Cambridge Addiction Services, in Cambridge Ontario, does some amazing work. One of their clients, Val, has made fantastic progress using their services. Here’s Val’s story, in her own words.
When I was two years old, I became a temporary ward of the courts along with my younger brother and sister. My younger sister was adopted and over the years my brother and I struggled, trying to understand how to live in a broken system, facing problems no children should experience. I am not sure what someone would call temporary because this lasted until I was approximately 8 years old. I would have had 9 different homes before I would be placed permanently (at least that was the plan) with my maternal grandparents. My experience was not a good one, being physically and sexually abused at two of these locations. Around the age of 12 or 13, I started to understand that I was attracted to the same sex. I shared this with my grandmother and it was not received well. I was told I was dirty and evil, based on their religious beliefs. I was eventually taken out of my grand-parents home because of physical abuse, reported by the school and placed into foster care again. By then, I was already struggling with my own sense of self, I was angry and confused and didn’t feel like I was part of any family. “I was a foster kid” or what I thought that meant, someone who was handed off from home to home in order to have a roof over my head. I ran away from my third foster-home and although I was connected with Alberta Child Welfare, I was already making the decision to live on my own, regardless of the consequences. I started working at Dairy Queen, when I was in my early teens and lived with a friend. I was drinking and using some pretty hard drugs by the time I was 14. I ended up losing my job, couch surfing, living in vehicles, on the streets and sometimes with friends. When I was eighteen I got pregnant with my first daughter. I knew I didn’t want the same life for my child that I had experienced, so we moved to Ontario and cut all ties with anyone I knew. I ended up living exactly the opposite of what I had wanted for myself and my daughter. I had a series of unhealthy relationships, moving between Ontario and Alberta and having two more children. I ended up drinking and drugging heavily because I didn’t know how to live, struggling with my identity, my sense of self-worth and struggling to be a single mom. I was in and out of custody, in and out of hospitals for suicide ideation, while my children would be cared for by their fathers. Regardless, I always desperately, wanted something different. I was medicated often and I can’t help but think today, that this was a big part of staying in active addiction.
In 2003 I married my best friend, who knew my struggles, my sexual orientation and loved me anyway. Although we are no longer together, he is still my best friend to this day. When we separated, he continued to help me and watched out for our children when I couldn’t be there.
Eventually, I would overdose where it took three doses of Narcan along with CPR to bring me back. Even then, I started using again, I was too afraid to live and pushed away anyone that cared. It would take only three months when I looked at myself in the mirror and gave myself the option of using and struggling with the withdrawal or trying to quit. I made the decision to check myself into detox for seven days. I really didn’t have any options except to going back to my old life, white-knuckling it on my own. Withdrawal Management told me about an option, Ancora House, a recovery home for women. I really jumped at this opportunity, and moved in on May 21, 2019, with the clothes on my back. With the help of the staff, I have been guided to resources that I never knew existed. They have shown me how to build confidence in myself and they helped to show me a sense of community. Before coming to Ancora I didn’t want to live and I felt hopeless. I had no family as my son stopped talking to me because of behaviour while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Ancora showed me other ways to enjoy life, they helped me get into treatment, they helped me with my physical and mental health as well as repairing relationships with a son. They assisted with legal issues as well as medical, and spiritual health. Volunteering through the social enterprise “Harvesting Hope” has increased my self-esteem, my confidence, my respect for myself and towards others. They continue to help me, sometimes daily, by calling me out on my old behaviours, with a firm but loving hand.
The message I would like to currently send to people struggling with addictions is that there is help for those who want it. My favourite quote is the one I saw when I took my first step in detox to start my recovery.
“We are here to help you help yourself” and that is exactly what Ancora is doing for me. I am forty-one years old and I now have hope for a better future. I am currently studying and have applied for community college, with the goal of becoming a Social Service Worker. My hope is to help other struggling people.
Thanks for letting me share my story,