(Note: Some details in this story have been changed to allow anonymity of those involved.)
Recovery is a lifelong process, with many varied stops along the way.
There are steps that can move an addict forward into sobriety, and obstacles that threaten to send them tumbling backward. And then there are the times of reprieve, standing on steady ground.
Kate and Jayme both feel they’ve found steady ground at the Spiritual Quest Wellness Society. They are two of the first residents of the new downtown Chilliwack recovery house for women.
Kate sits comfortably, cozied up in a corner armchair in the house’s bright, clean living room. She lays her head against the wing of the chair as she relaxes, smiles, and begins to share a bit of her life story.
Like many people battling addictions, her story goes back to when she became a “full blown addict,” as a teenager.
“My story has a lot of trauma,” Kate says, but she doesn’t want to delve into the details. She’s doing her level best to stay in the moment, and to “work the steps” as laid out by Alcoholics Anonymous. This is not her first time in a rehab situation, but she says it’s by far the best.
The Spiritual Quest Wellness Society is working through its own steps toward government approval and funding, and Kate is one of the first few to live in the house. She’s travelled far from her own home for the 90-day program. Her family, and a life without drugs and alcohol, is patiently waiting for her eventual return.
“My husband’s not scared and worried right now,” she says, fighting back tears. “He knows I’m safe.”
But she’s not doing this for him. She’s going through rehab for her own self good. You have to take care of yourself before you can help others. And that, she notes, is the 12th of those famous steps.
She has embraced the 12-step program, and tries to go to three meetings a week “to maintain” she says. She feels this could be her last time in rehab, although at the same time is keenly aware hers is a lifelong struggle. Being in recovery is like peeling layers off an onion, she says. And you can only get through a few layers at a time. But she never wants to go back to what got her here.
“After I gave up my kids I hit rock bottom, and did things I never thought I’d do,” she says. “I’ve been all over the place in my addiction.”
Over the last 15 years, she’s been a binge drug user. Over that time, Kate’s been clean more than she’s been using. Still, when she falls, she falls hard.
Her last relapse was the worst of them.
“I did things I’m completely ashamed of,” she says. “So ashamed I reached that level of not caring. You get to the point that the addiction has killed you. You don’t want to look in the mirror.”
At times, she’s burned through $1,000 a day on drugs. It’s hard to keep that type of habit up without resorting to crime, she says.
But she is focusing on today, not yesterday.
She wants to get to the point in recovery where her past won’t come up and grab her.
“It’s up to me to make sure my depression is not creeping up on me,” she says.
The first woman to come to Spiritual Quest was Jayme, and she’s still there today with nearly three months of sobriety.
She detoxed from heavy fentanyl and heroin use on a friend’s couch for 12 days before arriving at the recovery house. And yes, she was taking fentanyl knowingly.
“I was fully aware of it,” she says. “In order to get out of bed I had to do it.”
But it’s not any easier today than it was that first day.
“It doesn’t get easier every day. I have more tools every day to know how to cope when something comes up. If I said that it was easier every day, I’d be lying.”
Jayme got into trouble, she supposes, by being a “people pleaser.” She would go along with whatever was being offered, to make friends and make others happy.
It wasn’t long before partying turned into a daily addiction. Still, she made it through college as a daily user, and hid it well.
“I maintained a job through my addiction, and went through school,” she says. “I thought I hid it.”
But when she got to her practicum, the jig was up. The employer knew right away, and she failed.
Now she goes to AA meetings twice a day, and speaks highly of the Alano Club, and a club she goes to with a friend in Abbotsford.
It’s the amount she needs to stay strong, to fight back the addiction. The 26-year-old knows sobriety means lifelong abstinence.
“I know that with my personality and history I could never pick up alcohol again either, because then I would want cocaine.”
It’s easy to get hooked on drugs, she said. So easy, it could happen to anybody.
“Addiction doesn’t discriminate. You can be any age, race, religion, it doesn’t matter,” she says. And drugs are everywhere, and easily accessible.
“Dealers these days are scary,” she says. “They give you the first try free, just to get you hooked. They don’t give a shit about about you or your family.”
She’s proud of how far she’s come. Her parents came to her 30-day ceremony, and she knows having their support is a special gift.
“Growing up, I was given everything I wanted,” she says. “I was loved unconditionally, involved in sports teams and different instruments. And my relationship with my parents now is better than it has ever been.’
She is happy to have found Spiritual Quest, because facilities for women are much rarer than men’s or co-ed housing. The detox process prior to first stage recovery is a tricky one to navigate, but not impossible, she says.
“If you really want it, it’s not hard to get,” she says. “You have to call sometimes every day. There is a lack of accommodations. But you need to be in detox to get sent to day-tox, and you need to go to detox to be put into a recovery home. It comes down to how much you want it.”
These women want to get better, and the recovery house is designed to get them there. Women have to be 48 hours clean and sober to come to the house. If the zero tolerance policy is broken, they are asked to leave and staff helps place them in a safe environment. They are offered therapy, including art therapy, and have 24-7 access to a counsellor on site.
“We want them to have structure,” says executive director Justine Gillies. For Gillies and the other women running the house, giving their residents a place to live while recovering is a way to keep their own sobriety intact. It’s the perfect way to give back.
“I didn’t go through the stuff I went through for no reason,” says Barb Dyck, counsellor. She has 16 years sobriety, and is at the house all day, every day, to counsel the women. She would like to see more women there, because they each have something to offer each other in terms of healing.
To learn more about Spiritual Quest Wellness Society, phone 1-855-795-4337.