Susan’s Story: Overcoming Stigma to Recover

By: Susan Jones, Renascent Alumni

I last had a drink on Mother’s Day, May 8, 2016. I happened to be in Toronto on a business trip and had stayed over the weekend to visit family and help provide support to my mother who was looking after my ailing father.  It was a Sunday morning when my mother came into my room to see if I was awake, only to find me with a mickey of vodka that I turned over to her and said I think I need help; I can’t do this on my own any more.

My struggles with drinking actually had begun a few years earlier and like many other women and men I have come to know, I didn’t want to tell anyone about what I was going through. I took  great pride in presenting an image of a woman who could do it all. I was known as a happily married successful working professional with three young adult sons. I typically worked 70 hours a week having oversight of several thousand staff and high-profile responsibilities.  

The reality was that I couldn’t do it all and my world around me slowly began to fall apart. I believe my cross over into active alcoholism started sometime in 2013 which coincided with recovery from a painful knee replacement surgery and a return-to-work that was met with more responsibilities and added stress. Drinking a few glasses of wine in the evenings on weekends soon increased to secretly drinking several glasses in isolation where I struggled to control my drinking. I found that I had no shut-off valve and was drinking more and more as a means to relax and reward myself, depending on what I was feeling.

I knew I needed help but was extremely worried that my drinking problem would be uncovered which would negatively impact my career and bring shame to me and my family.  My fear about being found out meant I couldn’t go to AA meetings in my hometown, nor would I go to treatment.  I secretly sought out the services of an addiction counsellor and essentially spent the next two years “white knuckling” my sobriety. I did not understand that successful recovery was not only dependent on being physically sober, but emotionally sober as well.

Ironically, it was the stigma, shame, and worry associated with getting help close to home, that led me to agreeing to finally surrender to attending a treatment facility in Toronto. I can definitely attest to the fact and am forever grateful that my “road to recovery started” at the Renascent Graham Munroe Centre.  To this day, I clearly remember walking through the doors of Renascent feeling like a complete failure and totally defeated, and thinking that my next 28 days there was going to be a form of punishment that I had to endure.

Little did I know, that Renascent would change my life forever and teach me that recovery was possible and would reap great rewards. I quickly learned that I was not alone and was incredibly inspired by all of the skilled, kind, compassionate, and knowledgeable counsellors who were also in recovery. Their commitment to their own recovery through the support of AA’s 12-step program and their dedication in working in the addiction field provided me with the guidance and courage to follow the same path. 

When I left treatment, I returned home and knew I had to change my playground, playmate, and playthings. That included leaving my stressful work environment and changing my unhealthy living habits. Renascent’s fantastic aftercare and alumni for life programs, complimented by active involvement in AA, getting a sponsor, and completing the 12 Steps has helped me to continue to remain sober and in recovery.  This also led me to return to school  to complete a program in addiction studies at McMaster University and become certified as both an addiction counsellor and a relapse prevention specialist. I now work in private practice treating several clients and their families. This also includes encouragement and guidance to enroll in and complete the several excellent and many free of charge virtual programs offered by Renascent. 

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.