Lisa’s Story – Lisa* came to CUPS just over a year ago, desperate, determined and 5 months pregnant. She was living at an addictions recovery facility, which she would have to leave once her child was born. Her family had disowned her and she was avoiding her friends as they were all associated with a lifestyle she was fighting to leave behind. Time was passing quickly, where would she and her newborn go?
Lisa had struggled with drug and alcohol addictions for almost 10 years. As a young teenager, she had been sexually assaulted, an event that had consequences into her adult life. By 20, she was in a highly dysfunctional and abusive relationship. She stayed in it for almost 7 years, turning to drugs and alcohol to cope. The relationship ended and other abusive relationships took its place. By then, Lisa was entrenched in a pattern of addiction and crisis followed by sobriety and relapse.
“I got lost somewhere along the way. I was a mess.”
Finding out that she was pregnant jarred Lisa out of her patterns. She quit drinking and using as soon as she found that she was pregnant. When the baby’s father wouldn’t commit to doing the same and was not supportive, she left him and lost her apartment. She also lost one of her two minimum wage jobs due to medical complications with her pregnancy. Clean and sober, her life remained filled with uncertainty and struggle, but she was determined to get her act together before her child was born.
“I was desperate. I didn’t know where to go or what to do. CUPS worked a miracle for me. I felt blessed that day.”
CUPS Housing found subsidized housing for Lisa through a partner agency. At CUPS Family Development Centre, Lisa signed up for the 16 week Nurturing Parenting Program. When she found out about CUPS’ voluntary drug testing program for pre-natal women at the Women’s Health Clinic, she moved her medical care to CUPS. Lisa had no idea how these positive choices were going to impact her in the very near future.
“If you can believe it, I was so excited about the drug testing. It would help keep me accountable.”
Lisa was housed 2 months before her baby was due. With no family contact and still avoiding former friends, she was very isolated. For many addicts, isolation is enough to trigger a relapse, but Lisa remained determined.
”It was easier being alone than even having one person around who wasn’t a positive influence. I kept so busy working, being in pain, being tired.”
Towards the end of her pregnancy, Lisa worked hard to reconnect with her parents; this was another choice that she didn’t yet know the full consequences of. Initially, they were very wary and not impressed with her unexpected pregnancy, but they opened themselves to her and their unborn grandchild.
Soon after, Lisa delivered a healthy baby. At the hospital, she had packed her things, her newborn was in a car seat ready to go and her parents were waiting to drive them home. She was told that a social worker was coming to see her, a normal procedure she thought, but the meeting kept being delayed. When the social worker finally arrived, Lisa was happy to see her and to be that much closer to going home, until she was informed that the woman worked for Child and Family Services and was there to apprehend her child.
“I went to hospital in labour. I was doing all the right things. I’d been clean and sober for almost 8 months. Then they showed up to take my baby away.”
Lisa was stunned. She had not been expecting Child and Family Services involvement, much less for her baby to be apprehended. She was told that she had been flagged due to the baby’s father’s suspected criminal activity and she was told facts about his past that she had been completely unaware of.
Three hours of intensive interviewing of Lisa and her parents followed. Lisa relayed what she had undertaken: getting clean and sober as soon as she discovered that she was pregnant, leaving the unsupportive father, getting into a addictions recovery facility, finding safe and suitable housing for herself and her child, working with CUPS, undergoing voluntary drug testing throughout her pregnancy, registering to attend CUPS’ 16 week Nurturing Parenting Program, re-establishing a relationship with her parents and working to regain their trust, and no longer associating with anyone involved in her previous lifestyle. It was agreed that she would also begin counselling and join a relapse prevention group.
Finally, Lisa and her baby got to go home, but not to their home. An order had been placed; Lisa and her baby would have to stay with her parents.
“I was really working hard to get my life together. I had done it all by myself, and then my parents had to step up yet again to help me out. I did it all on my own, but the only way I could keep my child was to rely on my parents.”
Following confirmation of Lisa’s claims and drug test results and further interviewing, Lisa retained guardianship of her child, but was mandated to stay with her parents for the next 6 months.
“I said to myself, you know what, you put yourself here whichever way you look at it. Even though I was doing well now, look at my past. My child was with me, not gone, not with somebody else. So I couldn’t really complain. There was no reason for me to complain. I can’t just sit there and be mad at the world. It all starts with me.”
The 6 months passed without incident and Lisa and her baby were allowed to leave her parents’ house and finally move into her apartment. Lisa completed 8 months of counselling with a focus on cognitive therapy, which she found very helpful. Her relationship with her parents continued to strengthen. She finished with her relapse group and joined a trauma group. She graduated from CUPS’ Nurturing Parenting Program and feels that the program taught and supported her a great deal in her role as a new mother.
“I’ve made a lot of changes, a lot more than I ever did before. You have to be really serious about making changes, 150% committed. You have to change everything. I’ve heard that a million times before, from past addicts, from agencies, from people. Now I know it’s true.”
Today, Lisa is at CUPS to submit documents for the Lorraine Melchior Bursary Fund. This winter, she will be returning to school. Next fall, she plans to attend university. Knowing that she would either need to return to work or go to school, Lisa wisely put her child on a nursery school waiting list last year. Lisa has completely changed her life and defined a new future for herself. In all likelihood, CUPS Bursary Fund will assist with child care costs and groceries for the next year or so. After that, Lisa will probably be fully incorporated into mainstream society and no longer require CUPS’ assistance.
Lisa arrived at CUPS highly motivated. She was ready to engage with any programs that would support her desire to change her life. With CUPS’ support, Lisa has achieved her goal and is well on her way to realizing her potential as an individual, a daughter and a mother. As a supporter of CUPS, you are also responsible for changing Lisa and her child’s lives for the better. In supporting CUPS, you have made a new and brighter future possible for Lisa and her child. We thank you for the crucial difference you have made.
Lisa has finished her academic upgrading and has been accepted into a competitive university program. She has remained sober and stably housed. Her daughter is doing well. Lisa is very excited about their future.
Very often, CUPS assists people during a difficult time in their lives, thereafter, they move on and are fully independent. This is exactly what we strive for. If CUPS has ever helped you or someone you know during a difficult time, please consider sharing your story with us. Names can be kept confidential. Contact Lorna Curran at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 403-206-0285 with your story.
*The name of this CUPS participant has been changed to protect her privacy.