My people. They get it and they don’t try to fix it. My people listen and hug me and remind me I am loved and doing great. I am loved and I’m doing great! Yes, that is true. Sometimes, I am loved and not doing great, that’s just as real.

I was a mother of two and nearly twenty-three years old when I got clean and sober. A counsellor named George helped me to see there was more to life than substance abuse and a marriage destroyed by domestic violence and addiction. George met me where I was at and helped me move along the path to a better way of living. He introduced me to authors whose work changed my thinking and my life’s trajectory. George would say at the end of every appointment, “You haven’t had your best day yet, kid!” He was right.

Wayne, my AA sponsor found me pretty humorous. He would chuckle while I belly-ached about something or someone, then give me some wisdom to live by via a question like, “Who can you change?” or  “What’s your part in this?” He would remind me, “This thing isn’t gonna crawl up your ass and into your heart, sweetheart! You gotta do the work!” Wayne was the first man I knew in my soul, loved me for me. He never expected a thing from me. He also did not believe my bullshit. He was the first man I trusted with my truth, no holds. 

Those were the early days of change for me. I was a single mom and trying to figure out a creed to live by. I was learning to adopt the 12-Step program into my way of life along with the wisdom of authors like Leo Buscaglia and Hugh Prather. 

Since those days I have been blessed by the addition of tremendous women into my life, the same women I have walked the path with for more than twenty-five years. Most of these women hail from the addiction recovery world, however, two come from my church background and a couple of them are past colleagues. Two recovery women in particular, made the ride much richer and more bearable because they chose to love me no matter what. Wendy and Anne stayed the course, whether I was sitting, singing or squawking. Forever, I will be grateful for the heavy blanket of unconditional love and acceptance they have covered me in.

Being connected to others has been life-restoring for me. My journey has been shaped by all kinds of learning; physical, emotional, spiritual. A few years ago, I read enjoy every sandwichby Lee Lipsenthal, M.D. (2011). In the book he speaks to what we can do when we are living within “four small walls” of pain, depression, self-pity, etc., those things that make us stuck:

“…scratch away with prayer, meditation, yoga, exercise, laughter, art, movement, gratitude, acceptance, and love. Scratch away with the knowledge that there is so much more to life than what we imagine it to be. There is so much to death than what we imagine it to be. And there is so much more to living and loving and being than can be seen from inside our little walled-in world. If you choose not to, there is no one else to blame.” Lee Lipsenthal, M.D. (p.193)

Long before I read his book, I had utilized all of Lipsenthal’s suggestions. I add to his list, my own items that encourage growth and change in me: therapy, 12-Step meetings, service to others, workshops, silent retreats, running, writing and reading. Where would I be without writing and reading?! 

I just keep making the effort, and when I am unable or unwilling to do what is needed, I have folks in my life who encourage me, wait for me, push me, sit with me, pray with me, and prod me when it is time to change forward. These are my people, changelings like me, people doing the work, the ones whose magic fairies have not yet climbed up their asses into their hearts to fix everything. These are the ones who stayed, they are tellers of their own truth, they light the path should the path be of interest or need to others. It is a path of love. And I am surrounded by it, enveloped in its juicy, healing heat.

The Red Plaid Rambler

Lipsenthal, L. (2011). enjoy every sandwich. New York, NY: Random House Inc.

We had whiteout conditions in Calgary and were going to send everyone home as soon as they arrived because it was too late to notify everyone that we intended to cancel.

People kept arriving so we decided to have a check-in anyway at least, and ended up having a fantastic, albeit short, meet-up.

Two topics we focused on:

Where do our loved ones go when they need help or support themselves, when they’re trying to help us?

  • Online resource: Heather Tuba, providing trauma-informed support to partners (and others) of survivors.
  • CMHA Calgary has drop-in groups for families or caregivers (anyone supporting a loved one or friend).

What free (or low-cost) resources are available that we may or may not know about that we can access ourselves or recommend to a loved one?

  • Calgary Counselling Centre: The link to their website takes you right to their main page where there’s a list of five things you need to know about Calgary Counselling Centre, including their fee structure (sliding scale, no financial barrier, so essentially free if you cannot afford service. It’s a full-service menu, so be sure to ask for what you want, i.e., if talk therapy doesn’t work for you, but you want to try EMDR, or somatic therapy, etc., be sure to tell them in the intake call. There is no wait list either, once you’ve completed the intake form, you will receive a call to set up an appointment within three to five business days.  Day, evening and Saturday appointments are available.
  • Carya  provides trauma-based counselling to individuals, families, and groups; available on either a “brief” 8 – 10 sessions format or longer-term; there is a wait list but they have just hired more staff so it should be shorter soon; also based on sliding scale format; locations in downtown Calgary and Forest Lawn:
  • Catholic Family Services: You do not have to be Catholic or religious to access their free services and several community members have suggested them:
  • Primary Care Network (PCN): You can ask your family doctor for a referral to the PCN for counselling. They have locations throughout the city so you are able to access this resource in your quadrant. They do an intake with you over the phone and then connect you with an AHS therapist who best suits your needs, including EMDR, CBT, and other modalities.

*Please note these resources were provided by our community members as resources they have either used or have been recommended by their own therapists. We are sharing them as possible ways to access help but encourage you to look for what suits you and will support your healing.

Remember when you are looking for support that it may take more than one try to find someone who suits your needs, and that’s okay. Advocate for yourself. What works for one may not work for another and it’s important to recognize that in pursuing your healing journey.