Some might think why mention this anniversary every year. It’s getting boring.

For me it’s a reminder. Of the night that it all fell apart.

I knew I was sick from the very first time I drank, at about ten years old. Alcohol and drugs masked it and kept me from what was real.

Each time I was sent away I would grasp that golden ring of clarity only to he terrified after the euphoria of sobriety would wear off. On one of those stays I left the hospital ward and drank.

Imagine my parents horror at getting a call of their young daughter escaping from the institution. I took a few people down with me that might, in Vancouver of all places.

I remember sitting on strangers laps on a bus, being alone on a busy street looking for a ride. Being suggestive and basically putting myself in grave danger for any guy that came along.

I was caught at one time by police directing traffic. That’s the call my parents got. That I had gotten away somehow.

I was put in a “quiet room” a cement cell with holes to look out of on the bottom of the door and a mattress in the corner.

It was the same room I seen someone peek out of when I was being admitted. My dad said that was for real crazy people and they would never put a kid in there.

This was insanity. That night felt surreal. I don’t know how I finally got back to St Paul’s. I felt awful and my arms and wrists were black and blue. Rough night.

I used booze and drugs for all the anxiety, depression and visions of absolute raw, bone chilling fear.

The dulling affect was such a wonderful release of those demons. It took many years to realize they were part of me.

Alcohol was my lifeline. My excuse. The spirits kept me in denial of what was actually going on in my mind and body. The drugs kept everything quiet and calm.

All through high school I was stoned. I drank heavily often. I knew it was my only problem. I couldn’t go without it though. It shielded me from the belief that I was worthless, crazy and stupid.

As a young mother I had alcohol stashed everywhere to hide it from my husband. In bathroom cupboards and drawers. I don’t think anyone knew how much I was really drinking. I wrecked that relationship. He eventually moved with my older son.

I drove drunk. I woke up a few times after a blackout to notice my car outside. To this day I thank Christ I didn’t hurt anyone. I left my children to bring the after party to my house. Still my thoughts would split away from the tight fibre of the wall I had woven. It would whisper to me and beckon my attention only to be trampled by another bottle of vodka.

I was selfish, scared and alone. Trapped in my illness without knowing what was wrong. It’s like when you get an itch and can’t quite find it.

It all came to a head finally. I was done. I couldn’t live with myself anymore. I wrote notes to all my siblings and put them aside to he found when the pills I had taken would finally silence those voices of destruction.

When the police showed up I was combative and so angry. I fought them as they took me to the hospital. Someone had shot a huge hole of the door where I had lived with my boyfriend. My life again was in shambles.

So there I was. In court, on my birthday begging for leniency for smashing the window of the police cruiser. Incidentally my brother was at the time a body man who had to fix it. Oops. I know I didn’t mean it because I thought windows were bullet proof. Ha too much tv. The cop wasn’t very nice after that but he became the voice of reason and I agreed to getting my stomach pumped.

I had time to feel at my worst sitting in the hospital after getting flushed out and sobered up.

The judge encouraged, well told me in lieu of payment of the damage I could simply attend treatment. I gave up my second son to his father.

I didn’t drink after that. I attended a couple more treatment centres and tried to put together my life.

I had six children and had postpartum depression with each. I didn’t know anything about it and am sure I suffered it with my first children. Would have made a huge difference had I known.

Without my crutch of mind altering drugs I had to delve into my medical issues. It’s been a nightmare at times. With seeing things and feeling things that would scrape and strip me of any kind of well being.

So here I am more than twenty years later still on my mental health journey. So ya I count each year because it’s taken that long to reveal my true self.

Ten years after I got sober was the first time I heard bipolar. I had been battling depression and experienced my first “high” where I stayed awake for a whole week. I was hospitalized.

The hallucinations and paranoia were debilitating so yes I celebrate each year I have managed to keep away from the escape of booze.

I have faced and conquered so much. I know it’s frowned upon to talk about our success for some reason. I don’t think of it as bragging as much as it is a sign of hope for others who are silent about the beasts they’re fighting.

Each year is a time to reflect how much I have learned. This year in September after trying since 2008 I finally gave in and tried medication for my depression again. I quit everything except the mood stabilizer that lets me sleep after a personal development course.

I have turned a corner again this year. I was guided on a tour in a cedar ceremony that reintegrated my belief I am on the right track. The healer looked me in the eyes and said “the ancestors are sooooo happy you are here, they are so joyful that you never gave up” I began to cry.

I am not less than or weak because I happen to take medication or talk to a counsellor or doctor. In fact it’s a sign of strength to ask for and receive assistance.

It doesn’t make me less capable. I have managed to get my certificate in social services interrupted by a hospital stay. All a’s and b’s. Been employed and counselling people with that special gift of empathy. I would share a bit of my story to assure them nothing they would say would shock me.

I finished many courses and workshops. The latest this past December.

Since September I have improved and feel like my life matters.

My sobriety date is more than just a number.

This year counts just as much as the first. I owe so much of this incredible walk to my children who represent the rewards of sticking around. To my friends who truly boost me up and cheer with me on this and every milestone of my life.

I am intelligent, and I have knowledge that can impact others in a positive way. I have an illness and this does not diminish or make my light shine brighter than the next person.

One more year. I’m here. And it’s a miracle.

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