“It’s never too late to pursue your passion, and it’s definitely not about the ‘stuff’.”
That’s the mantra Eileen Starkman lives by, and one she shares frequently as a counsellor in Renascent’s Virtual Intensive Treatment Program. It’s a dream job for the mother of two, who has been in recovery since 2006.
Despite her conviction, however, Eileen’s own path was anything but linear. “Nobody is in recovery because they’ve had an easy life,” she notes. “Each of us has earned our place here.”
Prior to recovery, Eileen’s life was “completely unmanageable,” she says. “I was unemployable and I felt like everything was falling apart.”
In the midst of the chaos, however, came help from an unexpected source.
“You know, the universe works in funny ways,” Eileen says. “My neighbour was in AA and he started taking me to meetings. At first, I didn’t know anything about it – I went to meetings, went home and drank almost every night. But I kept going to meetings and something inside of me just clicked. I had a powerful sense of ‘I’m done.’ I haven’t had a drink since.”
Slowly, Eileen began pulling her life together. “As I recovered, I did a lot of work on myself. I asked for help. I got jobs for different companies and tried different roles. I worked with my Sponsor, continued to engage in Step work, and sought to be of service, within AA and my community.
“But in the back of my mind, I wanted to be an addictions counsellor. I knew it would be a great way to serve and I knew it was something I was passionate about. So I put it out into the universe and began looking into what was involved.”
Eileen’s path led her to start college in January 2020. When COVID-19 hit, she completed her education online and graduated as a qualified Mental Health and Addiction Worker. The next step was pursuing her dream job.
“Having previously lived in Toronto, I knew Renascent was highly respected. It’s the ‘gold standard’ in treatment and recovery. I knew I wanted to work here.”
A student placement in Renascent’s Family Program solidified her interest and, following an assignment with Renascent’s Continuing Care Program, Eileen accepted a role as a full-time counsellor with the Virtual Intensive Treatment Program.
“I work virtually with people from across Ontario who are early in sobriety,” she explains. “It’s an intensive six-week program, and I love it. The team I work with is absolutely phenomenal.”
When asked what her journey has taught her so far, Eileen’s answer is simple.
“Find the contentment within yourself,” she says. “It’s all about perspective. So many people get caught up in the ‘stuff’ – clothes, houses, cars. The truth is, the ‘stuff’ does not matter – none of that matters if you’re not at peace inside.
“If I can be content with myself and do what I’m passionate about, everything else falls into place. I’m in my 50’s, and I’m here to tell you it’s never too late to follow your dreams.
“I’m more content now than I’ve been in my entire life.”