Growing up I was a very vibrant and energetic kid who just wanted to play.
My dad was a single father who had to work long, hard hours to support us. Although families from the church stepped in to help raise my sister and I, I remember feeling like there was something off. It wasn’t until I was 14 that I found out my mother had been an alcoholic, and I had spent the first year of my life in foster care.
With that knowledge came a lot of shame. The darker side of me started to grow and the lighter side – the vibrant and energetic side – was pushed away.
I found myself in survival mode. How am I going to feed myself? My parents aren’t home. How am I going to support myself? My parents aren’t around. I grew up into an adult overnight.
During this time I was also living with undiagnosed ADHD. I would struggle getting homework done and then I would get in trouble from teachers because I couldn’t control my mouth, or focus, or do what the other neuro-typical kids could do. I often felt unwanted, different, and not good enough.
Up until 18 I didn’t drink fearing what I knew about my mom. But my first year of university was difficult, and I was faced with more school and more stress and more pressure. I remember wondering what everyone else did to cope, and eventually alcohol became my solution.
When I had my first drink all of the negative messages in my head just stopped. For the first time in years I felt like I could be myself. Alcohol gave me the liquid courage I craved.
But the thing with addiction is that it builds. I went from one glass of wine on a Friday night to drinking every day before and after class. The messages in my head only got louder and I did what I had to do to quiet them. It snowballed from there.
I didn’t care who I hurt or what I had to do. I did a lot of shameful things to be able to afford alcohol. I lost my spirit and soul, trading them in for the next fix. But it wasn’t the substance I was craving – I was craving peace of mind and connection with others.
In January 2018, I ended up in a treatment program. After graduating I thought about going to the Calgary Dream Centre’s Women’s Housing, but I felt confident that I could beat this on my own.
Unfortunately, treatment was kind of like a bubble, and when I was on my own those negative messages came back. This time, though, I didn’t have alcohol to cope. I’d struggled with suicidal tendencies since I was 15, but now they grew stronger.
The next year was a cycle of suicide attempts, reaching out for help, and then falling back down. I needed a job to afford my apartment, but the stress of my job would overtake my mental health and I would end up back in that dark, hopeless place time and time again.
After a year of struggling, it was finally time to get in contact with the Dream Centre. There was a waitlist, but I got on it. I found myself in a place where I could no longer afford my apartment and was being turned away from every resource I reached out to. I was petrified of falling into homelessness and was filled with so much anger towards God and others.
I was a week out from losing my home when the Dream Centre called to say they had a bed available, and I could move in right away. I started crying on the phone. It was the biggest relief because I finally felt safe.
Shortly after moving into the apartments, I started working at the Dream Centre’s Lighthouse Mission Café as a barista. This has been incredible for my recovery.
In the past, I was always petrified that one slip up would cause me to lose my job, and that stress would cause me to spiral into a dark place. But at the Lighthouse Mission Café, they tell me my recovery comes first. It’s like a massive weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
Since 12 years old I have been grabbing onto anything even if I knew the branch I was reaching for might give away. Moving into the Dream Centre and working at the café has given me the safety net I need to focus on my recovery.
I finally feel human again. I am full of hope and faith. That vibrant, energetic Kristyna is back, and I couldn’t be more thankful.