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Father’s Day

There are a few dates that are engrained in my mind – friends and family members birthdays, my sober date, the day I got engaged, and Father’s Day 2015. It’s a bit ironic since I don’t remember much from that year, or the seven years prior.

I grew up in Toronto in a good home with a great family. For the most part, I was a happy, confident, and carefree kid. I fell in love with dancing at an early age, did well in school, and always had lots of friends. My middle school and high school years were pretty easy. When I graduated high school and went to university at McGill, things started to change. In my first year of university, I became a different person; I became very depressed, anxious, I started drinking heavily and experimenting with drugs. My second year into university I was drinking daily, abusing drugs and developed an eating disorder. Somehow I managed to graduate and move back to Toronto, where things continued to spiral – fast.

I got a job, had an apartment, a boyfriend and a good group of friends. Things on the outside didn’t look so bad. On the inside, however, I was dying. The drinking began in the morning with prescription pills to ease the shakes. I was binging and purging daily and in a complete depression. I knew something was wrong with me but I didn’t know what exactly, and I didn’t know how to ask for help. Luckily it didn’t take long for it to become obvious that something was wrong. I stopped working, isolated myself to my apartment, was regularly going to the hospital from alcohol-induced heart arrhythmias, and I became actively suicidal.

After my second suicide attempt I ended up in the hospital, and I couldn’t hide the extent of my addiction and mental health illnesses from my parents anymore. After that day my parents booked an appointment for me to see an addictions doctor at CAMH. On Father’s Day my dad picked me up to go to the appointment, and after dropping me off he sent me a text message that I will never forget. He told me that the best Father’s Day gift I could give him would be to just give this doctor a chance. I had seen many doctors and therapists prior, and always lied about my drinking. I don’t know what changed that day but I am so grateful it did. I went into the doctor’s office and honestly told her how much I was drinking. The doctor asked if I would consider treatment, which I strongly declined, but ended up agreeing to her second option of an outpatient program. I tried the outpatient program for four months and then relapsed badly. I again ended up in the hospital, then detox, and to the inpatient treatment center on Vancouver Island.

What I was told would be a thirty-day program turned into five months. I was so angry, ashamed, and ridden with guilt when I got there, and I wanted to leave every day. What kept me going was my family. I couldn’t stand the thought of letting them down one more time. In treatment my dad shared that the day I went to the hospital after my suicide attempt I told him I wish I hadn’t woken up, and since then he had a hole in his heart. Every time I felt like giving up I remembered that, and I still do to this day.

When I completed the treatment program I agreed to stay in Nanaimo for one year. That, along with staying in treatment, was the best decision I have ever made. I am 2 ½ years sober and already the gifts of recovery have been so plentiful. Following treatment, I decided to go back to university and took an Addictions Certificate. I experienced university sober, and I loved it. After graduating I took a counselor training program and got a job in the field. I work as a Recovery Support Professional at a methadone clinic, and it has been an incredible experience. I am finishing my certification to become a recovery coach, and my focus will be women with substance use disorders and eating disorders. I have two beautiful dogs, a wonderful group of friends, and I am getting married in August. I have been given another chance at life, and I want to live every day to its fullest.

This year on Father’s Day I will remember what it was like three years ago. I will thank my dad for intervening when he did and along with my mom, sister and brother. I will thank them for never giving up on me. Addiction is a cruel, painful, isolating disease, and it is one that can’t be fought alone. Without the unconditional love and support from my family, I would not be here today, and I am forever grateful to them and everyone who has stuck by me on my recovery journey. If someone is reading this today who thinks they may have a problem or is concerned about a loved one – voice it and ask for help. You don’t have to wait until you end up in the hospital, or you put a hole on your loved one’s heart. There is a much better life out there. I promise.

By: Vanessa