by Liz D. (Munro 2011)
I entered Renascent’s women’s centre a year ago – for the second time. I had six years of successful sobriety but I stopped doing the “do things.” It wasn’t long before the disease crept back into my life. I had convinced myself that “one drink wasn’t going to kill me.” And I lost three and half more years to addiction before Children’s Aid re-entered my life.
Children’s Aid said it was one the bravest things they’d seen a parent do. I guess it was unusual for a parent to ask if they could take their kids into care – when there was no plan to apprehend. They also knew that I’d lost custody of my eldest the first time I got sober, so they knew this decision wasn’t taken lightly.
I won’t lie to you. At first, I wanted to lash out at the person who made the anonymous call to Children’s Aid. But, as I considered how powerful this disease had been in my life, I began to see the “duty to report” as a gift – an opportunity to get well and an opportunity for my kids to have some stability while I got well.
I love my kids and I really want to be their mom. I knew I needed to be sober to be a good mom. Because I voluntarily placed them in care, we worked together to find a really wonderful foster mom who agreed to take all three of my little ones.
Because I initiated it, it was a little easier on me and the kids. But let’s face it, I was scared that a temporary arrangement for my kids could become a permanent one.
The first time I went to Renascent, I was 24. I attended the 21-day program but I opted out of Continuing Care. Ten years later, I knew I was going to access every resource I could – that I would do every “do thing” I could to have a strong recovery. When a counsellor said Continuing Care would help, I trusted them and did the next right thing. I signed up for the 15 weeks.
Continuing Care took my recovery to a much deeper level than I had previously experienced. It provided me with the ongoing support I needed as I mapped out a new action plan for my life. The counsellors don’t hold your hand – they make you do the work and take responsibility for your recovery.
While I was in Continuing Care, I learned about the Children’s Program. I had to wait a month before my oldest was old enough to participate.
I was scared shitless. What did my daughter know? What had she seen? It was a convenient lie, a necessary deception, to believe that she was too young, that my husband and I had protected them. But my little ones – 7, 3 and 18 months – lived inside this disease like we all do when addiction comes into our lives. As I learned later, it’s not a spectator sport and we’re kidding ourselves if we think being a child means being oblivious.
It was devastating to learn how wrong I was – how much my eldest daughter had witnessed, how much she did know. But the Children’s Program gave us a new beginning. My daughter, husband and I now have new and shared language of recovery that helps us navigate the good and bad times.
I know in my heart that a Children’s Program would have helped me make sense of my childhood and my dad’s drinking. I wasn’t able to receive this gift as a kid but I’m so honoured to give this gift to my child. I encourage anyone in recovery with kids to consider making this investment in all your lives.
I realized through the Children’s Program, and when my husband decided to go to treatment not long afterwards, that I needed to look at how my life had been affected by other people’s drinking. I am the wife of an alcoholic and a daughter of an alcoholic. I can’t change the past but I can choose how I live today and I can parent in a way that protects, not hurts.
Not long after participating in the Children’s Program with my husband and daughter, my husband decided he needed treatment. I was uplifted by this decision but tremendously crushed when he relapsed.
I fought the compulsion to isolate. I asked for help. I received help. I’ve started to access the tools I’ve learned from Renascent – and so has my daughter.
Before I would have told my daughter, “Daddy’s at work.” Now I can tell her the truth in terms a seven-year-old can understand. I can tell her that daddy is sick and can’t live with us right now. She’s allowed to express her fear. I can tell her it’s my job to care for her, it’s her job to be a kid, and I will do everything I can to keep us safe.
Early recovery and family recovery are not easy. But personal and family recovery are non-negotiable if you want a life. I want to thank every person who gave to the Renascent Foundation and the Children’s Aid Foundation for their love and support that has and will continue to be the lifeline our family needs to keep on the road to recovery.