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My earliest memories of my childhood included fear.

I was afraid of my father, afraid of being seen, afraid of being harmed in some way. The cycles of abuse and addiction began very early for me. I witnessed the usual forms of abuse that I saw as normal, although in my young mind I knew these behaviours created huge tension and stress within me. I escaped to the outdoors or to my grandmother’s house, and yet by the time I was 12 I was drinking every day, progressing to smoking crack and doing crystal meth by 16. I went from being an honour roll student to moving in with a drug dealer and barely graduating high school. I first attempted detox at 17, but over the next many years, never stayed in programs long enough to see any real results or changes.

My ability to cope with the increasing stresses that I faced on a day-to-day basis became one of using various substances to try to take all of the pain away. I had this bizarre sense of false confidence that the drugs would give me the courage to leave yet another abusive relationship, or to stop the cycle long enough so I could return to school to make something of myself. Over this period of time, I experienced so much damage to my physical self as well as my psychological self, that I entered stages of psychosis, and major bodily harm, that nearly killed me, again and again.

I became homeless numerous times, living in a car until that, too, disappeared, like all of the other so-called relationships, other users, and lost souls. Somehow, during this time, I managed to go to school to become a care aide, and I loved my work with people with developmental and physical challenges, even though I continued to use opioids as a means of avoiding everything that brought on fear and pain. Ironically, I was in a continual state of fear and pain and I could not see how to change this state of being.

I landed again in hospital and this time, my dad, who I had been so afraid of, came to “rescue” me from myself, although I did not see this as being the case. Another two years would pass, with me being homeless, living on the streets, using, before my mom also came back into my life. She refused to leave me until something significant changed for me. I HAD LOST ALL HOPE. I truly believe that if my mom and dad had not stuck with me, I would never have made a life-changing decision to go to Cedars Treatment Centre. I agreed to go “one more time” for my parents, and because of the principles that Cedars adopts, I was permitted to their detox program for the full 60 days. I entered a truly hellish time as I experienced a meth-induced psychosis in which I hid in the bedroom for a week, refusing to believe that the treatments being offered were for my benefit. A counsellor on staff saw something in me, despite my fierce resistance and mistrust, telling me to make a decision to either live or die. Something in me broke open and I asked myself, “What if I just tried? I have nothing left to lose.” From that moment, I realized I could trust enough in what Cedars offered, believing enough that they cared about me. Their understanding and patience brought healing through sweat lodges and being introduced to a First Nation’s elder brought more healing to my broken self. I returned to the safety of the natural world with river baths and other outdoor activities; this time not to run away but to begin engagement with a different me.

Following the two-month detoxing, Cedars offered a full year of recovery support which lead to Recovery House for another nine months of after care. I fully believe that Cedars threw me a lifeline and I am forever grateful for what everyone has given me, especially the core belief in myself. My life is a testament to what the human spirit is capable of achieving; through the asking and accepting of help and trying your best to come through the worst of times into a brighter future. I am currently fulfilling my dream of becoming a community-based nurse, where I will be helping others like me believe in themselves.