Sunday, April 27, 2008

Recovering alcoholic calls for programs

Freda doesn't know how long she's been sober. She won't count the days - it's too overwhelming. All that she knows is that she's feeling a sense of hope for the first time since she first started drinking at the age of 17.

That was 35 years, and several lifetimes ago.

On Thursday, she graduated from an addictions treatment program.

One of the keys to the program, she said, was telling her story. It's not a pretty story, nor one she is entirely comfortable telling.

"It's very, very hard on me. I get depressed, a lot of times through my journey," she says.

Denego grew up at Deschambault Lake, and moved to Prince Albert in 1982.

She never finished school.

And, she said, in the last 35 years, alcohol took back far more than it ever gave.

"I lost my husband, my kids and my home," she says. "I never went home. My husband was a mother to the kids - and the father. He's been sober 32 years, now."

Sadness creeps into her voice as she relates that her children are now, like her, facing problems with addictions. Her alcoholism, she admits openly, influenced their lives.

"They followed my footsteps."

Repeatedly, she dwells on the same perspective.

"I didn't see my kids growing up, because of the drinking.

"I'm fighting this addiction for (many) years. There are a few times ... where, I guess it's suicidal, And I get tired of living."

She has seen considerable violence in her life, and she equates alcohol with the violence she has witnessed.

Denego tells of how she recently witnessed a violent crime, but was unable to do anything to prevent it.

"When I see young people drunk, or they do something bad..." she falters, searching for the right words. "What I've seen ... a woman get raped in front of me. I couldn't do anything to help her."

At some point, the booze and its effects on her life became too much to tolerate.

"I got tired of being sick all the time. The doctor warned me about my health. I've got a heart problem, sometimes breathing problems. I was worried about that."

She heard about the merits of an addictions treatment program from other women.

Assistance from her pastor, combined with the addictions treatment program, has been the key to realizing she can craft a new life.

Now, she's asking for the powers-that-be to offer more services to deal with addictions and alcoholism, but specifically programs to aid young people.

"They should have more programs for young people, for addictions, to help themselves as much as they can."

She can't quite explain how she gained the courage to tell her story, other than to say that it seemed to her to be the best way to warn others - specifically youngsters - not to make the same mistakes.

"I don't know. I just wanted somebody to ... I feel bad for the people, feel sorry sometimes. I see a lot of people lost through my time. I see a lot of accidents."

Perhaps it's also a way of cementing her resolve.

"It's time that I do something about my addictions. I want to talk about them," she said.

Now, at the age of 52, she counters the darkness of her past by speaking optimistically of a future.

Simple goals. Achievable goals.

"It's time to change my life around. I want to go back to school, to get a job."

And sobriety?

She won't count the days. Her battle is ongoing. Indeed, as many recovering alcoholics discover, the battle never ends.

"I'm just taking it one day at a time. If I count the days, I'll start all over again."

source: Prince Albert Daily Herald

No comments: