Congratulations to Alicia who submitted the winning essay for our Women Do Recover Award of Education.   

Westminster House Douglas College Award Essay 2019

When I was younger, I had so many goals and aspirations. Anything I did I gave it 110 percent. I was a track athlete winning various ribbons and metals for both cross country and long jump. Academically I was an A to B student with the occasional C+. I won an award for a speech I gave and also for a short essay I wrote in grade 10. When I wasn’t in school, you could find me riding around the neighbourhood on my bike or swinging on the swings at the park. I loved being outdoors, and while other girls were out chasing boys, I was out chasing frogs. I had such a zest for life which was evident by the permanent smile etched on my face. When I was fifteen years old my home life came crashing down, and within a night everything changed. Laughs were replaced with screams, and our once happy family fell apart. I had no idea how to cope with what was going on, so I began to drink to numb out my reality.

Things progressively got worse, and in grade 10 I had to leave home. Life got really hard after that. It was a constant struggle just to get through the days. I would go to high school then take a bus directly from there and work until the late hours of the night then bus home wake up and do it all over again. I can remember feeling completely exhausted. During this time, I was introduced to my first DOC which would turn my world upside down. Even though it gave me the burst of energy I needed to get through the days it came with a toll. My grades slipped even more, and my physical appearance began to transform. I was a hundred pounds soaking wet and dark bags took full-time residency underneath my eyes. My grades started to drop, and I stopped showing up to class. The times I was there I’d be hiding behind a book sleeping or not paying attention because I was too worried people knew I was on drugs. Work and parting took priority to my sports teams, so I dropped out of all my extracurricular activities.

Mrs. Grant was my English teacher for both grade 11 and 12 so she had a front row seat to my dissolution. One day after class she asked me to stay back, and when all the other students left, she told me to come to sit next to her. I walked over with my tail between my legs and cautiously waited for her to lecture me on my abstinence. She never did. She explained how she was worried about me. The tone in her voice accompanied by this empathetic look in her eyes made me feel safe. I told her everything. She validated my feelings and at no point did I ever feel judgment. It was the first time I felt heard and I can honestly say I will never forget that moment. I wish I could say it kept me from my downhill spiral, but I continued on my path of self-destruction. What it did do was give me that small amount of faith that someone out there cared. As time went on my drug use escalated. Not only the substance I was using was getting stronger but the length of time I was high was getting longer. Soon I couldn’t go a day without using.

In December 2013 I checked myself into treatment at the Westminster House. I put down my survival skills and learnt life skills from the staff and through the peer to peer support. Something inside me changed. I came in a broken child and left a woman. I learned tools to help me deal with the emotional wreckage of my past. I was finally happy again. Somewhere in the 3 and a half years I was clean I lost sight of what was important in my life, and a new addiction took over. I began working crazy hours and justified it by saying, “at least I’m not using”. My meeting attendance dwindled to nothing, and I stopped giving back what was so freely given to me.

In March 2018 I relapsed and it didn’t take long for the drugs to bring me to my knees. The thing about the disease of addiction is it’s progressive. Within six months I had over dosed 12 times, and my body laid lifeless in a coma marked as a Jane Doe. Fentanyl was killing me, but I just couldn’t stop. I called the Westminster House, and they had me back in the facility within six days. I am 100 percent certain if it weren’t for the Westminster House getting me in as soon as they did, I wouldn’t be alive today. While I was in a transitional part of my treatment stay the youth house opened up, and I began going over there and spending much of my time with the girls. It didn’t take long to recognize I was passionate about helping the youth. Not only that but there was something about my demeanour that made them feel safe opening up to me. When I began mentoring a fifteen-year-old girl any questions I had about changing my career were washed away. I know with all my heart that this is what I am meant to be doing with my life.

I’ve looked into a few different programs, and the one I’ve decided on is the youth and child care program at Douglas College. The Westminster House put me through the basic counselling course at Vancouver Career College, and I passed with flying colours. Taking that course and learning all the different counselling skills gave me even more evidence to show I’m on the right path. Receiving this scholarship would help me out tremendously because it would allow me to continue to help out at the Westminster House and keep focused on recovery all while being in school for my first year. My mom is unable to help me out financially so this scholarship would help alleviate some of the stress that comes with student loans. This program is going to help give me the tools I need to help those youths who went through similar struggles as I did. Even if the stories are different, the feelings are still the same. Please give me this opportunity to be someone else’s, Mrs. Grant.