I was born in New Westminster, but we moved out to Saskatchewan when I was three. Because my parents were struggling with addiction, they thought a small town would protect us from that lifestyle.
After ending up in a new small town all over again, kids in my new school were making fun of me, my mom, and saying all kinds of crappy things. I really didn’t like it, and I didn’t want to be at home anymore.
My mom and I were constantly fighting. She hadn't gotten the help she needed to help me in the way that she wanted, so it got out of hand. The harder she tried keeping me from the mistakes she made, the more I rebelled.
I first smoked weed out of peer pressure, and when I was 12, I was introduced to crystal meth. I was running away from home and doing drugs so often that I was eventually taken into the Saskatoon foster care system.
That’s when I started doing everything: alcohol, mushrooms, meth, coke, ecstasy. At that point, I was running to escape the problems of reality. I would go out and get high to feel free from all the chaos.
After eight months, my social worker showed up and said, “You’ve run out of every single facility. We’re sending you back with your mom.” Again, there was so much fighting. I couldn’t stand it. It wasn’t a positive environment to be in; I needed to get out of there.
I went to school in Regina, but dropped out in grade 12 because I needed to support myself. I was working full time to pay rent, but ended up getting back into ecstasy and partying — and it got pretty bad.
It got to a point where I was all over the place; I was crashing on people’s couches and before I knew it, I didn’t have a home or really any cares.
For a couple years, I had good jobs and was working really hard. At a retailer, I moved up the work chain really quickly. Within a year, I opened and was managing my own store — it felt very amazing.
But then, the head office made some sudden changes. My store fell under a new district manager, who wanted an experienced manager running the store. One day, I showed up to work and she basically said I could either keep working, which would’ve been extremely awkward, or take three weeks of severance pay and leave.
That set me off the deep end; I was so upset and broken. I went back to drugs, ended up losing my place, resorted to desperate money making endeavors, was sleeping on couches — and wound up living in a drug house.
This guy turned out to be really dangerous. He took full advantage of me being a naive 21-year-old. He was extremely manipulative, and physically and mentally abusive.
In 2015, my ex and I took a big trip from Saskatchewan and ended up here in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. I didn’t really think I was ever going to get away from him, but we got into a big fight and he split my head open.
It’s bad it had to end up that way, but I’m happy it finally got me in the right direction. I charged him, got a restraining order, and haven’t seen him again. But I wasn’t with another guy for 2.5 years after that; I didn’t want to be around anyone emotionally or romantically ever again.
In March 2018, I found out that my stepbrother got into a head on collision and passed away. When it hit me, I crumpled to the floor and was hyperventilating. It felt like someone punched me in the stomach.
Then in October, I got a call from my mom saying that my dad had passed away. He was on life support — they’d rushed him to the hospital, but there was nothing they could do for him.
I felt a lot of guilt for not being at home, but I wrote a poem which helped me feel a lot better. I actually entered it into a contest with the Poetry Institute of Canada, and it ended up being published in one of their books.
Shortly after we broke up, I found out I was pregnant. When we were together, I had gotten pregnant a couple times, but I miscarried — because I wasn’t in a very healthy state. So I just assumed that’s what would happen.
But when another miscarriage didn’t happen, I started thinking, “Maybe, for this first time, this could be what I need to turn my life around.” If I didn’t have this as motivation, then I didn’t think it was ever really gonna happen.
I applied to Fir Square, a unit at BC Women’s Hospital that helps pregnant women and new mothers stabilize and transition from using to recovery. And when you have your baby, you can keep custody of them. But for the rest of my pregnancy, there were no beds available.
I started going to Sheway, a pregnancy outreach program in the Downtown Eastside. The doctors wanted to start me on methadone so I could get off dope, but in the place I was living, I was surrounded by drugs. It was impossible to get sober there, and I had nowhere else to go.
Being in a safe place with the right medication meant all my needs were met. That allowed me to focus on the only thing left to get through: delivering my son. And that felt incredible.
I was lucky enough that when Payton was born, he wasn’t going through severe withdrawals. Lots of babies who are born addicted to drugs need morphine for the first bit, but he didn’t need morphine at all.
I got into Fir Square four days later. Before that, I was really nervous to talk about using during my pregnancy because I was scared I was going to lose him.
But now that I knew I was finally in a place where I could stay sober, I set up a file with the Ministry, and they started looking at getting me into housing so I could stay with my baby while stabilizing.
I was so stressed out and worried. If I didn’t get into the Sanctuary, I didn’t know what I was going to do. When UGM finally told me I got the place — oh my gosh, I was so relieved. It was like the world was off my shoulders.
When I first got to the Sanctuary, I kept to myself. I’m a little miss independent, and figured I was better off not getting close to anyone because I was used to not being able to trust. But that’s really hard in a place with 24/7 support, and people constantly offering you help.
I’m really happy I decided to open up and start getting to know the staff, because I wound up having really positive relationships. I'm extremely grateful for them.
The thing I struggled with most was that I used drugs during my pregnancy. But being at the Sanctuary taught me something profound: how to forgive myself.
The UGM staff made me feel better because they saw how well I was doing, commented on my relationship with my son, and told me I’m a good mom. They provided loving support and positive reinforcements on a daily basis.
I kept in mind what they were saying about how far I’d come. If I didn’t have that encouragement, I would’ve had a harder time moving forward. I wouldn’t have made it to where I am right now.
I started believing this all has to be the work of something bigger. There are too many beautiful things that’ve come out of such a tragic situation for it to be anything other than God.
The first time I thought about God was when I realized I was still pregnant and not miscarrying. It was a very tiny thought in the back of my mind. But as the pregnancy progressed, the more perfect it all seemed, and I started believing there has to be a higher power.
When I was moving out of the Sanctuary, Helga, the Program Coordinator, said a little prayer for me. She told me how God is like a father to the fatherless — and because Payton’s dad isn’t in his life a whole lot right now, it was the sweetest thing.
When I was looking for new housing, a lot of places weren’t bringing in new people because of the pandemic. I ended up in a harm reduction house. For my recovery, I’d rather be in an abstinence-based home — but I’m happy we have a roof over our heads.
It’s nice to still live close to the Sanctuary and Sheway for my coaching sessions with Korena, UGM’s Sanctuary Aftercare Coordinator, and counselling at Sheway. If I had gotten housing further away, it would’ve been harder to make it to those things.
The most meaningful part of my internship at the Sanctuary is the opportunity to help even just one person. Especially with COVID-19 and all its limits, it’s really nice to have a mission with a deep sense of purpose.
Though it’s strange to be walking around the Sanctuary in a different set of shoes, it was just the right time in my life for it — and I now feel better equipped to keep walking in my recovery journey.
I’ve been so blessed from the beginning with Payton. Every morning when we wake up, the first thing I see is a smile on his face. He’s the sweetest boy ever. One of his favourite things is to climb on my lap and read books together. We’ve read every single book we own over and over.
I’m just so happy because there are already so many things that are going to be different for him, compared to when I was a child.
Now that I’m not spending my money on drugs, there are so many great things I can put it toward. It’s nice to know I’m never going to struggle like my parents did to afford things, because they were trying to afford their habits as well.
And I think that’s going to make the world of a difference. While my sister and I had to be our own parents and deal with things kids shouldn’t have to, I can’t wait to make sure my son has every opportunity possible to learn, explore, and experience his childhood.
Payton was meant to be in a million and one ways. I thank God every single day for blessing me with him — I really can’t imagine my life without him.
As we all begin emerging from a year of unknowns, here at Union Gospel Mission, we are looking toward the future with a definite sense of hope. I’m overjoyed to share that this Fall, the doors to UGM’s new Women & Families Centre are opening! Here, women and their children will have access to a strong, faith-based continuum of care—so that they can begin, and sustain transforming their families out of poverty, homelessness, and addiction for good.
In this issue of Gratitude, you read about how your current compassion has empowered mothers like Katrina. She is just one out of the countless lives that your loving care has helped restore over the years; we can only begin to imagine all the inspiring generational change that will unfold with extended programming!
From our heart to yours, we sincerely thank you. We feel incredibly blessed to partner with our UGM family in this mission, and are so grateful to God for leading the way. My prayer is that you feel so encouraged, knowing that hope is coming in a time and to a community where it is much-needed—and that it will all be possible because of caring people like you.
William B. MollardPresident
$150 helps 45 people in need.