Your Giving Matters
Former Client Andrew's Lived Experience
For a long time, I was a functional alcoholic. Starting in my twenties, I travelled a lot and drank a lot. In Europe, Mexico and across Canada I kept finding myself in crowds where heavy drinking was normal. My mom was a functional alcoholic too. From the beginning, heavy drinking was just part of my life. I didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t know that I was suffering from anxiety and depression either. Looking back now, I can tell that I was.
It was in Vancouver that things got really crazy for me. I had a good paying, high-stress job. The thing is, even though I was making good money, I was broke all the time. Even with tons of empty bottles lying around, I would tell myself that I just needed to stop spending money eating out at restaurants so often. I was lying to myself.
The work culture supported my heavy drinking too. Before work, at lunch, after work – it was normal for us to drink. But by 2014, I had started drinking on the job – a couple of ounces every hour to stop me from shaking. (I was also taking medication for my nerves and to help me sleep better.)
I quickly lost my reputation of being the golden boy at work.
I wasn’t worried about myself exactly, but I wanted to clear my head. I flew to Europe to visit an uncle for awhile, but that didn’t help. When I returned to Vancouver, I evicted myself before the landlord did. Now, I was sleeping on the floor of my dad’s workshop. That didn’t work out, so I flew back to Ottawa. I tried to live with my sister, but that didn’t work out either.
During all of this, I was so angry at myself – a lot of self-hate and a lot of fear.
But my sister, even though I couldn’t stay at her place, stood by me – literally. She insisted I pick up the phone and call for help and was by my side to make sure I did. On November 11, 2015, I started detox and a residential treatment program.
I remember everyone kept telling me to breathe, but I kept thinking my problem isn’t breathing, it’s drinking!
In 2016, I began the Adult Program at Rideauwood. By now, several months sober, I was determined to get better. I wanted to stop the emotional pain and suffering I was experiencing now that I didn’t have alcohol to manage my feelings anymore.
The Rideauwood program was very helpful and pretty challenging. Paula, my individual counsellor, was great. She was so supportive and compassionate. She pushed me too, encouraging me to look at my perceptions about myself and my world.
In the group sessions, I learned about what’s going on in the body and the brain of an alcoholic. Post-acute withdrawal symptoms were fascinating to me. I also made meaningful connections with others in the group. Several of us keep in touch on Facebook. I’ve gone fishing with one friend, and a few us even attended one member’s wedding.
November 2020 marked five years of me being in recovery from substance use disorder. One of my proudest moments in this experience happened with my 13-year-old niece.
I had invited her to the market. Trying to please her, I was taking her to all the stores I thought she would like – girly stores. After awhile, quietly she asked if we could go try a book store instead. My heart swelled. Here was my niece who had seen me at my worst. (I remember being drunk and picking fights with her when she was just five years old.) Now, after all this recovery work I had been doing, she finally felt at ease enough – safe enough – to be honest with me and share what really mattered to her. I’m no longer her uncle who hurts people around him because he’s struggling with alcoholism. I’m someone who she can share her passion for reading with. And reading just so happens to be a hobby of mine too, which made the day even more special to me.
Maybe today I can’t afford a fancy car, but I’m able to be gentle with myself and others now. I have food in my fridge. I’m able to see that I’m me and not the addiction. And I’m able to take my experience and use it to help others by leading groups for people recovering from substance use disorder.
I am forever grateful to the Rideauwood counsellors who have supported me. Today, I am living well in recovery.
Rideauwood is deeply appreciative of supporters who, through their generosity, are helping people struggling with problematic substance use, behavioural addictions and related mental health issue.