From addiction to artistry: Mom and son donors give deeper meaning to “Staying Clean”

One day, before Joshua’s most recent admission to treatment, something incredible happened. His mother had an unbelievable interaction that would change the course of their life.

“I believe it was my Higher Power who said to me, “You need to start a soap-making business and call it Staying Clean Soap Company,”’ said Laura, Joshua’s mother.

In disbelief, Laura wrestled with the idea at first. Although she worked in different facets of art throughout her life, soap-making would be an entirely new adventure. Laura remembered that in high school Joshua loved chemistry, so she approached him with the idea. He loved it and went full-steam ahead with it; something that Laura was thrilled to see.

A long journey toward recovery

This turn of events was nothing short of “a miracle” because in the years leading up to this, Joshua struggled with addiction. Diagnosed with autism at a young age, Joshua became addicted to alcohol in his teens. Renascent was the first treatment centre that would accept him as a client at just 19 years old.

“I tried getting him help but other centres said Joshua’s problem wasn’t severe enough or they lacked experience caring for clients with autism and a substance use disorder.”

Renascent was a lifeline during the search for Joshua’s treatment, yet his recovery journey faced hurdles. In the years that followed his first stay at Renascent, Joshua would be admitted to multiple centers – including Renascent once more – and would struggle with short-lived periods of sobriety.

Laura eventually lost hope for Joshua and turned to Al-anon for support. Establishing boundaries by giving Joshua an ultimatum was a painful, but essential step. The choice that Laura posed was clear. Joshua could choose to attend treatment and remain at home, or continue drinking and move out on his own.

“I told him if he decided to stop drinking, I would go to the ends of the Earth to help him,” shared Laura candidly. 

Joshua chose to move out. So, years later when Joshua finally picked-up the phone and called his mom in December 2022, she did exactly what she promised. She sought help and assisted him in getting into treatment once more.

“Unfortunately, there is quite a waitlist for those who cannot afford the cost of treatment. Joshua managed to stay sober on his own while waiting to go back to treatment,” Laura shared.

And it was during this time that the idea for Staying Sober Soap and Candle Company Inc. was born. The mother and son duo started Staying Clean Soap Company Inc. and began selling soap – and later on candles – in their community. Challenging the stigma associated with addiction, spreading awareness of recovery, and helping others find their way, were core aspects of the company’s mission.

“From the time that Joshua was a little boy, I’d been trying to find his niche. I knew he had found it in soap-making and that made my heart sing.”

A Circle of Recovery Completed as Donors

Last winter, Joshua and Laura made a donation to Renascent in honour of the life-saving care he received there. One dollar from the purchase of every soap item is donated to a treatment centre that helps people who cannot afford the cost of treatment.

Renascent was the recipient of their first donation.

A letter from Joshua enclosed with the donation to Renascent Foundation in November 2023 reads, “I will be celebrating one year of sobriety in December and have been working through my addiction, in part, by focusing on my soap and candle making business…. I will be donating to treatment facilities operating across Ontario. As yours was the first treatment facility I attended, I have chosen you as the recipient of my sales in May, June, and July of this year.”  

Spreading Hope for All

With recovery at the heart of the business, the duo is pleased with the reception they have received at pop-up venues.

“We get a lot of people who stop by to make a purchase because they, or someone in their family, or someone they know has struggled with addiction. Many people tell us their story, or their family member’s story,” shared Laura, who is proud of how far Joshua has come.

“The changes I’ve seen in him have been what I’ve always hoped for. Not just with the addiction, but with the autism. To see the light come on in his eyes; to see him so interested in this business which is fulfilling so many of his needs brings joy. It’s giving him a purpose. It’s helping others. It’s drawing awareness of the absolute crisis that our society is dealing with,” Laura said.

“I do believe that everyone must have a purpose in life, feel that they belong, have something to contribute to society, and wants to be loved. There is hope for everyone out there. It doesn’t matter how bad it is, hold on and keep praying. A miracle can happen,” she adds.

Learn more about Staying Clean Soap and Candle Company:

About the Authors

Donna Harris
Contributor to Renascent blog posts and articles.