I started using drugs and alcohol at the age of 13. I lost both my parents while I was still in my teens, prior to which I had experienced abuse and neglect from them. The relationship I had with my parents paved the way for accepting to be treated in a similar way in my future relationships, which caused even more heartache in my life. After my parents’ deaths, I felt beaten down and I started to give up on myself. To escape all those feelings, I used anything I could find. Before I knew it, I was on the streets of Montreal sticking needles in my arm and sleeping in parks and parking lots. That was how I spent most of my twenties. I moved from province to province, never staying anywhere for too long, a rolling stone, a fallen leaf. After working in a vineyard for three years (which had a therapeutic effect on me), I moved away from Montreal and was able to get my life together for two years, but I was doing it alone and I was gritting my teeth. Not surprisingly, when hard times came with the pandemic, my sobriety did not last. I relapsed and eventually got pregnant by my ex-boyfriend. At that moment, I decided to move back to Montreal, where resources were more accessible for people in my situation.

In Montreal, I heard of a program for mothers and their children. I arrived at the doors of Portage Mother and Child on July 27, 2022, with my sweet smiley six-month old baby girl in one arm and my meager belongings in the other. I was driven by fear of losing my daughter and despair of how miserable and alone I felt in life. It was not the first time I had asked for help; I had done a couple of detoxes and a short two-week inpatient program but none of it was enough to really change my life. I tried everything to stop using during and after my pregnancy and although I was capable of getting sober, it never lasted. When I came to Portage, I was quiet, anti-social, I trusted no one and I was, hyper-independent. I pushed anyone positive away from me. I felt so alone in my struggles, always having to hide the truth of my issues due to the judgment I would endure being a woman and mother struggling with addiction. I forced myself to portray an image of functionality, and even perfection. It was not easy being at Portage, it was physically and emotionally difficult, but nothing would ever be as hard as the sad existence I lived before Portage.

When I reflect on my program at Portage, the feeling that always comes up is gratitude. I am grateful to have had access to a program that allowed me to stay with my daughter while getting the help and support I needed. I had a place to go to be safe and stable while I worked on myself. We all need to be in a safe, secure place with all our basic needs met before we can even begin to do the work that is needed. That, among other things, is what is offered at Portage. I built my confidence, my trust in others, and I now have the support and tools I need to overcome all the difficulties that come with life and being human. I got to know who I really was, to rediscover my values and to break the cycle of being a victim. I found something that I have always craved, a sense of family, in the place I had least expected.

My life today looks a lot different. I work at Portage in the adult admissions office. I am still independent, but I know how and when to ask for help. With my daughter by my side, I can do anything. She is my sunshine, my strength. Life has tested me since I left Portage, but with aftercare and everyone around me I have stayed on my course of recovery, for which I am incredibly grateful. On June 20, 2023, I celebrated 1 year of being sober and in October of this year, I will be recognized by Portage for graduating from the Mother & Child Program and living a positive lifestyle. If you are struggling with addiction and reading this, there is hope for you too.

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