When Marie sits in front of a sewing machine, she lights up with confidence. Her hands seem to know innately what they’re doing. This realm of creativity is a place of security for her—something she had been searching for since she was a child.
Marie became a mother at the age of 18 after surviving a traumatic childhood of parental neglect due to their struggles with addiction. “Parenthood was the most amazing thing,” she reflects. “I never knew what it was to love, because growing up, I didn’t feel loved.” Even though being a parent was transformative, after her third child was born Marie found herself still searching for something. To fill that void, Marie turned to alcohol.
Life quickly became “chaotic”, Marie describes. She often would awake after being passed out from drinking, to find her children gone. The family Marie had desired so strongly in her youth was slowly unraveling. “When my kids weren’t with me,” Marie says, “I would walk through the house from bed to bed and lay in each one wondering, ‘Why can’t I stop? Why is this happening?’”
I never knew what it was to love, because growing up, I didn’t feel loved.Tweet this
Unable to manage her drinking in order to care for her children, Marie moved to Vancouver in an effort to get sober, but the struggles with addiction continued. What followed was almost ten years of bouts of sobriety ending in painful relapses triggered by stressful jobs, tumultuous relationships, and a self-professed ‘workaholic’ nature.
In August of 2015 Marie woke up after having been blackout drunk for five days. The feeling of withdrawing from a prolonged binge was something she had never experienced before. “I was so sick from alcohol poisoning,” Marie recalls. “It was the first time throughout my drinking I realized alcohol kills. I was so scared I was going to die right then and there.”
The next afternoon, Marie was admitted into detox and under careful supervision she ended up recovering sooner than expected. After two weeks her detox counsellor mentioned The Sanctuary at UGM, which excited Marie. “I was willing,” she explains. “When I woke up from that relapse, I knew I wasn’t in control of what was happening in my life. I had to give everything up and just surrender.”
In less than a week, Marie walked into The Sanctuary, ready to start her next chapter. “What was vital for me about the Sanctuary was the love,” she says. “I felt very cared for. There was something about being there that just kept restoring my faith.”
I felt very loved and cared for. There was something about being there that just kept restoring my faith.Tweet this
That same fall, thanks to a donation of several sewing machines, Marie found herself enthralled with sewing. “It was like my talents that were always there were finally coming out,” she explains. It’s important for people doing the hard work of recovery to be productive and practice positive skills that reinforce their beliefs in their abilities. To encourage this, The Sanctuary has instilled a new Peer Leadership Program that encourages residents and alumni to gain self-esteem by sharing their skills, and expanding their work experience.
Within weeks Marie developed not only as a sewer, but also as a leader, often taking the initiative to learn new patterns and techniques before teaching them to other Sanctuary residents. Sewing quickly became a thread of therapy that connected her with other women in The Sanctuary. “They would be sewing and they would be so comfortable with me that they’d start talking about their lives,” Marie explains. “I think it’s good for them to connect with someone who lived there and has had similar outside experiences.”
Today, Marie focuses on giving back to her new community as a way to focus on her sobriety. In December, she moved out of The Sanctuary and into UGM’s Affordable Housing, allowing her to remain nearby. “Thanks to my last relapse, I have so much more self-awareness,” Marie explains. “I have a relationship with God now, after shutting the door on Him.”
The close-knit relationships she’s built with Sanctuary residents, and others in the UGM community continue to propel Marie forward in her recovery, while enabling her to bolster other women in their own journeys. “The Sanctuary has meant so much to my life,” Marie says. “If it weren’t for my relapse, I wouldn’t have been there. I wouldn’t have the relationships with people in my life who’ve been the biggest supporters I’ve ever had in my life.”
Marie has found that community and security she longed for as a child. “I feel like I’m home, when I’m at the Sanctuary,” she explains. “I would say it’s like family.”