With their permission, we would like to present this client’s story to you:
I come from a middle-class family. My parents enrolled me in French Immersion school from grades 1 to 12. I then continued my education at a French University for 3 years following High School Graduation. I participated in dance and soccer up until grade 12. My family even made a point to have at least one night of sit-down family dinners each week, even when we were busy with me and my sister’s extracurricular activities. At the age of 16, I began feeling as though I had missed the day in school when my peers were handed a sort of guidebook to life because, somehow, it seemed most of them had an idea of which direction they wanted to go in life or were comfortable with how life was proceeding in general. I couldn’t shake this feeling and, unbeknownst to me, it would follow me for the next 11 years.
In university, I was charmed by the illusion of independence, the excitement of meeting new people, and expanding my horizons. Drugs became more prevalent with the parties and hangouts I attended during this time. Fast forward to 3rd year of university and I wasn’t feeling the excitement of becoming a teacher that many of my peers were experiencing. I dropped out in my third year and thus began my not so exciting pattern of floating from job to job with no real sense of what the heck I was supposed to be doing.
In 2014 I began working for an Oil and Gas company in northern Alberta. Being 22 years old and raking in $100,000 a year? Can you say jackpot? I ended up meeting someone at one of the sites and being young and extremely naïve, I began a relationship with this person. The relationship with my partner became verbally and emotionally abusive fairly quickly. Keep in mind, I’m 22, come from a sheltered life, no real-life experience at this point. Everyone in my life had good relationships with their family, were raised to pursue an education and build a career for themselves. So, when I became isolated from my friends and family, I was blindsided
It was spring 2016 when I finally left my partner for good, but I was left with all this chaos I had endured and had no understanding of how to cope. Being away from my partner and doing well at my new job helped me for a while. As a result of leaving my partner, I no longer had connections to drug dealers. I was back living with my parents, I reconnected with my best friend, I began working out daily. I soon found a cycling class and would go cycling twice a day for the next 9 months. I was fit, lean, engaged in life, and excelling at my job. For 9 months, I attended the cycling class religiously. If you’ve been following my pattern of behaviour thus far, you should be able to see that I have simply replaced one vice for another. But in my mind, cycling is healthy. So, it can’t possibly be the same. Right?
In December 2018, I had stolen well over $30,000 from my parents’ safe. I had stolen $900 from my sister. I used Gift Cards for fancy restaurants as a form of payment when I had no money left. I sold gifts I had received for my birthdays from previous years, always something I knew I could get good money for to help pay for my drugs. On Boxing Day, I spent it with the co-worker. At the end of the evening, I told him everything. Where I had gotten the money for our drugs, the lies I told my family, that I needed to somehow put back $30,000 of my parents’ money within the week before they found out. I couldn’t stop what I was doing, but I also wanted nothing more than to stop. It was as if I no longer had control over myself and what I did. I knew what I had been doing was wrong, but now that I wanted out, I couldn’t pull myself out of it. My co-worker was not empathetic when I began sobbing. He gave me the tough love speech I needed. He explained that I had no right or privilege to be crying in that moment. I did it to myself. I stole the money. I lied. I snorted the cocaine. I pulled out the money from the atm. I drove to the dealer. I met the dealer. It was all me. He said I now had two options. Option 1 was to continue what I was doing, pretend it didn’t bother me, ignore the damage I’ve done. Or option 2: I could tell my family everything and hope they help or hope they drop me off somewhere that could help me. Basically, it came down to either remaining a walking dead person wreaking havoc wherever I go or fess up and get help. Neither sounded good to me. How could I just lay 5 years of crap on my family? How could I look them in the eye and tell them their daughter, their sister is a drug addict? What would they think?
On December 27, 2018, I walked up to my family home, alone. My eyes were swollen from crying all day and night. I didn’t want to do this. The door felt so heavy as I opened it. The light from the house painted the porch. I was truly walking from the darkness into the light. I told them everything. The next day, I was at my first anonymous meeting.
Two weeks after attending my first anonymous meeting, I found my sponsor. Her story was different from mine, but she had 14 years clean and sober with no relapse. I wanted a chance at what she had so bad, I made a decision to do as she had done up to that point. She explained how she had attended an addiction treatment centre in our town but needed more help than what a 19-day facility could offer. She shared her experience in attending a long-term female residential addiction treatment facility. She explained that they helped her become human again. She learned manners, how to take care of a shared space, how to interact with others, how to take care of herself, how to clean dishes, how to follow through on obligations, how to prioritize her time, and how to accept responsibility. She described how the counsellors helped her heal from her past and learn to develop the basic skills a normie learns when they’re younger.
On March 2018, after my 19 days at the addiction treatment centre, I finally moved into McDougall House.
The schedule at the house included programming. The programming would range in topics from family dynamics, meditation techniques, coping mechanisms, group therapy, conflict resolution, communication improvement, identifying and understanding emotions, physical well-being, relapse prevention, and grief…it touched each facet I had missed during my 10 years of drinking and my 5 years of drug use. Clients also received one-on-one therapy with one of the counsellors.
It was in one of my first one-on-one sessions with my counsellor that I spent nearly the entire one-hour session sobbing. I still laugh about it today, but at the end of the session my counsellor said I did very well, and progress had been made. I looked up at her, eyes swollen, tears running down my face, and with a confused look, I asked her how in the hell had progress been made when I spent the entire session crying my eyes out? Truthfully, in my head, I was thinking that this woman is nuts. How could she look at me and say I had made progress when all I did was cry the entire time??? She of course reiterated; this was progress. Towards the end of my stay, I would look back on this and recognize that my counsellor dubbed this session as progress because for the first time in years, I was crying. I was letting my emotions come out. I was expressing grief. For what I had experienced, what I had put myself through.
Some people think drug use can be stopped simply because the addict wants to stop. Shouldn’t the lying and sneaking around be enough to stop? Shouldn’t the guilt that the addicts carry around be enough to stop? Shouldn’t the fact that their loved ones are killing themselves trying to get the addict to see the light be enough? Shouldn’t knowing what drugs can do to a person be enough to stop? If it were enough, addiction wouldn’t exist. Addicts would not be a thing. Rehabilitation centers would not need to be built. Look back through my story. Did I not also have a moment of clarity where I finally wanted to stop, but with every ounce of willpower I had, I could not stop myself from picking up and continuing to use? It took me 10 years of drinking and 5 years of using cocaine, sprinkled in with some light form of prostitution, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, and the tons of pounds of guilt and shame that had piled up for me to finally get help. And my story isn’t even the worst of them! I am fortunate enough that my family stuck around. I was not severely neglected in my childhood. My family was and is very close to one another. Most addicts/alcoholics have not been born with these advantages. I am the privileged one.
Being surrounded by women, I felt safe. I felt even safer knowing they had experienced similar feelings to me. I didn’t have to put on a mask for them. We were all there to get help. I didn’t need to impress anyone. I didn’t need to put myself on display as there were no men around that I needed to charm. I could be myself. The girl who has an obnoxiously loud laugh. The girl who absolutely loves food. The girl who is very artistically inclined unbeknownst to herself. The girl who finally gets to explore her identity. The girl who, because of the support of her counsellor and the workshops McDougall provides, gets to freely ask herself what she wants for herself rather than always looking to someone else. Do you know the freedom that comes from finally feeling safe? Do you know the relief that comes from no longer flinching when someone raises their arms too quickly? Do you know how powerful it feels to say no for the first time when implementing boundaries to respect your own needs? These are things other people don’t necessarily have to deal with. They aren’t seen as a big deal. For me, as a recovering addict, these are huge accomplishments. These are moments that have snowballed into who I am today.
You have just read a condensed version of my story. Addiction isn’t just quitting drug use. Addiction is also having to re-live my emotional and verbal abuse daily. It’s having unwanted memories flash through my brain even while I’m having the greatest of days in recovery. It’s the struggle I still experience in repairing my relationship with my mom. My addiction isn’t cured simply because I decided to attend a long-term treatment facility. There is no cure for what I have. I am and always will be an addict/alcoholic. McDougall House helped me learn how to be human again and what I need to do EVERY DAY to ensure I decrease the chances of relapse during this next 24-hour period. Something as simple as making my bed each morning or washing my dishes before bed or knowing where the closest 12-Step meeting is located add up to me not relapsing this minute, this hour, or this evening.
McDougall House is the springboard of my recovery. I have lived more in the last few years than I did prior to attending McDougall House. Soon after graduating from McDougall House, I attended a 9-month long conservation program that took me to New Brunswick and B.C. I also volunteered with a program for underprivileged youth in B.C. I am currently in the Forestry program in university and have received 4 award letters for being on the Dean’s Honour Roll list in my first year. I am living on my own and see my sister and my best friend for bi-weekly walks. I even got to see both of my grandparents right before they passed away and I was sober for that. Had I not attended McDougall House when I did, I would not be where I am now. Being surrounded by women who have the same illness I have and interacting with the counsellors at McDougall House helped me heal deeper than could be done through 12-Step meetings alone. And for that, I am extremely grateful. I am not cured, but I now have the tools to navigate life without relying on drugs, alcohol, or destructive behaviour.
These stories showcase some of what McDougall House clients have gone through to get to where they are. Your support directly helps women in our community to conquer their battles and allows us to help them become the best version of themselves. Consider Donating Today.