Finding a place where I belong

I’ve blocked out many early school memories, but some I can’t forget. One memory that still hurts goes back to Grade 6 when some kids asked me to join them at recess. It was so unusual for me to be included in anything. As we stood on the hill, all the boys and girls in my class formed a circle around me. I can see it so clearly; the sun was warm and I was confused about what was happening. Then they started.

“We do not like you. We don’t want to be your friend.”

Even my friend was there. She was with them because she didn’t want to be left out. I just stood there crying.

I didn't think I mattered.

For years, I was teased for my thick glasses, my “buck teeth” and my bushy eyebrows. I went to a small, one-hallway country school and I was so shy, just a geek.  I never told anyone what was happening not my parents, not the teachers. I hated school. I didn’t think I mattered. I had no self-worth and I hid how I felt.

I believe the bullying and my sadness was a big reason I ended up drinking, using drugs and dropping out of school. Today, I’m 28 years old, a recovered addict and happily married to a wonderful man. I have a great job and career plans. It’s been a long road to get to today and I’m sharing my story because I’m hoping it will help others.

Once I got into Grade 7, I started turning into a bully. I wanted to be accepted, but I didn’t like who I was. It was so hard for me to be mean to others because I remembered what it was like to be bullied. I was so desperate to be part of a group so I became someone else. I had my first drink that year. In Grade 8, I was drinking more and skipping school. It was easy because I had a friend with an older sister who would buy booze for us as long as we had money.

I was never diagnosed, but I believe I was depressed. I remember crying often when I was alone. I felt hopeless at school and with my so-called friends. I was on a very bad path. Somehow I made it through junior high and Grade 10, but by that point I was drinking and doing drugs regularly. It was becoming a bigger part of my life and I was struggling in school, but I felt like I’d finally found friends who accepted me and we all liked to party. I only lasted the first semester of Grade 11 before I dropped out and left home. At the time, I had a boyfriend who was mentally abusive and cheated on me, but I stayed with him because I thought he loved me. 

People might ask how come my family didn’t stop me. The school didn’t call when I was skipping. My mom and dad, who was an alcoholic, divorced when I was four. When I got older, my mom and stepdad, who were very good to me, were having problems. They couldn’t see what was going on because of their troubles.

I didn't realize how I was messing up my life.

By the time I was 18, I was partying every night. I tried acid, ketamine, cocaine and ecstasy. I couldn’t hold a job and I couldn’t pay rent. I moved around, staying as long as I could with other people. For a while I lived with a drug dealer, which meant I always had access to drugs—mostly cocaine and ecstasy. We’d wake up and start using. It was all day. We’d use a little bit, let it work its magic and use some more when it started to wear off.

I didn’t realize how I was messing up my life. My drug use left me with acne and I dropped down to 90 pounds because at most I was eating one meal a day. And I didn’t care.

When my dealer boyfriend and I broke up, I started cutting back on drugs because I didn’t have access to them. I craved drugs and thought about them a lot. I would think and plan for my next high.

Months later I met my now husband, Justin, at someone’s house. When we got together things felt different. I started to limit drugs to the weekend. All week I would think about the weekend and what I was going to use. Even when friends were dying of overdosing or drinking and driving, I didn’t stop. I was just having fun for however long I had. I had one friend, also an addict, who died by suicide and it impacted me a lot. He seemed to be the happiest guy in the room, but we’d drifted apart. When I heard he died, I was so guilty that we’d drifted apart. I got high and drank to deal with my grief. 

I wanted a different life.

I knew I wanted to stay with Justin and we knew the drugs had to stop. I had gone from wanting something to make me feel good to wanting a different life. I cared about myself too. That was a switch. We got two dogs, Pepper and Diesel, and it felt like I had a family. I believe I was able to break free of drugs because we fell in love and found a purpose.

I had been sober for more than three years and was working a retail job when I saw a posting for casual housekeeping and kitchen help at Chateau Vitaline in Beaumont, a Covenant Care site. I got the job and worked a few part-time jobs until I was hired permanently. The site manager at Chateau Vitaline saw something in me and encouraged me. I started working on my education and graduated as a healthcare aide with honours from NorQuest College in 2018. Right now, I’m working as a full-time recreational aide while I complete my online schooling in that area. I used to hate school. Now I love continuing my education.

And I love what I do. I wake up in the morning looking forward to going to work. I don’t feel like it’s a job to spend my days with residents. It brings me so much joy.

I have been clean for seven years.

If I hadn’t met my husband I don’t know if I’d be alive, to be honest. If I was, I would probably be homeless. Today, I’m scared to death when I read about fentanyl and all the people who are dying.

I want others who might feel the way I did to know how important they are. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from, everyone matters. If you’re struggling, reach out for help. 

Editor's note: Help is available for you or someone you love

Health Link – Call 811 (24/7) or visit Health Link 

Addiction Helpline – 1-866-332-2322 (24/7)

Mental Health Helpline – 1-877-303-2642 (24/7)

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