I’ve had experiences in my life that I would have never wished on my worst enemy and on more than one occasion I found myself wondering what I did to deserve any of it. Reflecting back over my life and that question, I understand now that I didn’t do anything to deserve those misfortunes, but more importantly, God was shaping me through those experiences into the person I am today.
My name is Brittney, and I was in active addiction for 15-plus years. It started with what I thought at the time to be typical teenage curiosity—drinking alcohol and smoking pot on the weekends. Each year passed, my addiction grew stronger, and the void in me grew deeper. I spent a season with every substance you think of, searching for something to make me feel whole and in the end, I was left with a full-blown, out-of-control opiate addiction. This is my story.
I was born in a rural area of central Manitoba in 1991, and my family lived on a grain farm that my father had inherited from his family. I had two older siblings, a brother and a sister, 10 and 11 years older than me. A year and a half later, my younger brother was born.
My father struggled to make ends meet as a farmer, getting further and further into debt each year until he eventually gave up and went up north to work. So, growing up, he wasn’t around a whole lot—both of my parents were heavy alcoholics, and paired with that, my dad also used other drugs recreationally. Growing up in an alcoholic home was never easy, but that dysfunction was all I knew, so it was my normal. I know my parents loved me very much, but sadly, due to addiction, my siblings and I suffered some neglect and came second most of the time.
My father was physically abusive towards my mother, and they often fought when they drank. Some of my earliest memories are of laying awake at night listening to dishes smashing, furniture breaking, yelling and screaming from outside my bedroom door. I remember one night – it must have gotten so bad my mother couldn’t take it anymore. She woke my brother and me up in the middle of the night; it was Christmas Eve. She quietly rushed us into the vehicle that was packed full of our stuff, and we left. I remember feeling very confused with so many unanswered questions, but I was also only seven years old and couldn’t fully comprehend what was happening. We ended up bouncing around different women’s shelters in different towns for a while until we settled in Brandon, MB and my parents got a divorce.
Very soon after the divorce, my mom began dating and had many different men coming in and out of the home. My father, on the other hand, never put himself out there again and became a very bitter and lonely man. I spent a lot of time going between the two homes,
Jumping several years ahead, there was a turning point in my life at age 14. One of my sister’s much older friends took advantage of me at a party. My innocence was stolen that night, and my curiosity about drugs and alcohol became a new way for me to cope. At that time, I didn’t feel a sense of safety at home because I didn’t try to tell anyone what had happened to me. It was a dark secret I held on to for most of my life, letting it poison me year after year until I began my recovery journey. I was finally opened up about it for the first time at Adeara.
I graduated from high school in 2009, and at that time, I had hopes and dreams of becoming an underwater welder. I took the steps necessary to begin that process by obtaining my journeyman/reseal in welding and a B-pressure ticket, but because of my addictions, that dream quickly faded and felt out of reach.
For a long time I thought I maintained this functioning addict persona. When in reality, I was actually in denial. I thought because I managed to graduate high school, could hold down a job, had a place of my own and a car that my problem wasn’t as bad as other people. What I failed to see at that time was my life was slowly spiralling out of control. I went from one toxic relationship to the next; looking back, it’s almost as if I was following in my mother’s footsteps. I knew I didn’t want to be like her but I didn’t know how to be anything else. Just as the generational curse of addiction was wreaking havoc on my life, so was one codependent relationship with abusive partners after another.
In 2011, life hit me with an unexpected twist. My dad was diagnosed with cancer, giving him only a few months to live. In June, on Father’s Day in 2011, my dad took his last breath in the hospital. I remember receiving the call like it was yesterday. I was ignoring the first few calls in a row, with a sick to my stomach feeling because deep down, I already knew why they were calling. It was hard for me to lose my father. I think it’s hard for anyone to lose a parent. I was still so young, and I felt robbed of the time we should have been able to share together.
After my father’s death, I started to experiment with morphine, and so my opiate addiction began.
My life wasn’t as peaches as I thought anymore. My employer started noticing a change in my performance, and my attendance became a problem for them until I was eventually let go from my long-term welding job. My family also began to question my sudden weight loss and my overall attitude, so in an attempt to hide the severity of my addiction, I packed up all my things and moved to Alberta.
It was challenging moving to Alberta. I didn’t know anyone here other than the guy I was dating. I got a few odd jobs here and there, but nothing lasted, and I turned to the streets and prostitution to generate enough income to support my growing opiate habit. I quickly became hooked on prostitution, just the same as all the other addictions I had and became someone I never thought I could be. Someone I never wanted to be.
In 2019, I was so deep in my addiction that I hardly ever answered calls from my family, which is one of my biggest regrets. In December 2019, I was informed that my mother had died in a horrific car accident. My mother and her husband were travelling on the highway when they hit a deer; it flew through her side of the window and killed her on impact.
My mom really wanted me to go to treatment, which was the reason I rarely answered her calls. In some ways, I feel like her death shook me up so much it shook me straight because a short while after, I found myself in treatment for the first time.
Six months into my first treatment, I became overconfident and decided to discontinue my recovery program, leaving early against the advice of my health support. It’s a sad reality that relapse can be a part of recovery. I ended up relapsing, and looking back; I believe I needed that experience in many ways. It helped me understand the joy I found in recovery and being sober. I soon realized how much easier it was to live a life in recovery than struggling in addiction. Do not get me wrong, it’s not always easier to feel emotions and deal with your baggage as it comes up, but it is much easier than spending every waking moment trying to numb it out.
Two weeks into my second treatment stay, I discovered I was pregnant. I am so grateful for second chances and the grace I was shown by the people around me and the Lord, of course! My opportunity to be a mother is an opportunity to break the generational curse, and with that, I plan to provide my son with a future I was never offered. I love him to the moon and back a million times over, and each day, I’m learning to love myself a little more, too. It took me a really long time to realize that being honest with my feelings doesn’t make me weak; it makes me stronger. I find great strength in knowing that both my parents are in heaven with Jesus, and the three of them are looking down on me, proud of the work I’ve done. Because through Jesus, recovery is possible.
By Brittney (not pictured)