Chicken or Egg?

It’s the first Sunday of the New Year.  Usually I would go to Church on Sunday.  I didn’t today! That’s okay!  I spent part of the day with my nineteen year old daughter and her father at a movie, we saw Arrival.  No spoiler’s, suffice it to say that we enjoyed the movie.  Did something different today and that was nice!

Expanding on some of the reading that I have been doing over the year’s that I have been in Recovery, I wanted to talk about the chicken or the egg.  I accept that I am an Addict, I accept that I am in Recovery.  I wanted to know what, if anything, contributed to my making the decisions that I made over those many year’s. I have heard other’s share that they had optimal childhoods, ( normal is a setting on my dryer), and still became addicts.

The field of Neuroscience has researched what is called Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACE. Based on ten questions I answered on a website of ACE information, I saw my earliest experiences condensed into understandable, likely outcomes that are predictors of the trajectory of my life.

For perspective, I am including the questionnaire, of which I scored nine of ten, the only one that did not apply to me was that neither of my parents were incarcerated.  If you are interested in knowing more about ACE, I am including the link to several sites.  Including some charts of ACE and behavioural outcomes.

Evidence of these outcomes is compelling , it spoke to me on many levels.  Specifically what it helped me to understand and accept further is that, considering the circumstances of my childhood, it is a testament of the human spirit that I am still here.  I used to ask what is wrong with me, now I understand that it is what is right with me.  My brain did exactly what it was supposed to do, to keep me alive despite the  abundance of hardship.

Recovery is my life and life is my Recovery.

“The most important thing to remember is that the ACE score is meant as a guideline: If you experienced other types of toxic stress over months or years, then those would likely increase your risk of health consequences.”

Prior to your 18th birthday:

  1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  2. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  3. Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  4. Did you often or very often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  5. Did you often or very often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  6. Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  7. Was your mother or stepmother:
    Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  8. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  9. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?                        No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  10. Did a household member go to prison?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Now add up your “Yes” answers: _ This is your ACE Score

Got Your ACE Score?

Behaviors and physical and mental health conditionsThe three types of ACEs include abuse, neglect and household dysfunction


“Just for today: I’ve recovered something I never had, something I never imagined possible: the life of a recovering addict.  Thank you, Higher Power, in more than words can say.”

Recovery, recovering, recovered!  The many stages of the journey. I consider myself to be recovering, and for as many day’s more that I may have on earth, I will be in Recovery.  The life that I had before recovery, was some kind of life.  Yet, was it living?  I thought so at the time.  It was one way to live.

When I look back at the life that I was living, I understand now how much of myself I buried, denied, distorted, contorted, compromised, degraded, debauched, numbed and risked, physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.  Recovery is giving me back so much of myself.

Part’s of myself that I had buried so deeply that I needed to go back to my childhood to remember.  This part of my Recovery gave me back my values, the core of who I am.  I didn’t recognize them or myself.  Reading is important to me, as a child it was my refuge, my sanctuary, my safe place from the terror and pain in my young life.

Now I read for pleasure again, Game of Thrones, (after I binge watched the first four season’s), Hunger Games.Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat Zinn, Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman all to know myself better.

Feeling as though there is much that I want to say today, not certain how much I am prepared to divulge.  Yes, I am trying to use this as a type of Journal.  Knowing that there are others who are reading this, I am wanting to hold back. Not certain of the level of trust.  May take me a while to feel comfortable with this process.

Actually went to a meeting today, something that I haven’t done on a Saturday for quite some time.  Since my daughter is usually with me on Saturday’s.  I have a new Sponsee, who needs the early stage of Recovery support.  Which I am happy to do!  I stay clean by helping someone else stay clean.  It’s a service that I do gratefully.  It keeps me closely connected to why I made the decision to get clean.


End of Day.

The day is done! I have another day clean.  This is a successful day, more because I didn’t act out either.  In Recovery I understand that any day clean is a successful day.  There are day’s that this is everything, There are day’s that this is enough.  Then there are day’s that I want more.  Want, not need.

Learning the difference between want’s and need’s has been an important step in my Recovery.  My need’s are basic.  I need food, shelter, clothing and a bed to sleep on.  If my basic need’s are being met then anything beyond this is a want.  Having gratitude for these basic things has taught me a great deal, particularly having been in the position of not having these.

Beyond my basic need’s, I have a set of values, which I didn’t understand or know about when I first started my journey.  My values are based on what I consider important!  It is the foundation of how I make my choices and decisions.

Recovery tells me that I need to connect with a Higher Power.  Some recovery literature uses the word God.  That word used to make me angry, I would cringe with memories of my childhood imposed religiosity.  Where was God when I needed him the most?  The process of finding a God of my understanding has been a convoluted discovery.  What I knew without a doubt was that the spiritual person that I am required nurturing.  I felt that all the drugs, year’s of using and abusing myself had been a futile attempt to satisfy my spirit from a material world with never any satisfaction.

Early Recovery my Higher Power was the meetings, and the people in the meetings who certainly had more clean time than I did.  On the day’s that I felt restless or bored with the meeting’s, I would here someone speaking from their own personal experience what I was feeling.  There is some kind of synchronicity that happens.

Today, at the meeting, I heard many share about their relapses, feeling like they wanted to relapse, or how close they were to relapsing.  Relapsing scares me, to death!  I am at an age that, I might have another relapse, I don’t think that I would ever make it back to Recovery.  In the continuum of my Recovery, over thirteen year’s, I have had my share of relapse’s.  Had three year’s relapsed, had two year’s relapsed, had one year, relapsed.  The last relapse kept me out for three year’s.

Today, I am clean!  I will go to bed clean, and wake up clean!  Today, no matter what, I have had a successful day!  Today, I have a faith and a purpose.  As a recovering addict I can carry the message of Recovery.  And that’s enough!


(The photographs that I use are my own, taken around my home town. All with my Samsung S6.)

The Love of The Fellowship

Just for today: I can look anyone in the eye without shame. I am grateful for the loving support that has made this possible.

Living one day at a time as an addict in Recovery, I never imagined a life without using. Today, because I live my Recovery one day at a time I remember every day what it was like and I know that I don’t want to live that life anymore.

Identifying as an addict can be scary sometimes.  I identify readily in the world outside of the rooms, not for kudos or congratulations, because just maybe someone is living with the pain and shame that I was, not realizing that there is a way out. Many connection’s and conversation’s have been started in this way.  I can carry a message of hope. Change is scary, yet it is possible and I am living proof of this.

Life has changed for me over the time that I have been in Recovery.  Not all at once, gradually as I made different choices.  The first and most important choice that I made was that I didn’t want to live like that anymore!  Something deep inside of me knew that there was another way to live.  I just didn’t know how!  Yes, I was hurting.  I had all the reason’s in the world to be hurting.  Those reason’s ultimately became excuses. To use another’s description, I had a blame thrower. It was because of this, this, that and them, you and yours, that I used.  You did this to me!

Going into Recovery was the first time that I finally took responsibility for my life, or so it felt.  I had a choice!  The choice to live or die!  The way I was trying to kill myself wasn’t working very well, there was some spark in me that wanted to live.  So, how did I want to live?  I wanted to live well!  This was where my Recovery began, knowing in the deepest part of my being that there was another way to do this thing called life.  Seeing others who seemed to be enjoying their lives without the use of drugs, and wanting that badly enough to try!


Just For Today

Thinking of doing anything for the rest of my life is so heavy!  This applies to pretty much everything, work, relationships, most importantly to my recovery.  That was the trick my mind would play on me early in this process, I am going to have to do this for the rest of my life.

The great illusion!  Being in recovery does not preclude me from planning.  Having a plan, any kind of plan, ( other than using my drug of choice sort of plan), is a good thing.  Yet, in making a plan, I then need to know how to let go of it.  In the midst of life the plan, or any plan, is likely to change.  I remember making plans and getting so invested in the plans, emotionally, psychologically and physically that either the actual event itself became anticlimactic or if the plan was altered I would be devastated.  There had been such an expectation built up that no matter what, I was always slightly to mostly disappointed.

One of the benefits of learning to live my life, “Just For Today,” is that I have a much better appreciation for the way my life goes most day’s.  Less pining, less whining, less of poor me!  More gratitude, more contentment and definitely more peace!  Living in the present is a great place to be.  This does not mean that I don’t struggle or want, it is that there is a lot less of it.  It’s not a rose coloured glasses attitude!  Having been homeless at one point in my life, I enjoy the fact that I have a roof over my head, I have a place to sleep, I have clothes on my back, I have food in my cupboards and refrigerator, and I have the companionship of other recovering addicts.

Now, I am in the enviable position in my recovery to be able to help other addicts.  I share my experience regularly at meetings, I am sponsoring other addicts who want to know how to stay clean, “Just For Today.” It isn’t a miracle cure, it has been work to get to this point where I can honestly say that I am comfortable in my own skin and in my own company.  Other gifts of my recovery are that I am active in the greater community where I live, as a Community Leader.  Giving freely of my time helping where and when I can!

I do what I can, with what I  have, where I am!


New Year, New Day!

It’s a New Year, more importantly, it’s a New Day!  I am making a commitment to myself to blog more regularly.  Using this as a form of journal-ling.  Almost six year’s ago now, to be precise, February 7, 2010 I made the decision to change my life.  Some habits are hard to break, and some habits were breaking me.

Physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually I was dying.  It was my addiction that brought me to the point of loosing everything.  My home, my health, my marriage, my family!  The pain that I felt was real, yet I had inflicted so much more pain on myself. Six year’s ago, I knew that I had a choice.  I could choose to live, or I could choose to die!  Some spark of life in me felt that there was another way to do this thing called life, I just didn’t know how.

The first step, they say is always the hardest.  I went into a Withdrawal Management Program and that is where my journey of Recovery and discovery began.  I am learning so much about myself.  Learning to take care of myself, learning what I like and don’t like, learning about boundaries, relationships, what I value, how to be in the world. Most importantly, I like who I am now!  I can enjoy my own company!  I don’t get bored or restless anymore, because I can sit with myself.  I have discovered that the hole that I was trying to fill with all the external things was my spirit crying for nurturing.

Walking with my two little dogs daily along the river, I have been taking photographs with my phone of the seasonal changes.  Continually enthralled by the beauty that I am blessed to see with my eye’s!  My senses are filled with the feel of the cool, crisp air, in winter it truly does feel like a renewing of the earth, and I too am being renewed.


How Do We Get From Here to There?

February 26,2016


How Do We Get There From Here?


For the purpose of understanding and insight I want to reiterate the Canadian Homelessness Research Networks Canadian Definition of Homelessness:


“Homelessness describes the situation of an individual or family without stable ,permanent or appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means of acquiring it. It is the result of systemic or societal barriers, a lack of affordable and appropriate housing, the individual/household’s financial, mental, cognitive, behavioural or physical challenges, and/or racism and discrimination.  Most people do not choose to be homeless, and the experience is generally negative, unpleasant, stressful and distressing.”


Reflection upon the definition of Homelessness, I myself gained some insight into my own childhood and the particular experience of moving frequently. Over my lifetime I have moved thirtyfive times.  Eight of those moves were from my earliest childhood memories, up until the age of fourteen. Only realizing now that the reason for the constant moving was due likely to the cost of our housing rising, being unable to remain where we were living, this forced a move upon the family. The residual effect of these frequent and stressful experiences  were that for much of my early adult life, after a couple of years in one place I would become restless. This would prompt a chaotic need to move, to change my surroundings.  Now, I recognize and acknowledge these feelings, without necessarily indulging them. Although, I do still rearrange the contents of my living environment, this seems to satisfy my need for change.  


When chaos and dysfunction are bedfellows, when it is all you know, it is all you do! November 22, 2013, an article published by The Atlantic, written by Derek Thompson, a Business Writer, encapsulates a study linking a 13 Point drop in IQ for those living in poverty. The study by Neuroscientists, Jiaying Zhao,and  Eldar Shafir,, based out of Princeton University, published their findings in the journal Science, August 2013. I will attempt to synopsize the article from what I understand.  “It isn’t that those of us living in poverty aren’t capable of making rational decisions, it is that the inescapability of poverty weighs so heavily that we abandon long-term planning entirely, because short term needs are so great and long-term gains so implausible.”


When all of your time and energy are spent in subsistent living, one has no time, money or energy left to pursue anything else!


These academic findings are not a surprise to me! In my first article, I spoke of Simone Weil,(1901-1943), a French thinker, anchored in the economic and political realities of her time.  Weil documented the struggles of the French labourers she worked with in the factories.  Working side by side with them, living on the meaghre wages they were paid, eating the same food those wages provided and living in a sparse French tenement; Weil understood why there was no resistance to their situation. Weil noted herself an all encompassing and pervasive numbness, the apathy that she experienced left her incapable of advocating for herself or anyone else.


Having a personal and intimate experience with poverty, it confounds me to this day how my personality and my decisions are distorted by the indelible impressions left on my psyche that linger into middle age. There is much that I understand now about my choices over the years of my life that I now cho

ose to do differently. There is still much that I don’t understand, and that I may never! What confuses and frustrates me at times is that we as a society understand the longstanding implications and outcomes for those who experience these life situations. We have the statistics, the deaths, from drugs and despair, the incarcerated, the homeless, the children in care, the broken families, the broken lives.


The Myths of Homelessness


#1 Homelessness Affects Only Middle Aged Men

Fact: The fastest growing segment of the homelessness population are women and families with children.


#2 Homeless People Should “Just Get A Job”.

Fact: Getting a job is especially challenging for a homeless person who lacks clean clothes, showers, transportation, and a permanent address. Others have a criminal past, learning disabilities or lack of education.  Even if they find work, their low income often cannot sustain them.


#3 People Are Homeless By Choice

Fact: No one starts life with a goal of becoming homeless.  Yes, poor choices often contribute to it , but circumstances such as job loss, mental illness, domestic abuse, and trauma strongly influence those choices.


Myth #4 Helping People Enables Them To Stay Homeless

Fact: Food and shelter are essentials for life. By offering these and other outreach services like restrooms, showers and mail service, we build relationships with people in need. Then we’re able to offer more through our recovery programs, like counselling, addiction recovery, life skills and job training.


Myth #5 Sufficient Affordable Housing Will End Homelessness

Fact: Housing can help people who are homeless due to poverty. But many people still struggle to function in a normal life, and may return to homelessness.


Myth #6 Homelessness Will Never Happen To Me

Fact:Talk to the hundreds of homeless men and women we serve each day and they’ll tell you they never intended or expected to become homeless.  Many had solid jobs, houses and families.  But at some point, life fell apart.  Now they’re desperate for a way back home.


The infographic that I have included with this article references Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACE’s.  I am including this as a source of understanding and will follow up this explanation with an image of the MRI’s of brain scans showing the actual changes in the brain of mental illness and trauma.  These things are very real and have had a significant impact not only on my life, but the lives of many people who have similar experiences. I fall within the area of having experienced all three types of abuse.  It was pervasive and longstanding.  In many ways, I often marvel at the fact that I am still here.  I have cultivated a sort of resiliency.  This is not to garner sympathy, it is to gain understanding and empathy for those who have suffered and still do from the challenges faced in overcoming these unfortunate circumstances.


Personally, my two literal experiences with homelessness were at opposing ends of my life the first time a physical assault from the man that I was married to, where I required surgery, hospitalization and three months of being unable to work.  This was in my early twenties, I worked as a bartender/waitress, due to the nature of my injuries my recuperation required physical therapy. I lived at a woman’s shelter for the duration, subsequently moving into a rooming house. In the early eighties there was not much available for a single woman, and I would like to say that the situation has improved, unfortunately it has not!  Referring to my homelessness as literal, I want to make a distinction that I was technically homeless at other times when I was using the time honoured tradition of couch surfing. This too is now being recognized as homelessness. Although it seems to be an accepted form of homelessness for our population of youth, it is still homelessness!


Five year’s ago, my mental and physical health took a turn.  I found myself in a place that I thought I had left behind, in active addiction, deteriorating mental health and a relationship that was not healthy either.  Thankfully, I knew what I needed to do at that point, I had my not lost the tools and  resources that I had gained over my years of recovery work.  I got myself into Detox, and from there I managed to get a bed at one of the Women’s Shelters. It was mid-winter, beds are at a premium at any time of the year, particularly so in winter. Many single women living in a shelter are there for a long time, I met many who had been there month’s and several who had been in shelter for a year and more.  This due to the fact that families get priority for emergency housing over single women and men.  I was one of those who had priority for housing, because of my Joint Custody Agreement for my daughter, who at the time was thirteen. I was registered with the help of staff at the Shelter with the Social Housing Registry, my stay at the Shelter was four months.


Presently the wait times for housing, if you are not in an emergency situation as I was, are seven to ten years here in Ottawa.   There are 7,800 people on the list!  The City of Ottawa’s Affordable Housing stock was increased by 150 Units in 2014.  There seems to be a large gap in the funding and implementation of the intentions of all levels of Government to end this housing crisis.  What concerns me most is that what I hear being touted is this concept of Affordable Housing!  Who is it affordable to?  Certainly not me, or anyone living on a below LICO (Low Income Cut Off, $30,000.).  How are we ever going to provide housing for everyone who needs housing?  We need to do things differently!  This brings me back to the Tiny Housing Community Project.  The basis for a Tiny Housing Community is multi-faceted.  It is an opportunity for those of us who have had little to no community in our lives, to build something inclusive, to restructure community to fit those of us living on the margins.


Whether Tiny Housing is an interim solution does not matter! It is a partial solution to where we are now, in getting to where we want to be, which is providing shelter for everyone who needs it!  The keywords being needs it!