I went from barefoot, homeless, and unable to stop using drugs to a stable and loving home
I would not be here to tell you this story if there weren’t programs like Serenity Renewal for Families impacting the lives of addicts and our families and supported by donors like you. I started using drugs at the age of 8 years old and was using daily by the time I was 12. Let that sink in a moment. I had been using for over half my life when I got clean at 20. On the outside we had a typical middle-class family life. But generations of addiction, abuse, dysfunctional communication and unhealthy coping mechanisms are not always easy to escape, especially for children.
I turned to drugs partly to act out, partly to numb my feelings, partly to fit in because I wanted so desperately to be loved and accepted. Because my relationships with my primary caregivers were iffy at best and abusive at worst, the relationships with my peers were everything to me. It wasn’t hard to feel included when I joined a small group of kids acting out who had older siblings who provided me the opportunity to get high at the tender age of 8. My best friend’s sister who handed me my first drug, who was just 4 years older than me at the time, recently lost her life to addiction. How could she, at 12, be held responsible for sharing what she thought was the solution to her own troubled young life?
I come from a long line of addicts and alcoholics. My mother is an addict and my grandfather was an alcoholic. But, the gift of recovery and sobriety was also inherited. My grandfather didn’t ever make it to sobriety, but my mother did. The hope that life could be different was passed on to me. That is how I ended up at a 12-step meeting at 18 years old. I am forever grateful to my mom for the work she did that laid the foundation for my own path to recovery. Addiction may be a family disease, but recovery can be passed on too. Thanks to YOU, both my mom and I, along with thousands of others can access Serenity Renewal for Families.
My mom got clean long before me. She stumbled and picked herself back up again and was able to access help from Serenity Renewal for Families (SRF). I had no idea at the time that my mom was slowly building a toolbelt to do things differently for our family. After the Couples Communication workshop put on by SRF, our dear friend Wally suggested to my mom that she attend the Camillus Centre in Elliot Lake to continue the healing journey. While she was working hard on family of origin issues, I was hitting my bottom using. I was 18 years old, 82 lbs, barefoot, homeless and on the brink of “jails, institutions, or death”. I had failed out of college, was in toxic and abusive romantic relationships, having run-ins with the police and would go “missing in action” for weeks at a time. Not long after my mother did her work with SRF, she drove me to the Camillus Centre to do the Chemical Dependency program where I started to scratch the surface of my disease. Camillus invited me back for Family of Origin work and then passed me back to 12-step programs where I started the journey of recovery.
It is worth mentioning that my little sister, who is much younger than I, was deeply impacted by my using and our family chaos during my teen years. “Neglect” is the word that comes to mind when I think of her childhood. She just wanted to be loved and we were all struggling with our own journeys, in and out of recovery, and the various emotional turbulence within relationships and family of origins that surround using addicts. She didn’t end up an addict, but Serenity Renewal for Families helped her too. She was able to access therapy and support when we couldn’t give it to her. She was just 14 when she accessed these services and at the time, money was tight. I know that the generous financial support of donors like you are what made that possible for her.
It took me 14 years of recovery to grow up, do my step work, make it through several family of origin programs, finally graduate from college and then university, get married, buy a house and become a mom myself. I have two beautiful daughters age 2 and 4.
Imagine my surprise when I needed SRF again to help me learn how to communicate with my husband so we could parent these small children together. More than anything in the world, I want to break the cycle of what was passed on to me. The life skills of coping with feelings, communicating, and having healthy relationships is what I am learning from SRF today. This is an inter-generational gift! I never saw healthy relationships. I have no model for intimacy, open communication, and safe spaces to live and feel. My mom started this journey with the help of Serenity Renewal for Families and I am taking up the torch to learn a new way to model this to my children so that they do not ever have to witness a using mom or an abusive home. I didn’t think I would have to fight so hard for this, but when the overwhelm of parenting and Covid hit this 14-year clean addict, the reactions from my own family of origin were what my defaults were still set to and that scared me. Serenity Renewal for Families supports addicts both at the beginning of their journey and ongoing throughout their recovery.
When I reached out to Serenity Renewal, I was unsure about bringing my husband into my sphere of recovery to do the couples communication workshop. I had 9 years clean when we met and aside from attending my celebrations at 12-step meetings, he hasn’t been exposed to much therapy, workshops, or programs. Serenity Renewal was so warm, welcoming, and reassuring with both of us on the phone that I immediately knew this was going to be a very positive step for our family. I am not sure why I was so surprised that I qualified; of course, I am an addict! But that isn’t usually an advantage. I hung up grateful that there was this support and grateful I was an addict! My husband was welcomed with open arms and I was reminded of what a gift I have to be able to identify feelings and talk about them until a solution or breakthrough occurs. Many people’s lives are untouched by addiction but they still struggle with relationships and communication and they don’t always have the opportunity to work on these core issues. By supporting my husband, he finally understands me a little better and we can communicate better and come together as a team to raise our daughters as best as we know how. Thanks to Serenity Renewal for Families, we know “how” a little bit better too.
The life I have today is unrecognizable from my 18-year-old self. I went from barefoot, homeless, and unable to stop using drugs to a stable and loving home where I read to my young children, baking cookies, and hosting warm family gatherings with no drama. We love to spend time in nature and do arts and crafts. My children laugh and play with no concept of trauma, abuse, drugs, or even hardship. No words can ever capture the miracle that this is. And no one can say where I would have ended up if it weren’t for programs like this.
Thank you for your generous support of Serenity Renewal for Families. Please make a gift today and know you are changing the lives of families living with the effects of addictions.
Yours in Recovery,
P.S. Thanks to a couple of generous donors, the first $20,000 worth of gifts will be matched. This means that your gift has double the impact. Please make your gift today, by mail, on-line at https://serenityrenewal.kindful.com/ or if you prefer call Neil at 613-784-9754 to donate by credit card over the phone.