Valerie had her very first drink when she was 18 years old. In the years that followed, her drinking escalated and by 28 she recognized that it “had become a problem.”
On some of her worst days, Valerie’s body would fail her. “I feel like many of my basic human abilities were lost. I was falling down, breaking things, and being forgetful. I was often getting cuts and bruises; and I wasn’t accomplishing anything,” shared Valerie openly.
This clumsy version of herself was very different from the person that Valerie was in her childhood. “I come from a military family where I had to move all the time. I was the Right Forward in soccer and was always running. Running helped me find friends and manage the energy within me.”
Feeling lost in addiction, as the days turned to weeks, then months, desperation set in as Valerie’s condition worsened. She repeatedly called her local Distress Centre hotline searching for some relief from the mental health challenges she was also experiencing.
“I was so desperate at that time. I just needed help,” said Valerie, who was later referred to Renascent for treatment.
At Renascent Graham Munro Centre, Valerie was able to learn about the science behind addiction and about its correlation to mental health. She also felt welcomed, safe, and supported through the counsellors’ encouraging approach.
“Treatment was a safe place where people understood where I came from. They were able to give me the proper resources I needed. They made recommendations and never forced me,” said Valerie. “Just the trust I had in them, gave me hope. The experience was more than I expected. Just knowing that there were people who understood what I was going through was a big deal,” added Valerie, speaking about the lived experience with addiction and long-term recovery that Renascent addictions counsellors possess.
A critical part of Valerie’s learning in treatment included gaining practical tools that she could use to help her manage life’s challenges when she returned home. Valerie especially valued learning about emotions and developing positive coping mechanisms.
“I learned that strong negative emotions are not going to last forever. You are not going to die from them. You can sit with the emotions and after a certain time, you can lower their intensity and are able to cope with what’s going on,” said Valerie. “Using negative coping mechanisms like substance use and unhelpful behaviours, are not going to benefit you in the end. One of the keys for me, is really around re-framing your negative thoughts to more positive ones.”
Now, more than two years into her recovery, Valerie leads a very different life to the one she lived before. She enjoys waking up early and getting back into a healthy exercise routine.
“Now, I am present. I get to go outside on a walk, see people and say ‘hello’. I am back to work, and seeing my coworkers and my family believing in and trusting me is a huge deal. I am so grateful that I stopped abusing in time. I could have lost everything,” she said.
To get this point in her recovery, Valerie had to dedicate a significant amount of time toward nurturing her mental health. “For me to learn to believe in myself I had to revisit my traumas, grief, loss, and anything that made me feel like I was not deserving. Ultimately, that gave me strength and helped me to understand that there was more to give,” she said.
For those who are still struggling with addiction, Valerie has a few words of advice. “You are never alone in the process. It’s all about the journey. Everyone’s journey is different, but the destination is similar. Hearing stories of those who did or did not make it helps you realize that there are other people who are struggling. You can fight the disease if you really want to. You have to have belief in yourself.”