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Barrie Benches, Coffee and Conversation

Karalyn is 32 years old but she really didn’t start living until February 22nd, 2019.  That’s the day she was admitted into RVH Mental Health Inpatient Unit because she wanted to take her own life.  She was homeless, unemployed and saw no way out of the dark hole of addiction.

“As soon as I had my first drink in High School, I knew it was a problem. I never drank like a normal person. I could keep going and going, I was a black out drinker. I remember the first time I ever drank, for the first time ever, I felt comfortable with myself. I could talk to anyone. But then towards the end of my drinking, it had the opposite affect.”

Well as life happens – Karalyn met a guy.  He was in the military and got deployed to Alberta – he took Karalyn with him.  She got a great job in a law firm.  Then that relationship ultimately ended because of her drinking.

“I moved into a little basement apartment and that’s when things started to get really bad. I’d just gone thru that breakup and I had no one to answer to. That was the first time I started losing track of days at a time. I was 26 then.

The apartment had no windows, like there was one tiny little window in my bedroom and I’m not blaming the windows. But it was like being in a casino, you just don’t know what day it is, what time it is. I was in a really dark place then. I had to take a leave from work to sort myself out. Well, it was a forced leave. I used the time to drink and use. Eventually I did go back and made up some lie about going to treatment. It’s hard to remember the details.”

That’s when Karalyn tried to make a change.  She moved to a new apartment and thought that the new place would solve her problems.  It didn’t.  So Karalyn did a 28 day program in Ft McMurray.

“I remember when I got home, I never thought I was done drinking. I thought I’d learn controlled drinking. For an alcoholic, there is no such thing. I stayed sober for about a month and then relapsed. I got laid off from the law firm and had too much time on my hands and I got lonely and bored. That’s when I got my first Impaired Driving charge. “

Karalyn is so grateful that she didn’t hurt anybody.  It could have been so much worse.  She did eventually get her license back and a new job.  But it just didn’t end there because Karalyn wasn’t super committed to sobriety. In fact, things were about to get much darker.

She Needed an Outfit to Die In

“I had a new boyfriend (now ex) and he got deployed for a month at that time. I was collecting EI. That’s when I got into drugs. I always dabbled a bit in drugs, but alcohol was my main thing. My Mom flew out to stay with me because she knew I was having a hard time. I left her at my house and went to another town to meet my drug dealer. I bought an ounce of cocaine and vodka with the intention of checking into a hotel and overdosing. All I had with me was the clothes on my back. So I went into Mark’s Work Wearhouse to buy something. I realized that I was looking for an outfit to die in. I was in such a jumbled head space, I didn’t see a way out. Things didn’t go as planned because I am still here. Thank God.”

That’s when Karalyn went for treatment the second time.  A 45 day inpatient program in Alberta.  This time, Karalyn stayed sober for a year and a couple months.  She thought she had control this time.  Her parents spent 18 grand for the treatment.  Money became her new obsession because she was determined to pay her parent’s back.

“When I relapsed, I remember thinking I’d just have a couple of drinks. On the way home I stopped and got a bottle. Then that night I took my (new) fiancé out for dinner and was ordering virgin mojito’s. When my fiancé went to the washroom, I told the waitress to start making them doubles but keep it on the down low. When I lost that year and a bit of sobriety, I had a hard time coming back. Eventually, enough is enough and my relationship ended. I moved back to Barrie. Everything that I thought my life was going to be – was no more.”

This should be where we say, “Karalyn came back to Barrie and everything changed.”  But it didn’t.  Karalyn continued on what she calls “her path of destruction” and then got her second Impaired Driving charge.  It got to the point her parents had to lock up their booze. Karalyn’s parents made it clear to her that they loved her but that they couldn’t help her.  They had an understanding of addiction because they flew to Alberta to be a part of a 3 day Family Seminar with her.

“I met a new guy in Ontario who was also in recovery. He was sober and for two months things were great. After two months, we relapsed together. I realize now that I got into this relationship for all the wrong reasons. I was trying to fill a void and felt like I was no one unless I was with someone.”

Rock Bottom Isn’t Deep Enough

“Every time I thought I hit rock bottom I’d dig a little deeper and surprise myself. I did 40 days in prison and when I got out, I had nowhere to go. I ended up staying at Elizabeth Fry but then got kicked out when I was caught drinking. I was literally homeless. I was a disaster but somehow, I just kept going.

Something changed in December. Karalyn got a room by herself in Barrie. She started going to AA meetings and started working with a sponsor. But I still wasn’t really taking the program seriously but I was going anyways. I relapsed again. My new goal was to get black out drunk and pass out.

Then something changed.

Keep Doing the Next Right Thing

“I had this moment, I met a guy when I was staying at RVH, we were just friends. He wanted to date and eventually we did. But at one point, I realized it wasn’t working and broke up with him. I told my sponsor that I had a spiritual awakening because this was the first time I ever broke up with someone.   It was the first time that I had ever realized that I was better off on my own. I came to the realization that I am okay if I’m alone.”

When Karalyn’s parents came to visit her at RVH, she could see the toll it was taking on them.  Her mom was hiding it well, but her father….it killed her to see the effect her addiction was taking on her parents.  She realizes that her parents are a very big reason why she needs to continue on this sober path.  Karalyn also realizes that its very important that she help others, even if just one person.  She reached out to us to sit down on a Barrie Bench because she had to do something positive.  She wanted us to tell our readers something for her:

“Recovery is possible. You are only one decision away from a totally different life. It can go for the better or the worse. But for me, that decision happens every day and its, “I’m not going to drink today.” If there is someone out there who is struggling, I want you to know it does get better. I know its hard to believe that, because I never believe that when I heard it. I thought those people were full of shit. But it is true, it gets better because I’m doing it. Just have faith that everything is going to work out. Just keep doing the next right thing. Anything is possible.”

Karalyn will be attending University this fall and is taking Psychology.  She also has 3 college diplomas.  Karalyn is determined to help others.  But there is something that you can’t see, that I did see. I saw determination in her face.  She’s got this.

If you feel you are experiencing Alcohol addiction issues, we have treatment centers in Barrie that can help.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Barrie Addiction Treatment Centre

Road to Recovery Health Clinic

Written by: Sharon Johnston | Images by: Sharon Johnston

Barrie Benches, Coffee and Conversations is a new weekly feature that will highlight Barrie Citizens.  We will share the stories of locals in an effort to make our big community just a little smaller.  If you’d like to share a story of hope and inspiration, email ME .  Perhaps we can sit together on a bench sometime.