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Biography & Autobiography Personal Memoirs

Here With You

A Memoir of Love, Family, and Addiction

by (author) Kathy Wagner

Douglas & McIntyre
Initial publish date
Sep 2023
Personal Memoirs, Addiction, Death, Grief, Bereavement
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2023
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2023
    List Price

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The powerful story of a mother’s struggle to save her son from addiction—and the strength and hope for change that she found in her grief.

When the author’s son, Tristan, began experimenting with drugs at the age of fourteen, Kathy Wagner told herself it was just a phase. But by the time he was fifteen, she had to face the gravity of Tristan’s addiction. Unable to get him treatment without his consent, she did everything else that she could to try to save her child, from sending him to China to study kung fu with Shaolin monks, to signing him up for culinary school, to paying for his drugs in an attempt to keep him safe.

When Tristan finally began his recovery journey, six years later, Wagner was unexpectedly thrown onto her own recovery path. Learning from other parents of children struggling with addiction, she began, for the first time, to live for herself. But soon her oldest daughter needed help for her own addictions, and Tristan struggled with relapse, eventually dying by accidental fentanyl overdose.

After Tristan’s death, Wagner struggled to find herself without him and travelled the world to be alone with her pain. But she soon realized that to truly heal, she needed to come home to her family, and herself, in all their messy wonder. Told with compassion and insight, Here With You is a story about how addiction tore a family apart and how they came back together through shared love and a deep commitment to learning a better way. Timely and honest, it will resonate with those struggling with substance abuse, their families and anyone who wants to better understand the impact of the current drug toxicity crisis.

About the author

Kathy Wagner is the mother of three grown children, including her son Tristan who died from fentanyl poisoning in August 2017. Since that time, Kathy has actively advocated for improved access to quality addiction recovery services and was a peer support group facilitator for Healing Hearts Canada. Her interviews have appeared on CBC’s The National, the Vancouver Sun and many local newspapers and radio shows.

Kathy has published personal essays in the New York Times and The Globe and Mail, and was awarded a position at The Banff Centre for the Arts summer writing retreat in 2019. She is an experienced public speaker and has presented to large audiences at numerous conferences in a professional capacity.

Kathy’s wish is to bring hope to parents who are lost in the darkness of their child’s addiction or are struggling with a child’s drug-related death. She currently lives in the Metro Vancouver area.

Kathy Wagner's profile page

Editorial Reviews


Here With You adeptly harnesses the excruciating futility of being suspended between the person you love and the danger you know is coming. When a child overdoses, blame often lands at the feet of the mother. Kathy Wagner vividly portrays what it feels like to be ‘standing in the middle of everything that was broken’ and somehow find the strength, accountability, and agency to keep moving alongside that fear. As Wagner’s beautiful and troubled son Tristan works toward recovery, so too does his mother. This is, indeed, a celebration of life and of the intricate blessings of the recovery community. Here, you will discover a woman facing devastation, committed to defining her life based on ‘love, hope, peace, and also grief, but never again on fear and dysfunction,’ arriving at a place of hard-won wholeness.”

Tara McGuire, author of <i>Holden After and Before: Love Letter for a Son Lost to Overdose</i>


“Written with novelistic skill, Kathy Wagner’s vivid and moving memoir depicts how trauma, unrecognized, can blight a family across generations and culminate in tragedy, even in the face of fierce and abiding parental love. And, miraculously, how out of tragedy can arise the redemptive blessing of healing and compassion.”

Gabor Maté M.D., CM, author of <i>The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness and Healing in a Toxic Culture</i>


“Through intimately detailed descriptions of both the outer and inward journeys of grief and addiction, Kathy Wagner keeps her readers right with her. Those who have struggled with addiction, or the addictions of loved ones will appreciate Kathy's searing honesty and will not feel so alone in their struggles. Despite the dark topics of grief and addiction, in the end, Wagner offers a message of hope and even joy.”

Cathy Sosnowsky, author of <i>Snapshots: A Story of Love, Loss, and Life</p>


“In Here With You, Kathy Wagner immerses the reader in the ups and downs of loving someone struggling with a substance use disorder. It is a story of love and pain, hope and fear, and resistance and acceptance. And it is the tale of a mother redefining herself and her relationship with her children. Most of all, Kathy tells us the truth of this story. Not just the factual truth, but the emotional truth.”

Mary Beth O'Connor, author of <i>From Junkie to Judge: One Woman's Triumph Over Trauma and Addiction</i>

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