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Struggling with Addiction? Advice from an Applaud Member

Addiction can take hold of anyone, even those who seem to have it all together. 

Applaud member Beverly Betts knows this better than anyone. A talented web designer who cut her teeth during the early days of the internet, by the mid-2000s, Beverly found herself in the grips of worsening alcoholism amid a souring marriage and interpersonal troubles at work.

By 2008, Beverly was drinking every day, bringing her marriage and job performance to a breaking point. After waves of setbacks and struggle, multiple rehab stays, and a messy divorce, Beverly found a path to recovery. At more than 11 years sober, Beverly is passionate about helping others find their own path to sobriety.

If you or someone you know may be struggling with addiction, Beverly’s hard-won insight and insider knowledge of recovery can give you clarity, guidance, and hope.

Know the Signs of Addiction

It may sound like a cliché, but it’s true: the first step toward recovery is recognizing the problem. Symptoms of addiction can be different for everyone but often include: 

  • Repeating a behaviour even though it’s interfering with your life. 
  • Dangerous or risky behaviour. 
  • Losing interest in other things.
  • Mood swings such as becoming anxious, fearful, angry, violent, moody or depressed.
  • Changes in eating, sleeping habits, or weight.
  • Feeling sick or shaky when trying to quit. 
  • Problems at work including poor performance, lateness or absenteeism, and social dysfunction.
  • Lying about consumption habits, or getting defensive or aggressive when questioned about consumption.
  • Compulsively taking the drug or being unable to stop taking it.

As Beverly explains, identifying your addiction can require significant self-reflection. You must “be honest with yourself about your addiction, its impact on your life, and the need for change,” And the earlier, the better. Early intervention can change the entire course of your journey towards recovery. Those who get help early have a much better chance of overcoming addiction and avoiding the physical, emotional, and social consequences that can occur if left untreated. 

Ready to get started? Visit CAMH or dial 211 to get the help you need.

Seek Professional Help–and Know What to Look for

In 2008, after an internal reckoning, Beverly entered a 28-day detox program, marking her first step toward recovery. The program was a step in the right direction, but wasn’t enough for long-term sobriety, nor did it teach the skills necessary for staying sober. 

Beverly’s turning point came when she found Bellwood, a rehab center known for its comprehensive care and year-long aftercare program. With the support of doctors, nurses, and therapists, Beverly spent 64 days at Bellwood and continued to heal during aftercare.

Effective treatment for addiction is available, and knowing what to look for in a rehab program can help make recovery much easier. Beverly recommends looking for treatment programs that offer a holistic approach, including access to therapy, skilled doctors and nurses, resources, and a supportive community.

Beverly also recommends residential 12-step treatment programs, when possible. She explains that it helps to “get away from your environment, [from] whatever source of anxiety that started you drinking [or using drugs]”. 

During a 12-step treatment program, you begin with acknowledging your powerlessness in the face of addiction. Following this, you dive deeply into self-reflection, or “cleaning house,” during which you identify the personal circumstances that may have contributed to the addiction such as jealousy, anxiety, and unresolved trauma. But you don’t have to do it alone–your sponsor, a sober and experienced individual who provides guidance, support, and mentorship, will assist you in recognizing and addressing these challenges. In addition, making amends and extending heartfelt apologies to those you may have hurt are integral parts of the healing and recovery process.

When considering your options, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of free versus paid rehabs. Beverly shared her own experience, stating, “My first two rehabs were paid for by our health care system and the drawback is wait time can be months. The paid ones are really fast. However, my 3rd rehab cost $45,000 which included 3 days of detox which increased the overall cost.”

But rehab doesn’t end when the residential program ends. “Aftercare is so important,” Beverly explains, “it’s really during aftercare that you get the skills to stay sober.” Aftercare focuses on ongoing support and equipping you with the tools necessary to cope with addiction, including access to resources, books, therapy sessions, and a supportive community. 

Ready to find a rehab program near you? This list can get you started. 

Lean into your support system

Along with the support of professionals, a social support system is essential. Unfortunately, Beverly had to go through rehab without this, as she lacked close friends and family and was in the midst of a drawn-out divorce.

However, the support of her Alcoholics Anonymous “home group” played a key role in Beverly’s long-term recovery. Beverly explains “It’s so important to have a home group, a supportive network of people you see every week, or even every day at the beginning.” For many people, it is essential to show up to a recovery meeting “90 times in the first 90 days” after leaving a rehab centre. Staying sober after rehab can be the hardest part of the process, but the regularity of support groups can be incredibly helpful. 

In addition to finding a home group, Beverly recommends finding support groups that address your specific challenges. There are support groups for everyone, covering areas such as physical addictions, behavioural addictions, impulse control disorders, codependency, parenting while in recovery, and managing other mental health conditions. These groups can give you greater insight into your own needs–and give you the understanding that whatever you are facing, you are not alone. 

Know and Advocate for Your Rights

Beverly urges all people struggling with addiction to learn their rights. Addiction counts as a mental health disability, and there are safeguards in place to protect employees in recovery. 

In the early, fragile days of her sobriety, Beverly returned to work but struggled to perform after so long away from work. She stayed focused on developing her self-worth, self-value, and self-esteem–all skills she developed in recovery. However, her return to work revealed the toll that addiction had taken on her cognitive abilities. The healing process required time, retraining, and understanding from her colleagues and superiors. After a few years, Beverly negotiated a move to long-term disability.

To better understand your rights, Beverly urges those in recovery to take part in the United Way’s labour advocacy program, which trains advocates to help connect Ontario public employees to the many resources provided by United Way. She has spoken about the importance of accessible services for individuals struggling with addiction within the workplace and encourages OPS employees to get involved in this free training program.

If you are looking for help understanding your rights as an Ontario Public Service employee who is managing addiction, check out this guide.

Give Back and Share Your Story

After entering long-term disability, Beverly found purpose in helping others through volunteer work and advocacy. More than eleven years out from her last rehab stay, she regularly speaks at recovery events, sponsors others, and advocates for the rights of those experiencing addiction.

All along the journey towards recovery, consider sharing your experiences to inspire and guide those who are also struggling. Personal stories can be powerful tools for healing and empowerment. Sharing them is a public service in its own right.

Applaud Members can access discounted essential health services, including TELUS Health MyCare™. Book virtual appointments with mental health professionals who will provide you with a safe and confidential space to help you during your journey.