The term “mature student” has always made me chuckle. While I wouldn’t choose “mature” to describe myself, I do find myself now with a second chance to study and I do view it as a new beginning in my life journey.
To understand why I consider this a second chance, I need to tell you a little about my history. Let’s step back in time to when I was fresh meat in high school, ready to be chewed up and swallowed by the system.
Society tells young women how they should be and I wasn’t it. I wore male clothes and had classmates questioning my gender. I made a friend named Steve who would tell me it was okay to be whoever I want to be. If I wanted to wear boy clothes, why not? Steve was a little rough around the edges, his parents smoked and drank a lot and he had a reputation as a wild child. I looked up to him and his strength. I started to drink with him. I could get drunk but still excel in school, which made me confident I could balance my bad habit.
In 10th grade, Steve and I had a falling out. Soon after, he moved away and we lost touch. His “I don’t care” attitude stayed with me though. I got a part-time job where I had my first hit of a joint. Soon after I started to skip class to get high. My marks started to deteriorate. In 11th grade, a classmate introduced me to a drug called ketamine and I was instantly hooked. I started to find connections to buy through classmates. I’d cut lines in the café. I felt untouchable because nobody noticed and I was still passing my classes.
I finished high school and went off to college. I lived in a dorm on campus and “fortunately” there was a pub attached to my building. My drinking escalated. I would go home on weekends to pick up enough ketamine to keep me stable throughout the week. Two years later, I left with a diploma in hand and a full-blown addiction, but I wouldn’t admit it at the time. I started working full time and just like that I was a “member of society,” but with a white nose.
In 2012, I got word Steve had taken his own life. I couldn’t understand why. I felt guilty that I hadn’t kept in touch. In 2013, another high school friend of mine, Sasha, took her own life, as well. My friends were disappearing off the map and I believed I was doomed, too. My drug use increased. I started living in a drug house. I still worked to fund my habit, but it was never enough. At this point, I finally admitted I was an addict, but I felt okay because I was functional.
By 2014, I was fed up with my life. I was self-harming, chasing highs and barely surviving lows. I had absolutely no hope that I would get out of the destructive cycle. I was sick of myself and sick of being a slave to a drug. I wanted out and I needed to take action. I did a lot of self-reflection and came out as bisexual. I told my parents, who were very supportive. I also started a smoking cessation program with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. After a year, I quit smoking cigarettes and self-harming, but I was still snorting ketamine and I’d even added cocaine to my drug resume.
I slowly began to value myself more. By being true to myself, drugs started to slip from being my top priority. My life gradually morphed into one of self-care and self-respect. I started to see a social worker and she walked me through the basic areas I needed to tackle. I started to transform my dependent relationship with drugs into an occasional one until one day, I just stopped. I threw myself into work and was quickly promoted.
At a certain point, I knew I needed more resources to help me maintain my sobriety. It was mentally draining to do it by myself. I became a client at Addiction Services of York Region and started cognitive-behavioural therapy. It was rough. It resurrected the emotions of past traumas that I had kept hidden away. I started to self-harm again. My counsellor admitted me to the hospital where the psychiatrist diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I started taking medication that helped my thoughts become more focused. Before, it had felt like a million voices shouting at once.
At work, I reached a point where I peaked. The challenge was no longer there and I wanted more. I decided to go back to school—sober this time—to see what I could achieve without addiction holding me back.
Now, here I am. With a clear mind, I’m setting goals and taking action to make them a reality. Where I used to feel shame and remorse, now I feel pride in my growth and evolution. I’m still a client at Addiction Services of York Region, though I recently switched to a new counsellor for therapy more specific to BPD. I also the Maple app through Seneca to assist me in times of need. I am using all the support I have through Seneca. I am now achieving 90% in most of my classes, and I am in a great relationship with a supportive girlfriend. After walking a winding path with many ups and downs, I can finally—and proudly—say, I am stable.
Some days when I am walking through the hallways, I stop in awe. I’m happy where I am. I hope to keep making new goals and achieving them.