Sarah’s Story: “Progress, Not Perfection”

Growing up, Sarah says, “I had everything society would deem perfect for a child.  Two parents, a brother, a sister, friends, a sport I loved and a big, beautiful home.”

Despite appearances, however, Sarah struggled with a learning disability that deeply affected the way she felt about herself.

“I was outwardly popular, but inside I felt so different,” she shares.  “I had no self confidence, and I didn’t always feel love or affection from the people who mattered the most.  I was always looking for validation outside myself, and I struggled with my body image.”

As a teenager, she sought acceptance “through anyone who would give it to me,” she notes.  “I dated older guys in high school, but I didn’t start heavily drinking until college.

What started as an experiment in liquid courage, however, quickly spiraled out of control.

“I began drinking more and more, and in my third year of college I tried my first line of cocaine,” Sarah says. “I was instantly hooked.  I often say cocaine was my first love, because once I tried it, I no longer needed anything else. I didn’t need food, I didn’t need men, I didn’t need attention, I didn’t need to worry about what my parents thought.  I only needed coke. At the time, it made me feel very independent. It gave me a bit of a ‘backbone’ to push back against my strict parents.”

In February 2018, however, Sarah lost her car after being charged with driving under the influence.  It was difficult in more ways than one: “I didn’t have transportation, but it was more than that,” she explains. “When I lost my car, my agency was taken from me.  My car was where I did drugs.”

With nowhere to go, Sarah found herself staying with drug dealers who “forced me to do things I didn’t want to do,” she says.  A hospital stay led to a detox program, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), and, finally, Renascent.

“I honestly didn’t even know rehab existed,” Sarah says.  “I thought detox would be enough.  But when I arrived at Renascent, the world opened up.  There, I met other people like me. For the first time I ‘fit.’ That knowledge opened doors I didn’t know existed.”

Today Sarah is studying to be an Addiction and Mental Health Worker, a decision inspired by her time at Renascent.  “Renascent taught me that my past is my greatest asset,” she says.  “I didn’t believe it at first, but it’s true.  I attend meetings every other day, and I’m a sponsor.  Doing this work has taught me to apply love and tolerance to my relationships, all of which have flourished.”

Other aspects of Sarah’s life have changed as well.  She’s returned to playing hockey, a sport she had enjoyed as a child, loves taking nature walks and is working at a job she finds meaningful as she pursues her diploma.

“Honestly, I never thought I’d be here,” Sarah shares. “I now understand that spiritual progress, not perfection, is the goal. I don’t seek validation from others anymore. I’m still working on my body image, but I no longer need a substance to define who I am or how I feel about myself. I love myself. Life is beautiful.”

About the Authors

Renascent Staff
The staff at Renascent is passionate about helping people with substance addictions so they can reach their full recovery – with compassion, respect, empathy and understanding. Our staff includes our counsellors, all of whom have lived experience of addiction and recovery.