Monthly Archives: April 2015

Let’s Address Community Issues (such as FASD) By Addressing The Social Determinants of Health

The primary factors that shape the health of Canadians are not medical treatments or lifestyle choices but rather the living conditions they experience. These conditions have come to be known as the social determinants of health. This information – based on decades of research and hundreds of studies in Canada and elsewhere – is unfamiliar to most Canadians.

Canadians are largely unaware that our health is shaped by how income and wealth is distributed, whether or not we are employed and if so, the working conditions we experience. Our health is also determined by the health and social services we receive, and our ability to obtain quality education, food and housing, among other factors. And contrary to the assumption that Canadians have personal control over these factors, in most cases these living conditions are – for better or worse – imposed upon us by the quality of the communities, housing situations, work settings, health and social service agencies, and educational institutions with which we interact.

Improving the health of Canadians requires we think about health and its determinants in a more sophisticated manner than has been the case to date. Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts considers 14 social determinants of health:

  1. Income and Income Distribution
  2. Education
  3. Unemployment and Job Security
  4. Employment and Working Conditions
  5. Early Childhood Development
  6. Food Insecurity
  7. Housing
  8. Social Exclusion
  9. Social Safety Network
  10. Health Services
  11. Aboriginal Status
  12. Gender
  13. Race
  14. Disability
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7 Things I Learned During My Year Without Alcohol

Wow, I can’t even believe I’m typing this! If you’re reading this, it’s because I made it. I made it to one full year without alcohol. On May 6, 2013, I took my last drink. I will never forget how it felt. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was tired of being the party girl, I was tired of feeling like sh*t, I was tired of disappointing and embarrassing my friends and loved ones. I decided I needed a big change. Trying to drink in moderation hadn’t proved to be the best option for me. It never worked. Enough was enough. I tried something that I never did before — stopped drinking alcohol completely.

When I started this sober journey, I wasn’t sure how long it would last, and now I can’t imagine going back to how my life was before. The positives have been plentiful and the negatives have been slim to none.


Sobriety: Before and after. On the left, a peak drinking time. On the right, a few weeks ago, almost one year sober.

Here’s what I’ve learned in my one year sans alcohol:

1. My senses are heightened x100.

Wow, I feel everything with a noticeable heightened sensitivity. This includes emotions, muscle pain, my sense of smell, hearing and taste. My nose is so sensitive to smells, I am ALWAYS saying “it smells like ___ in here,” or whoa, it smells SO strong. My emotions are crazy, sometimes I think this is what it must feel like to be pregnant. I cry at the drop of a hat, I’m offended easily and sometimes I am so happy I feel like I’m going to burst. I actually care what people think about me. I know those of you who know me are now saying, Who are you and what have you done with Kelly? This ‘feeling everything’ thing can be extremely overwhelming at times, but I’ve never felt something so amazing.

2. I’m just beginning to understand who I really am.

I’ve been learning that there are things I thought I liked that I really don’t like and things I like that I never knew I did. I’m learning how to socialize and be myself with friends and family without the crutch of alcohol. I learned that waking up on the weekend without a hangover, having a cup of coffee and going for a run is exactly what I want to be doing. I’m learning that person who was under the cloud of constant alcohol blackouts for the last several years was not me. I am not the stupid, embarrassing things I did; I am a real person who does not mix well with alcohol.

3. Alcohol was not fun for me anymore.

I had been trying and failing for years to regulate my drinking. I’m only going to drink two, OK three, just on the weekends. It never worked and I finally figured out why — I’m not a person who can ingest alcohol. It started out as a fun, social thing for me years ago, but last year, I realized that it wasn’t fun anymore. In fact, it was the root of any type of problem I had. Bad things happened to me when I drank and I should have wanted to stop sooner than I did.

4. My life is manageable.

When actively drinking, my life was a hot mess and I was comfortable that way. I fought through the scary first days and months of not drinking and now, being sober is my normal. I’m so glad it is. Bad things would happen in the past and I always felt like it was the end of the world and drinking was the answer to everything. Now, I feel more prepared; if something bad were to happen, I am able to handle it in a healthy way. Additionally, less bad things have happened since I stopped drinking alcohol, which was the cause of many problems in the past. I am now present and thankful for each day.

5. I am worthy of love.

I’m positive I have been sabotaging my romantic relationships for a long time. Why? Now that might take years to find out, but the drinking just helped fuel this problem. It supported, encouraged and justified bad decisions of all kinds, especially those related to men. What I didn’t realize until the drinking stopped was that I am capable of being in a normal relationship and I do in fact, deserve to be loved. You see, I had this way of thinking that since I was f*cked up, I was meant to be in a f*cked up relationship. Now I know that is crazy talk. I am lucky enough to be in a loving, healthy relationship with an amazing man who has helped show me that I deserve all the love in the world and I am finally starting to believe him.

6. Toxic people are just like toxic habits.

This is a big one for me. Obviously, when you stop drinking or doing drugs, you probably need to change some friends you hang out with. I definitely had to do this, and I realized just how little I had in common with some people. I also realized that I had friends who were completely different from me, without the same goals and outlook on life. It felt all too fake. When you make a big life decision like admitting you have an alcohol problem and decide to stop drinking, you really find out who your true friends are. There are those people who will love you unconditionally, those who won’t bat an eyelash when you stop drinking and those who will still offer you cocktails after they already know you don’t drink. I’ve encountered all of the above. Getting rid of my toxic friendships along with my toxic habits just makes sense, and I’m learning not to feel bad about it.

7. I’m not perfect, and that’s OK.

Stopping a nasty habit like alcohol abuse can bring out a lot of guilt, shame and regret. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t felt all of the above at times. However, I am realizing feeling all the emotions I spent years trying to numb is actually a beautiful thing. Not only am I learning to feel them, I’m learning how to deal with them and live a healthy and successful life. I have made mistakes along the way and I will never be perfect. Every day I have to make a conscious decision not to beat myself up. I am a work in progress and I have come a LONG way. There are good days and bad days. Sometimes, I feel like life isn’t fair and I wish I could just drink alcohol normally like everyone else. Mostly, I have accepted that this is the way my life is, kind of like having five knee surgeries, quitting alcohol has become one of my stories of perseverance.

I never thought that sobriety would be my preferred way of life, but now I can’t imagine going back to my party girl ways. I never dreamed I would feel SO happy, full and healthy living a life without drugs and alcohol. I was always that girl who needed alcohol to have fun, and now I am a testament to the fact that you don’t need it to enjoy yourself. I wake up every day feeling relieved that I never have to feel hungover. I hope that by sharing my story ,other party girls (and boys) will have the courage to put down the drink and live the life they have always imagined. The best is yet to come.


Blogger and Sober Señorita

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CCSA: Action News

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse changes lives by bringing people and knowledge together to reduce the harm of alcohol and other drugs on society.
Check out Canada’s news source for the substance abuse field, Action News Spring 2015 Edition!
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International FASD Awareness Day – 9/9/2015

September 9 is International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Day.

This day was chosen so that on the ninth day of the ninth month of each year, the world will remember that during the nine months of pregnancy, a woman should abstain from alcohol. The first awareness day was celebrated on 9/9/1999.

Below, you will find a packet of materials to help you plan your FASD Awareness Day activities.

The materials in this packet (sample news release, proclamation, and social media messages) have been designed to be customizable for different target audiences, and can be printed, delivered electronically, or added to websites for distribution.

This packet was developed through a collaboration between several organizations that work to educate and train providers as well as promote the health and treatment of women and children. The contributing organizations are:

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

The Arc of the United States

CDC-Practice and Implementation Centers, National Partners and CHOICES Partners

The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS)

NOFAS State Affiliate Network

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Click to download Word document: 2015_fasd_awareness_day_packet

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Love. Hope. Joy. – 2014 MOFAS FASD Public Awareness Campaign

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Three words that are inspiring, uplifting and empowering. And often times, describes a mom-to-be’s emotions about her pregnancy and dreams for her child.

In a public awareness campaign from the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (MOFAS), these three words are used as a reminder to young women, who are pregnant or could become pregnant, that there is a connection between the decisions a mom-to-be makes and her unborn baby.

The goal of the campaign is to educate and create public awareness with women of childbearing age, around the issue of drinking during pregnancy.

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How important is it? Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development

Alcohol consumption in women of childbearing age has maintained around 55% worldwide in the last 20 years, including roughly 11% of pregnant women who reported consuming alcohol in the previous month. Other research has found that 30% of women admit consuming alcohol at some point during pregnancy, and 8% report having had more than four drinks on one occasion.

Although most women reduce their consumption once they find out they are expecting, many of them do not know about the pregnancy before the fourth or sixth week of gestation and continue drinking during that period. Although experts advice women to avoid alcohol during pregnancy or while trying to conceive, drinking continues to be reported by women perhaps due to persistent confusion about the effects of alcohol on fetal development.

Despite its entirely preventable nature, prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) remains the leading cause of congenital abnormalities, intellectual impairment, and other developmental problems in children. Complications due to maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy affect families and children from all ethnic and economic backgrounds.

The most direct and obvious way to prevent FASDs is to eradicate alcohol consumption in women who are either pregnant, planning a pregnancy or who could become pregnant. However, despite health recommendations, the rates of alcohol consumption of women of childbearing age have remained stable. In addition, inconsistent information given to women and disputes about what is the safe amount of alcohol women should consume during pregnancy contribute to confusion. A clear consensus based on a systematic review of research on PAE is strongly needed, and should guide the recommendations and practice of professionals.

Excerpt retrieved from

The Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development has produced a resource titled ‘Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders’, check it out!

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Thoughts? Sick Kids shuts down hair tests at Motherisk lab.

The Hospital for Sick Children has permanently discontinued hair drug and alcohol tests at its embattled Motherisk Drug Testing Laboratory after an internal review “further explored and validated” previous, and as yet undisclosed, “questions and concerns.”

The decision, announced on Friday, comes amid a Star investigation and mounting pressure from critics to shutter the lab, whose hair drug and alcohol tests have been used in criminal and child protection cases across the country, typically as evidence of parental substance abuse.

sick-kids.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterbox“Over the past six weeks, the hospital has continued to review its decision to suspend the laboratory’s operations,” Sick Kids said in a statement. “The hospital has concluded that this laboratory service is not required for its ongoing operations.”

The province appointed retired Appeal Court Justice Susan Lang late last year to probe the reliability and accuracy of five years’ worth of drug hair tests performed by Motherisk, from 2005 to 2010.

In March, Sick Kids temporarily suspended all non-research operations at Motherisk, after Lang’s review and the hospital’s review revealed new information, pending the results of Lang’s review, which are expected by June 30.

The hospital has declined to elaborate on the nature of that information. A hospital spokeswoman said on Friday that Sick Kids is not taking media inquiries.

Toronto lawyer James Lockyer, who criticized the hospital’s secrecy in his submissions to Lang on behalf of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, called the hospital’s silence “disquieting.”

“It is a drastic decision, to permanently close down an important operation which, until recently, the hospital was strongly defending,” he said. “The ‘wait and see until the independent review is completed’ only (heightens) concerns about what went wrong.”

Criminal lawyer Daniel Brown, who urged Lang to broaden her review on Motherisk in the submissions he helped prepare for the Criminal Lawyers’ Association, said the hospital “has an immediate obligation to publicly share the results of their internal review so that problems identified during that review can be swiftly corrected.”

In its statement Friday, Sick Kids said it would not provide further details to “maintain the ongoing integrity of the independent review.”

“We understand the public may want more information on the findings that have led the hospital to make this decision, and we believe that it is most appropriate for that disclosure to come through the independent review,” the hospital said.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins refused to answer questions on why there is so much secrecy surrounding the problems uncovered at Motherisk and instead issued a statement by email about Lang’s review.

“The independent review is ongoing and we have confidence in the work that is being carried out by the Honourable Susan Lang,” he said.

Sick Kids recently temporarily reassigned medical oversight of Motherisk, which also counsels pregnant women on which medications are safe to take, amid questions from the Star about the ties between Motherisk director and founder Gideon Koren and the drug company Duchesnay.

The questions related to the lack of disclosure of the funding Motherisk receives from Duchesnay in a booklet for pregnant women co-written by Koren and featured on the Motherisk website, which heavily promotes the use of Duchesnay’s drug Diclectin to treat morning sickness.

The hospital has said it is aware of the concerns about Koren and Duchesnay and is continuing to investigate. It has declined to comment on whether Koren has been removed as director of Motherisk. Koren did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.

The Star investigation of Motherisk began late last year, when an Appeal Court overturned the cocaine-related convictions of Toronto mom Tamara Broomfield after fresh evidence criticized the hair drug tests results Koren presented at her 2009 trial.

Broomfield was sentenced to seven years in prison for feeding her toddler cocaine after Koren testified that tests of her son’s hair showed that he had regularly consumed large amounts of the drug for more than a year leading up to a near-fatal 2005 overdose.

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