I was asked to write some of my experience being a woman in recovery.
I believe women have different and unique challenges that differ from men, especially living in Calgary, where most homes require a two-income family, and women have to work outside the home, take care of children and family, try to keep up with cleaning and cooking, “me time”, and most importantly: recovery.
Not to mention emotional and hormonal changes that are constantly happening within our bodies.
After getting out of a treatment centre in Saskatewan my parents had shipped me off to for three months, I was introduced to AA at 17. At that time, I didn’t think my problems were that bad, after all, I wasn’t even legal drinking age yet. But I had already dropped out of school, was drinking whenever it was available, taking any free drugs that were offered to me, spent time in CYOC (Calgary Young Offender Centre), and hospitals for intentional and non-intentional overdoses.
I now am grateful for my parent’s early intervention into my alcoholism, which lead me to the rooms of AA, although at that time, I wasn’t ready to quit entirely. I was not comfortable with “me,” and hated living in my own skin without alcohol or some kind of pill. Many years of pain, abuse, and addiction were to follow.
At 18, I was pregnant with my first child, with a man who was 14 years older than me. For my pregnancy I stayed sober and in May of 1995, I had my first daughter. In 1996 I married her father, we had another daughter three years later, and on the outside we may have looked like a happy little family, but I was struggling.
The man I had married was an ex-drug dealer with all the “ism’s” that go along with addiction. We had a big age gap, and cultural differences worked against us as well.
I guess he thought I would just sit around and be the “nice little wife,” but most of the time I was so tired and I was drinking just to get through the days with two little ones. He was using drugs, gambling and cheating on me in the early days of our marriage. I was too young, tired (emotionally and physically) and dealing with my untreated disease of alcoholism — everyday felt like a struggle.
I was able to go back to school, finish high school programs and complete a two-year SAIT program, even when my husband went to jail for nine months on drug charges. I stayed with him until 2004. I chose to leave him because he was becoming more and more abusive, sometimes physically, more mentally/emotionally with all the name calling and fighting. I decided it was not a good environment for my girls to grow up in. I was working full time, and stayed at home, so I chose to leave my girls with him as he was never abusive toward them, (I later found out the kids were mostly with my parents.)
My drinking got really bad, really fast.
I was alone, and drank daily. After a few months, I left my job on medical leave and went to a residential treatment program in Edmonton.
The next 3 years, I struggled throughout the divorce and custody battles with my ex. My alcoholism was always brought up in court. Eventually it settled and we were giving shared custody of the girls, but they slowly were coming to spend more and more time with me, on their own choosing.
I didn’t go to AA during this time, but I attended half a dozen treatment centres, but could not keep many days of sobriety once I had left.
I met a man in detox: Bad decision! But I was so emotionally and mentally sick, I chose a sicker man to be with than my ex-husband. Way more abusive, and in his defense, he suffered from FASD, and had a lot of physiological problems. Our relationship was on and off for three years, most of the time, off, as he was often in jail.
December 2006 my parents had allowed me to stay at their home during the Christmas holidays, but after that, I had to be out. They had watched my addiction progress since the age of 14, and just could not handle it anymore, plus at the time, they were helping so much with my two girls.
I left, stayed in a low budget motel in NW Calgary with my new “on –off” boyfriend. After five days of non-stop drinking and using, I got pregnant.
I found out after checking myself back into detox while my boyfriend was back in jail on domestic assault charges. After testing positive for pregnancy I left detox immediately: I was alone, scared, homeless, jobless. How could I get pregnant now?
Throughout my pregnancy I managed well when my boyfriend was in jail. For the first trimester I stayed at the YWCA, then a basement suite and then a small apartment. I was also working again. I was trying really hard to stay sober, but I had not gone back to AA yet.
My boyfriend got out of jail again and we reconnected when I was into my second trimester. I started drinking with him. I don’t blame him — I was an alcoholic and was not treating my alcoholism. Soon, he started beating me up again and My ex went back to jail.
I stayed sober for the rest of my pregnancy.
Sept 10, 2007 I went into Foothills hospital for a induced labour. My baby was not growing as well, he was 2 – 3 weeks early, just over 5lbs. I was alone during the birth, it was hard, he was born just after midnight, Child welfare was in my hospital room just after 9am that day. They were asking me a lot of questions and I was just so tired. A toxicology screening was done on my son, and came up negative for any drugs or alcohol so 3 days later I was able to take him home.
I did okay at first, at least I thought I was.
But this is when my real effort into the program of Alcoholics Anonymous starts.
So I was going along, having relapses here and there, getting Valium and T4’s from my ex husband and thinking no one would know.
Child Welfare 1st came in when my son was 9 months old, he was temporarily taken away from me and it was devastating. Thank God, my cousin had been around since he was born, and she took him in. This is when I got serious about AA.
I had went into detox first, where I found out I had fractured my foot, and needed an air cast and crutches. I left detox and stayed with my parents, as they agreed as long as I went to AA daily. They lived ½ a block from a meeting, so 2 or 3 times a day, I walked over there, sat and listened to people who where staying sober, and learned what I had to do, to stay sober, and get my son back.
Child Welfare had went for a TGO (temporary guardianship order) at this time, so I still had regular visits with my son, supervised, and regular drug testing.
I found a sponsor in AA early on, and we worked through the steps intensely. At this time in my life, I realized if I couldn’t stay sober on my own, I would have to do whatever it took and listen to people in the rooms that were staying sober.
I eventually got my son back. But for 5 years I had interactions with Child Welfare because I kept relapsing on T4’s and Valiums that I was getting from my ex husband. I had not drank yet. My family doctor was the one who called child welfare one time, and I resented that for so long. Now I see why she did it, and it’s part of my past.
Over these 5 years with him, I was working full time, and my 2 girls had come back to live with me. I was putting AA first, most of the time, and managed 3 & ½ years of sobriety (from alcohol), which was the longest I’ve ever had in my life.
I met my current husband after a couple years of sobriety in AA, and we are happily married today.
During those 3 years, I had a lot of support because I reached out for help, attending a lot of meetings and did service work. It was hard working minimum wage and supporting 3 kids on my own, and still trying to be in recovery, and some days I was non stop from the moment I woke up, until I fell asleep at night, and I wondered how long I could hang on. I lived one day at a time, one moment at a time sometimes.
After 3 years, I started attending less and less meetings; I was just too busy, big mistake. I thought it would be okay to have a 4 pack of Kahlua and milk, which lead me to buy vodka, which lead me to an OD on pills that night, trying to kill myself. I had lost 3 years of sobriety, it was devastating. Looking back now, I didn’t lose the time that I had learned so much and the tools I was given through the program, I got right back to AA.
From my son’s birth (September 2007), until he was 5 years old, I had an on/off relationship with Child Welfare. They did 3 TGO’s (temporary guardianship orders) during that time I was drug tested, random urine tests, and one hair follicle test. I was under supervised visitation with my son and complied to their requirements, so each time he would be returned to me. When he wasn’t with me, my cousin and her family took care of him, and I was very grateful for that.
Life would get stressful; I would take pills, asking my family doctor for help in the beginning, she called Child Welfare on me once. I felt so humiliated, abandon and rejected by my doctor that I had trusted for so many years. Looking back, I had to let go of that anger in a 4th step, and help through AA and my sponsor.
For a child with FASD, there can be no certain diagnosis until about the age of 5 or 6, when they are starting school. So things were difficult when he was with me at times, but I brushed it off to normal “boy” behaviour, since I only had two girls before.
The last time he was taken away, he was five, and I had a relapse on prescription pills. This time, child welfare went for a PGO (Permanent Guardianship Order).
I was devastated, and although my parents went to court with me the last TGO, and were granted shared guardianship with me, they were frustrated with the system. I was is court alone, and I was praying to my higher power, and listening for an answer, I didn’t know what to do, but I could not take much more of Child Welfare.
That day in court, under a lot of heartache and sadness, I did not contest the PGO.
I had told the judge that I have two other children to take care of, and I know my son is loved and in a safe place. In my heart, I knew I couldn’t stay sober, and try to help him, he was a loving child, but needed a lot of special care.
I did not see him for one year, my heart ached and I felt like a failure in everyone’s eyes. Plus my children did not see their ½ brother during this time again. I knew my cousin was taking care of him. At times, I had asked to see him, but she wasn’t ready. I continued to work on my sobriety in AA, and work with my sponsor.
She changed her mind when he was just about 6. By this point they had found some medications that were working for him and he was doing well. The reunion with everyone was one very happy day.
Since then, I have been able to see him most weekends. He has been formally diagnosed with severe FASD and I can’t help but feel guilt and shame over this, I am working through these feelings, hoping one day, I can use my past to help someone else.
So now it’s 2015, my son will be 8 next month. I feel total gratitude for my cousin and her husband formally adopting my son, and still allowing me to see him with my girls, who are 17 and 20 now and more understanding to the situation, both with their brother, and with their mom’s disease of alcoholism.
It’s a joy whenever my son is around, because it’s true what they say, you don’t know what you’ve lost till its gone.
I am self-employed and own a business with my husband that my girls work at.
I attend AA minimum 3X a week, meet or talk on the phone with my sponsor weekly.
Today I am sober, my sponsor has given me 4 simple steps, eat, pray, read the big book, exercise. This has been helping me lately.
Women in recovery tend to face different issues then the men in the rooms. We are supposed to be mother, lover, and caregiver. We work our regular jobs, then come home, and have to work our second job. I know I was just so exhausted at one point; I tried taking my daughter’s ADHD medication just so I could keep up with everything.
Then I learned the importance of saying no, and taking care of myself, before I could care for anyone else.
Not to mention hormone issues at different times of the month when my husband thinks I’m going crazy! I get really depressed, and at these times it’s hard, but important to reach out to others in AA.
I have met the most wonderful genuinely caring people through AA, and AA itself has changed my way of thinking forever. I don’t know how much time I have left on this earth, but I try (emphasis on try) to stay grateful and help others and live each day like it could be my last. I want to stay sober, to be a positive influence on my children. When and if I do relapse, I don’t beat myself up anymore, it’s a disease so I just go back for my treatment, the rooms of AA are always open for me.
All the best to all women especially in recovery, struggling or not, it always gets better; I have a peace today, that I have never had before.
I can accept my life as it is, and look back and see the little victories. Today I love myself, and I can give genuine love to others. I am still a work in progress, 20 years of drinking, doesn’t get fixed overnight.
Thank you friends, for taking the time to read my story!
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