I never know where to start when telling my story. Everyone I talk to tells me to “start from the beginning”. Is that meaning to start with, “I was born on a chilly November day twenty-nine years ago.”? Or is it the beginning of where my life began on its path? I suppose I will start where it’s relevant. Twenty years ago I was new to small town living. My grandmother had passed away in the summer of ’95 and we moved into her home in Avonlea, SK. I remember our mom telling my sister and me that we would be happier here and that we would make new friends. I did make a few new friends, although it wasn’t easy. Making friends had always been hard for me and so effortless for my older sister. I never did ‘fit’ anywhere. I have always been on the outside of things, looking in at others. For me, I tried to fit in by doing what my older sister did. A nine-year- old trying to fit into the shoes of a fourteen-year-old was a bit tough and I ended up doing a lot of things most of my peers weren’t doing yet.
At nine-years-old I went to my first party. I was innocently looking for my sister, at first. Our mother worked all the time and we were often left alone to fend for ourselves. While my sister had plenty of friends and places to go, I frequently sat home alone watching television and drawing. This particular night, when my path began, I had decided to go looking for my sister because I was scared of being alone in the house at night. I was out walking through town and found a house packed full of teenagers and many of my sister’s friends. I asked one of them if she was inside and they lead me into the house to where she was. I was in awe of what I saw: so many kids smiling and having a great time. Laughing, singing, dancing. It looked so fun! When I got to where my sister was, she seemed to be having a great time too. She was even happy to see me, which was unusual. I liked this side of her- friendly and eager to tell everyone I was her ‘baby sister’. She asked if I wanted to try a drink and I agreed. I didn’t know at the time what she was offering. When she gave me the drink I thought it was just orange juice but as I drank it I realized it was different. I thought at first maybe it had gone sour. She told me it was vodka and orange juice. I was a little scared. I didn’t want our mom to know I drank alcohol but she assured me that our mom wouldn’t mind. So I happily drank it down, fast. I remember feeling fuzzy and warm and unsure of what was happening around me. But I liked that I was fitting in. All her friends were so nice to me and wanted to give me more drinks, which I happily took. That was the night I released my addictive side, the night I became an alcoholic.
Of course I didn’t know I was an alcoholic until I was almost twenty. I just thought I was doing what everyone did. All my peers and even my family drank to have a good time. I never did like drinking, I still didn’t really feel like I fit in anywhere. I was still too honest, too quirky, and too different. The alcohol just helped me not care. By the time I was in grade 9, I was sneaking alcohol from my dad’s liqueur cabinet and drinking in my room. I was going to school drunk and getting kicked out of classes for being disruptive. My family had no idea. Drinking wasn’t making me feel good anymore, it was more a necessity than anything. It wasn’t long into grade 11, I was still drinking through the week, that our family lost someone very special. I was 15 when my aunt passed away suddenly and I was not raised to know how to cope with such an event. My mother, losing her sister, shut me out and went into her own depression. At the time I couldn’t talk to my sister and my dad about anything, especially my feelings. I was severely depressed, alone, and suicidal. I wanted to be with my aunt. She loved me unconditionally, she understood me; she too was the quirky outsider in her family. I didn’t know how I could live without her.
I knew that many of my peers in school used marijuana. I never really understood why, but I saw that they seemed happy and I wanted it. I was too scared to take my own life but wanted to be rid of life so badly that I knew I needed to try to find my happiness somewhere. So again, I reached out to substances. It wasn’t hard to come by, my father was an alcoholic and an addict. I stole marijuana from him. My best, and only, friend at the time got her father to roll us ‘joints’ (marijuana cigarettes). The first time I smoked that drug, I thought I had found the solution to every problem. I was happy and giddy and laughed until it hurt. I couldn’t feel the sadness and despair that had been eating away at me. This was it. This was my happiness. I didn’t have to join my aunt in Heaven, after all. Marijuana became my crutch for the next 14 years. I didn’t know then, at 15, that I was an addict or an alcoholic. I still thought I was doing what all kids my age did.
It was only a few years later that I entered into a drug rehabilitation centre for the first time. At 19, I was drinking daily. I had started selling chemical drugs and began using them to the point that I was no longer selling, but only using them. In a span of three months, I was a crack cocaine addict and had lost nearly eighty pounds and I had alienated myself from my family. I had an explosive temper and was cruel towards my family. I pushed everyone away, even my closest friends. If you weren’t supporting my lifestyle at the time, I didn’t need you in my life. I was sick, suicidal, and desperate for change. After trying to take my own life following a three-day drug binge, I finally accepted help from a group of men I had befriended at work. They invited me to come and live with them and helped me get off of the hard drugs. I was still drinking heavily and using marijuana. I soon moved home to Ogema to live in a house my sister rented. It wasn’t long after that I hit bottom again, with my drinking this time, and entered rehab. I completed the 28-day program and I thought I had conquered my addiction. I relapsed five days out of treatment. I tried many times to get clean that year but ultimately went back into my addiction and alcoholism.
The next year I married, while still using drugs and alcohol heavily, and became pregnant with my first daughter. I moved in with my sister the day after I found out I was pregnant and got sober. I was sober, this time, for 17 months. But I relapsed again and started drinking and using marijuana. I hated myself. I was angry with myself and depressed. Why couldn’t I just stop and stay away from it? I wanted to be a good mother and not do this to myself. I just couldn’t quit. I became pregnant with my second daughter and again quit. It was not a happy time in my life. Though sober, I had severe post-partum depression, severe anxiety, clinical depression, and an undiagnosed severe mental illness. I was sick, there was no better way to describe it. I had terrible thoughts of hurting myself and my children. My husband was absent the majority of the time, lost in his own addiction. I relapsed again, one week short a year of sobriety. This time I did not get sober.
I was in relapse for 4 and a half years and through two pregnancies. I drank when I wasn’t pregnant and used marijuana throughout my last two pregnancies. I was diagnosed in December 2011 with Borderline Personality Disorder. I was relieved to finally have an answer to why I always felt so out of place, depressed, and suicidal. Shortly after, in January 2012, my drinking had taken over and my sister stepped in to help. She warned me that if I did not get help she would take my three children away. I checked into a psychiatric house that month and stayed for three weeks. It was hard to be away from my children, but it was a step in the right direction. In March, I decided to try drug/alcohol treatment again, but first I had get very drunk one last time. On March 29, 2012, my youngest daughter’s first birthday, was the last time I drank. I quit rehab two weeks in upon finding out I was pregnant with my fourth child.
The diagnoses for Borderline is what ultimately saved me. This illness was why I was so sick, so out of place, and why I used drugs to no end. Once I got into counseling and started managing my illnesses, I slowly starting getting mentally healthier. I stopped drinking in March 2012 and have been sober since. This past year, in July 2014, I went to rehab for the third time. I had begun experiencing severe side effects due to my marijuana use including difficulty speaking, black outs, memory loss, rapid heart rate, and extreme anxiety. I decided I needed and wanted to be rid of it and checked myself into rehab. It was hard to leave my four children, but I knew that I needed this. I knew that this was it, I had to stop now or I was going to miss out on seeing my children grow up. I also knew that they needed a sober parent because life alone was too hard. I had raised myself without the help of my parents and I wasn’t going to do that to my children. My journey in sobriety and into recovery hasn’t been easy but it has been amazing. I never knew I could be this happy sober. I still have a long way to go but I am slowly finding myself on my path to recovery. I have renewed a special bond with my sister and even enjoy spending time with my dad now.
Since becoming clean and sober on June 30, 2014, I have started an NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meeting in Weyburn and joined a step group through AA. Life is not always easy, but it is better. I enjoy being alive and experiencing life with a clear head. I plan to start school in the fall to become a mental health and addictions counselor. Life is worth living these days and I know now that the reason I went through what I did was because my God, my Higher Power, had plans for me. Without suffering and experiencing what I did, I would not have found my path, the path He wanted me on. I was meant to serve and help others and I am so thankful that God brought me through those darkest times and revealed my path to me.