Mary has fond memories of being in the living room at Renascent Graham Munro Centre. She used to sit there soaking in the room’s serenity while reading The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Now more than eight years after she first walked through the Centre’s doors, Mary’s life is very different. Today, she is a highly recognized volunteer in Mississauga, Ontario having received a Mississauga Arts Award (The Martys) from the Mississauga Arts Council, which named her the 2021 Hazel McCallion Volunteer of the Year Award. Mary is also a pillar within the recovery community, having served as editor of the GTA Intergroup Alcoholics Anonymous monthly newsletter called BetterTimes and now being an operating committee member of the GTA Intergroup and liaison to the Twelfth Step Committee responsible for a life-saving and life-changing telephone helpline.
“For me – this alcoholic – to be in a position to receive an award and play a role in supporting others in finding and maintaining recovery is amazing. I feel like I am fulfilling my purpose,” said Mary. “Volunteerism is filling up my drinking time,” she adds with a smile.
Mary’s recovery journey started after seven years of heavy drinking. Her home was in foreclosure and she was on the brink of losing her job. “In my last year of my drinking, I would drink until I passed out for two or three hours,” shares Mary candidly.
Desperate for help, Mary eventually called Renascent and right away there was a connection. The person she spoke with knew exactly how she felt and shared their own stories of addiction.
“I had no expectations about treatment. I was relieved that my drinking was out in the open. I thought it was a secret but many others knew,” said Mary. “Stigma hindered me for a while. I didn’t want to admit it to myself and others that I had a problem with alcohol. Finding out that addiction is an illness was a huge relief. I am a sick person and that was a learning for me.”
After treatment, Mary got a sponsor and started looking for activities to fill her spare time. A lover of local festivals, Mary sought out new opportunities to get involved. Soon enough, she was involved on the Board of Directors of the South Side Shuffle Blues and Jazz Festival, and from there, her volunteer commitments continued to grow.
And when times became challenging, it was keeping busy with service that helped Mary cope.
“My mom lost her ability to walk. For two years we took care of her and kept busy sponsoring young women,” shared Mary. “It was keeping busy that saved me. It’s this miracle and the lesson that helps me understand life.”