Strive to Survive: Sandra’s Story

Self, Addictions , Depression

Contributed by: Union Gospel Mission

Before coming to UGM two years ago, Sandra’s life was anguished by trauma, anger, and a fear of rejection

“I thought my addiction was the problem. I didn’t realize I was doing it to try and solve my problems. When I realized there was an underlying problem, I didn’t know how to get rid of it.”

Years of sexual abuse robbed Sandra of her childhood. She blocked out these memories and started drinking to oblivion at 13

I went to school and had friends, but I always wore a mask. On weekends, I would get someone to buy me a big bottle of wine, and I’d down the whole thing. I was so angry.”

Sandra got married young and had three daughters who she adored, but her pain and drinking continued

“I was always functioning—I had a job and raised three incredible kids. But when I drank, I drank. As far back as I can look, I could never just have one drink—there was no such thing.

I’ll never forget the first night I tried cocaine. I was falling-down drunk, and the next minute, I could act like I hadn’t had a drink. After that, cocaine kept the bottle in front of me.

This went on for years and years. I still worked full-time, and my daughters went to school and activities. But my weekends became about hiding in my bedroom, doing cocaine.”

After being deeply-buried for 20 years, Sandra’s trauma pulled itself out of the trenches of her mind—absolutely paralyzing her

“While coming down from a weekend high, I just lost my mind. I crumbled, screaming. My husband couldn’t get me off the floor. Everything from my childhood—wham. It all came flooding back.

I had a mental breakdown. My mind wouldn’t shut off all the memories. I went to a women’s transition house and started getting counselling, because I thought I was going insane—but there was still drinking.”

Sandra spent the next decade as a high-functioning alcoholic, until a breast cancer diagnosis stopped her in her tracks

“I had a double mastectomy and went through chemo and radiation. I went from working 40 hours a week to being flat, sick, and on a couch. Depression was sinking in.”

Although Sandra overcame cancer, the addiction cycle started taking over again. She fell into deep psychosis, stirring up a deeply-rooted fear of rejection. This led her to attempt suicide

“The one thing that was constant in my addiction was that I couldn’t handle rejection. My abuser taught me that attention and love were the same thing. Because I felt totally rejected, I asked, “Why am I here?”

I remember taking a whole bottle of Tylenol 3’s. I remember going to bed. And I remember why I took them. The next thing I knew, I woke up in the hospital. All of my daughters were sitting beside my bed. I remember saying, “I can’t do anything right.” My daughter stood up and said, “I’m so glad you’re ok, but I’m done.” I was in such self-pity, I was using again within a week.”

Sandra’s turning point came as a loving text message from her daughter

That Easter, I knew my daughters would be at my husband’s for dinner. I really wanted to see them, so I asked him what time it would be. He told me the girls didn’t want me there. So, what did I do? I got high all weekend.

Afterwards, I got a text from my oldest daughter. That’s what did it for me. I just knew I had to stop this. She wanted me there, but it was all on me. Because who would want somebody there who was in my condition?

I went to a walk-in mental health clinic, bawled my head off to a counsellor, and told her I needed help. She found me Lydia Home, UGM’s recovery program for women.”

Forgiving herself, just as in Christ God forgave her, renewed Sandra’s hope

The fog started to lift as I came off the drugs, and I had to face all the horrifying things I’d done. I was so ashamed, and I had so much guilt. It made my stomach turn.

At Lydia Home, I learned that God forgave me and loved me anyway. Nobody has ever loved me like that before! With Him, it became about me wanting sobriety. Now, I have worth from someone who won’t ever reject me.”

Today, Sandra has an amazing reconnection with her daughters and grandchildren.

She also just graduated top-of-class with a Community Support Worker Diploma and is employed to help others reclaim their lives from homelessness and addiction.

“The amazing reason why I’m doing this today is because of the love, hope, and support I got from the women at Lydia Home. I want others to experience peace and freedom, too.”

Sandra has a motto that’s stuck with her through everything: strive to survive

I used to think that once I sobered up, life would be amazing. And it is! But now, I’ve learned I’m still going to have problems. That’s where strive to survive comes in—even if some days are really hard, with God, I can survive. I can keep putting one foot forward.”

The love, grace and hope that Sandra is striving in today wouldn’t be possible without your compassion! Thank you for believing in a dignified life for all, and for investing in healthy communities