From Tragedy to Triumph
/ Author: CLAC Staff
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From Tragedy to Triumph

When you’re struggling with an addiction, it’s easy to think that you’re alone and don’t have any help—but you do

By Heather, 2021 Matthew Manuel Memorial Award Recipient 

On October 4, 2020, at around 6:30 p.m., I hit rock bottom. I was in a single-vehicle car accident. I totalled my car and was charged with a DUI. It was nine days before my 49th birthday. 

That was my wake-up call. I knew then that I was struggling with alcohol use, and I needed treatment. I honestly don’t know how my struggles with alcohol started, but I do know it runs in families.

My dad was an alcoholic. After he passed away in 2017, that’s when I started to drink a lot more. 

Any addiction is not good or okay. It’s a way of coping with the pain of our past or present lives, and it’s the only way we know how to deal with it. 

At the time, I was a Local 63 member working as a flagger for KGL Constructors on the Southwest Calgary Ring Road. After the accident, I contacted the company and let them know what had happened and that I needed to be laid off so I could get help. Thankfully, they were very understanding. 

Reaching out for help was such a difficult first step. Just admitting out loud to myself that I struggle with alcohol and that I needed help—that was the hardest part. Making myself vulnerable and asking for help was the next step. 

I called my CLAC representatives, and they put me in touch with a CLAC alcohol and drug case manager. I was desperate for help but scared to death of what that would mean. I had an assessment done on my condition, was referred to a counsellor, and given a link to a local AA meeting. 

In my preassessment, I was told that I needed to go to a detox centre and treatment facility. At first I was dead set against it and said there was no way I was going anywhere. But I was told that my condition to return to work was that I got treatment, so I reluctantly agreed. 

I was accepted into Aventa Centre of Excellence for Women with Addictions in Calgary. My original entry date was January 7, 2021, but I told the facility admissions that if I was home for the holidays, I was surely going to relapse.

I got a phone call on December 18, 2020, letting me know that they had a room available for me. I eagerly accepted and was packed up and checked into the facility by dinnertime that same day. 

It was the best place I could’ve gone. And I’m so appreciative of all the help I received. 

But there was a major bump in the road on January 13, 2021, when there was a COVID outbreak at the treatment centre. We were all confined to our rooms for five and a half days. We were eating, sleeping, spending entire days in our rooms and only let out twice a day for smoke breaks. 

By the fifth day of quarantine, I was ready to leave. I was going to quit with only one and a half weeks left in the program. I couldn’t handle being cooped up anymore. It felt like a low point again, and I started getting into my own head. 

I called my alcohol and drug case manager, and she encouraged me to tough it out. I’m so glad I did. I survived the six weeks of treatment and the five and a half days of confinement.

I graduated the program on January 27, 2021, at 105 days sober. I was excited but scared out of my mind to go back to reality. 

But I had a routine, I worked on myself, and I’ve been thriving. Although I still have bad days where I’m tempted to drink, I get by with the help of my family, friends, and my alcohol and drug case manager. 

My kids are so proud of me. They’re 25, 26, and 27. They were my biggest supporters from the get-go, and they always say to me, “Mom, you can do this!” They’re so proud of my whole healing journey. 

When you’re struggling with an addiction, it’s easy to think that you’re alone and don’t have any help. But you do. You have it more than you think you do. There are people who care and people who can help you. 

To anyone who’s struggling with substance use, I urge you to find the courage to reach out for help. You are not alone, and yes, you can do this! I’m proof that it can be overcome, and you can thrive. 

At first, I was so scared to admit I had a problem to my employer and my union representatives. It’s embarrassing, and it brought up so many emotions. 

But now I’m on the other side of it, and I want to help others. My godmother reached out to me a couple months ago and told me about another family member who is looking for help with addictions. I got her in touch with support, and I’m an example of what it looks like to be recovered. 

As of June 15, 2022, I will be 20 months sober. Because of what I went through, I want to help others in a more meaningful way. I’m nearly done school to be an addictions counsellor and community service worker. It’s my way of turning tragedy into triumph. 

We're Here for You

If you or someone you love struggles with drug and alcohol use, CLAC’s drug and alcohol case managers can help. 

Call 1-877-863-5154 or email 

You can also find resources about substance use and recovery on the ADCM page in


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