Sylvia remembers the moment she hit rock bottom.
“In 1995 I was sitting at my $45 kitchen table, where Easter dinner was supposed to be,” she says, “and I had finished a whole bunch of cocaine. I suddenly knew this was it for me – if I kept living this way, I was going to end up either six feet under or in jail.”
Sylvia had previously called Renascent to find help for a boyfriend, but was surprised to learn the organization treated women as well. Still, “it was scary,” she recalls. “I had been supporting myself as an exotic dancer, but I knew that to recover from addiction I had to leave that world. For the first time in my life, I had to rely on social assistance, subsidized housing and food banks. It was an incredibly humbling experience.”
Nevertheless, Sylvia persisted. She attended recovery meetings and took a business course, where she learned how to use a computer. Her newfound skills landed her a job as a receptionist, then behind-the-scenes rolls in the television and film industries.
“Things were just getting better and better,” she recalls. “I got married and had a beautiful baby. Life was good.”
In 2012, however, Sylvia found her sobriety tested in new ways. Her marriage began to crumble, and she began using alcohol again after 18 years.
“I never returned to cocaine,” she says, “but I knew I shouldn’t be drinking, either. It was such a difficult time, and it can be very easy to stop going to meetings. It’s a slippery slope.” She ultimately drank “on and off” for 14 months before taking her last drink on July 3, 2014.
Once again, Sylvia felt humbled by her experience. “It’s hard to go back ‘after recovery,’” she notes, “but the truth is, problems happen when you don’t stay on top of things. Fortunately, I had stayed involved with Renascent through women’s retreats and conferences. I knew I had to get back to the basics.”
She’s since been able to navigate other challenges without a relapse, including the death of a close friend, her father’s illness and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. “There really is beauty from ashes,” she says. “I have now learned how to survive without numbing with substances.”
She’s also grateful for the donors who funded her recovery, both for their financial contributions and their belief in the work at Renascent. “I have guardian angels to thank,” Sylvia says. “Their generous donations paid for treatment I could not have afforded on my own. I wouldn’t be sober today if not for donors, that is for certain.”
From addiction to recovery, relapse, and recovery again, Sylvia’s story has been one of grit, humility and grace. When she reflects on her journey, she almost can’t believe how far she’s come – and encourages others to do the same.
“Recovery starts with admitting you need help and believing you can do it. Yes, you can. Of course you can. There is life after addiction, and it’s just waiting for us.”