Alumni Spotlight – Marja S.

by | Oct 1, 2018

I grew up in a comfortable, middle-class family in the suburbs of Vancouver.  I never wanted for anything material but was plagued with feelings of sadness, loneliness, and fear.  I didn’t understand these feelings and spent a lifetime trying to cover them up and run away.

I started using drugs every day at the age of 11 in order to cope, and escaping feelings of crippling fear and inadequacy became a way of life.

I had been in residential treatment many times when I landed at Westminster House in 2013.  I was introduced to the social model of recovery while I was there, but wasn’t ready to surrender.  I left after two months, and ended up spending four months on the downtown eastside, homeless and doing unimaginable things to maintain my addiction.

I was able to put some clean time together in 2013, and began working at Westminster House in 2014 after returning to the house to make an amends.  But I was only abstinent from drugs; I was still battling feelings of intense fear and unworthiness.  Inevitably, I used drugs again.

The staff and counselors at Westminster House encouraged me to come to the house as a client… I was welcomed back with love and compassion and agreed to return for a “30-day refresher” (Susan’s words haha).

I had relapsed for a very short time (comparative to other relapses I’d had) and considered myself pretty together… I thought this would be a snap.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Returning to Westminster House was probably the hardest thing I had ever done.  I was humiliated and my ego was destroyed. I was sick and hostile and felt entitled.  I was not the ideal client and put a lot of strain on the staff.

The gift I was given was the undeniable fact that I was loved.  I couldn’t ignore it… the simple act of welcoming be back and giving me the help I so desperately needed showed me that my life was worth saving.

At some point in the first month, I surrendered.  I did what I was told.  I tried my best to be nice to people.  Most importantly, I was honest and I wrote the 12 Steps of Narcotics Anonymous to the best of my ability.

My “30 day refresher” turned into a six-month stay, moving through primary care and into transition, volunteering starting to work part-time.  I moved in with other women in recovery whom I knew in the community when it was time to move on.

My clean date is March 20, 2015 and it means more to me than anything.

Thanks to Westminster House and recommitting to Narcotics Anonymous I have learned how to take responsibility for myself, and today I have a life beyond my wildest dreams:

I have two amazing dogs.

I have a loving partner in recovery who supports me.

I am very involved with my family.

I work with my family business and earn a good income.

I have financial stability and have gotten out of debt.

I bought my first home.

I am working towards a Bachelor Degree at Douglas College.

I travel all over the world.

I have friendships that span a decade.

I laugh everyday and have fun no matter what I am doing.

I am honest, integral and take responsibility for my actions and decisions.

Today, I give back to Westminster House in other ways… ways that work for me.

Simply Computing (that family business I mentioned) sponsors the Westminster House Car Raffle, donating prizes and my time attending events.  I have worked within my network of business contacts to find outside donators.  I have hired alumnae from Westminster House, and I sponsor women and visit as often as possible.

I have every opportunity available to me, and my future is unknown and exciting.

Freaser Health, youth treatment, addiciton treatment, rehab, substance use service