**Please note: This article makes note of sexual assault and substance abuse. Readers who may be triggered by the discussion of these events, please be aware before continuing to the article**

After enduring immense struggle as a child and young adult, Jamie has defied hardships and is now flourishing in her life.

There was a time when Jamie thought she would not overcome the seemingly never-ending tough times. But today, she is showing just how resilient and strong she is.

At eight years old, Jamie moved with her family from Calgary, Alberta, to the Siksika Nation (also located in Alberta). Her parents felt Calgary was not a safe place anymore, as several kids were being kidnapped and other scary instances were occurring. They also left due to the racism that the family endured for many years.

Because she had been raised in Calgary, she found that adjusting to some aspects of life on the reserve was challenging.

“I didn’t really fit in. I was told I was too white to be native, which made me confused because I did not realize the difference. There were students lighter than my skin tone,” she says. “I questioned myself, wondering if it was the way I spoke, which I think slightly set off my social anxiety. From then on, I preferred not being in big crowds.”

Struggling to fit into a new home was unfortunately just the beginning of a tumultuous string of events in Jamie’s young life.

“I really noticed it [my social anxiety] when I sobered up. I was an alcoholic from the age of about 15 to 27,” says Jamie.

Her alcoholism at such a young age became a coping mechanism stemming from several incomprehensible sexual assault experiences Jamie had as a young child. This was another factor that led to her parents wanting to move away from the city.

“When I was in my early teens, early adulthood, I was drinking a lot,” she says. Jamie revealed that around this time, she was sexually abused by someone that she previously trusted. “That took a lot out of me. I became an even heavier drinker,” she says. “I would drink every day, and I would do anything to get that alcohol. I would steal money from my parents and my older siblings. I would even pawn stuff to get my alcohol.”

Jamie’s path became increasingly difficult as the alcoholism began to take hold of her life. Everything she did was influenced and driven by alcohol as she tried to drown out the hurt that she had experienced.

Then, things truly took a turn for the worst. At age 19, Jamie was sexually abused again; This time, by a different person she knew. This alone was beyond enough trauma for one person to endure in a lifetime, but tragedy, unfortunately, struck again.

At only 20 years old, she lost her then partner to a house fire. This unspeakable trauma added more fuel to the already overwhelming pain that Jamie was going through. Her addiction continued to spiral out of control around this time.

“That threw me into a very bad depression. I tried to take my own life multiple times and was not successful. I kept drinking to blackout all the time. I started doing hard drugs to relieve me from all of the demons in my head reminding me of everything that happened,” she says. “I was really mean towards the people that loved me, and I would always get drunk and blame the people I was around for my actions – and I didn’t like that.”

There was also an added layer to the struggles Jamie was facing. For as long as she could remember, her dad has been a Drug and Alcohol Addiction Counselor for Siksika Health & Wellness.

“He’s been in that career all of my life, so that’s why I was ashamed to reach out for help, because I let my parents down becoming an alcoholic and doing drugs. I didn’t feel like I wanted to be helped,” says Jamie. “I started praying and asking if he [God] could help me sober up. I kept praying and asking if he [God] could give me a reason to live. I prayed and begged for a daughter, and I promised that I would quit drinking, doing drugs, and smoking.”

With so many factors contributing to a low point in Jamie’s life, she suddenly faced a major positive turning point when she found out that she was pregnant. It was then that she became sober and moved towards turning her life around.

After her daughter was born and with the moral support from her spouse, Jamie made the decision to take initiative to get off welfare and work towards a career. She also notes that during her newfound sobriety, she took on her sister’s two children, which is a huge responsibility and an incredibly selfless act.

“I was referred to the Siksika Employment and Training Services by my caseworker from the Siksika Family Services. I was scared because my educational background was not that great,” Jamie says. “I missed my first appointment due to my anxiety, but with a little push from my parents, I finally took that step to reschedule my Career Employment Counseling (CEC) appointment. They assessed me, and I figured out I would rather work than go back to school. So, after a few follow-up appointments, I was ready. She sent me out on a job search around Siksika and I found two jobs looking to hire me.”

This employment journey led her to seek secondary education at CDI College in Calgary where she received a Business Administration Certificate.

Now 35 years old with 7 children (2 of her own), Jamie is successful in her current position at Siksika Employment and Training Services. She is excited to be on her way to becoming a career counselor.

She works hard each day to keep going in the right direction not only for herself, but for her family and their future. She is so thankful for her partner; He is supportive of everything she does in order to help her stay grounded and focused.

“I was approached by multiple friends and family telling me that the way I hold myself up is something they wouldn’t be able to do. They would already be out partying,” Jamie says. “I tell them that it’s not my life anymore, it’s about my children’s lives. I live for my kids, and to help others see it is possible to become sober. It is a long and hard fight – but very rewarding. Also, to let them know that they’re better than they were the day before.”

Jamie has nothing but supportive advice for those who may be going through the same or similar struggles that she went through. She notes that even though she did not personally go to therapy or an addiction program, that a better life can be achieved through dedication, prayer, support, and patience.

“Keep trying, don’t give up on yourself,” says Jamie. “There are always hard days, you just have to take it one day at a time. There is help, you just need to seek it out.”

Article by Heather Gunn