way of making sure you are helping? That’s A New Dawn.
After privately serving themselves for 5 years, they decided the time was right to make it official as more and more people wanted to get involved. So, in 2017 they established A New Dawn.
A big driving force for the creation was that one of their own received a Secret Santa one year, when there was nothing to give to the family, and that sparked the idea to pay it forward. For the next few years, they did their own Secret Santa, just as us, to serve others in similar situations. Giving back to the women who are doing their best and working so hard, we wanted them to know they are doing well. It became such a big success, that the idea came back for A New Dawn. Bring more like-minded people together to help those, we know are deserving, of help. This allowed us to expand our favorite project into other projects and events to help continue to serve.
When our loved ones passed, from addiction, or the byproduct of addiction, enough was enough. It is time to step up, and create A New Dawn.