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After decades of battling an extreme drug addiction that left me working on the streets, I got clean and moved to Kelowna in search of a new beginning. I was finally sober, but still had so much healing to do to avoid relapsing. 

I always dreamed of having a normal life but never thought I deserved it. My childhood was very difficult, and I left home to live on Vancouver’s Hastings Street at the age of 14. Soon after I became addicted to drugs and had to turn to prostitution to support myself and my habit. It was terrible and I found myself in severely abusive and traumatic situations that I still suffer from today.

My addiction became even more extreme into my 30’s as I started using harder drugs. At that point I had tried detox dozens of times, but nothing seemed to last. Every relapse just brought on more depression and anger. I had completely given up and became even more reckless, not caring whether I lived.

To anyone who hasn’t experienced addiction, I would describe it as living the worst day of your life every single day. It feels like an endless cycle, trying to numb this never-ending pain. I was constantly fighting to have drugs in my system just to function.

My divine intervention came when a woman who was working near my usual spot was found brutally murdered overnight. That same night I had a weird feeling and had friends walk me home early, it really could have been me. I went from wanting to die, to almost dying and it was a wakeup call. I knew I was skating on thin ice and continuing down this path would only lead to a horrible ending.

I started treatment for the umpteenth time and began the step work. I persevered and am so happy to say I succeeded! After finishing rehab, I moved to Kelowna to distance myself from my past life. 
Although I was clean, I still had an immense amount of work ahead of me to avoid relapsing and to heal a lifetime of pain. During a past stint in detox, I had been encouraged to participate in the Sun Run. At the time, I thought they were crazy as I was coming off methadone, but I found working out had in incredible impact on my body and spirit.


Serena chatting with one of the fitness trainers

Remembering how much exercise had helped, I used some free passes a local non-profit gave me to visit H2O Adventure + Fitness Centre. I loved the gym and the friendly staff, and I felt revived after working out. I knew I needed to make the gym part of my routine, but didn’t think I could afford it. Fortunately, I qualified for YMCA Financial Assistance and was able to become a member at H2O.

It means the world to be able to come in and take my anger out on the cardio equipment. I’ve learned how to channel my frustrations in a positive way and it’s really fueled me. This is my happy place, and it’s provided me with healthy coping skills and improved my motivation and energy levels. It’s been vital to my healing.

Getting active here helps keep my depression at bay. I have been diagnosed with PTSD, BPD, Hypervigilance, and more. Even when my trauma comes back, I know that getting out of bed to come here three times a week is enough for my endorphins. I’ve experienced some dark weeks when coming here was all I could get out of bed for, but this place still kept me moving forward on the right path. 

You have no idea how much it means that someone has donated to the YMCA of Okanagan to make my membership possible. Without this support, I really don’t think I would be this far along. I am fighting for my life on a daily basis, and I can’t put into words the amount of gratitude I feel for the help I’ve received. 

Supporting the Y is an incredible way to help our community in ways most don’t even understand. This place is more than a gym to work out at, it empowers individuals to work on their mental health, their healing, their self-esteem, and any invisible demons they may be fighting. 

Now, I am proud to say that I’ve been sober for almost 6 years! I am happy and doing well although I am still working on my healing. My membership has helped me stay sober, manage my mental health issues, and work through significant trauma. The more that I heal the more peace and freedom I experience. I may have had a terrible beginning, but I’m now excited for my future and intend to live the rest of my life on a good note.