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Mental Health Series Article 1 - "How Dare You?": A Story of Addition

Sandra Gannon, left, spends valuable time with her counsellor Andrea Wrzecionek, who works at the Sister Margaret Smith Centre in Thunder Bay
"How Dare You?": A Story of Addition

Date: 2010-09-14

This is the first of four articles in a series about people living with mental health and/or addiction challenges in our community

She was so hurt and angry! She had just been told she would have to stop drinking if she wanted to keep spending time with her grandchildren.

"How dare you?" thought Sandra Gannon. "Who are you to say this to me? I do not have a drinking problem!" But deep in her heart, she knew she was going downhill fast.

The moment played and re-played itself in her mind. Six months later, Sandra tried to take her own life with a combination of pills and alcohol. Several hours later, family members found her and the empty medicine containers and rushed her to hospital. Sandra's vital organs had already been damaged and the family was told she likely wouldn't survive. Miraculously, she did.

After a lengthy hospital stay, Sandra thought she only had to stop drinking and everything would be all right, but her doctor insisted she go through treatment. She was mortified at the thought of going to a place where 'drunks' went. "I don't want anyone to know about this," was Sandra's initial reaction. The stigma was too great. Her doctor was adamant, and she was referred to Sister Margaret Smith Centre (SMSC).

Sandra entered SMSC fearful and ashamed. But once there, she never looked back. As she puts it, "Taking part in the SMSC treatment program was a life-changing experience. The workshops, self-examination and essays were intense and enlightening. With or without an addiction, anyone going through the program would come out a wiser, better person."

Sandra is a wife, mother, and grandmother. She is a friend and neighbour to many. She is but one of the many faces of addiction today. "I still don't really know how or when this happened," she says. "It just happened. I was a social drinker for years - we were responsible parents, had lots of good friends - and then something went drastically wrong."

She continues, "I am so grateful for this second chance. It would have been a horrible, grave mistake if I hadn't gone into treatment. I've learned so much about addiction and what lies ahead. It opened my mind and gave me the tools to help cope with my life." The self-awareness and resiliency developed in recovery are invaluable in meeting her life challenges.

An on-going relationship with SMSC helps her keep a healthy mind. Twice a month, she attends a women's support group and sees a personal counsellor every few months. With assistance so readily available, Sandra recognizes the wisdom in taking advantage of it. "It helps me stay on track," she says. "Recovery is on-going for me. I know it will be my way of life."

To reach the Sister Margaret Smith Centre call 807.684.5100.

Next week, we visit with a senior citizen. We'll hear of her struggle with mental illness, and ultimately, her success in coping.

By Jessica Cordes
Jessica Cordes is the Public Education Co-ordinator for St. Joseph's Care Group.

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