“To drag yourself from a deep, dark hole and to reach the top with a sense of relief and accomplishment is the best feeling in the world,” she said staring into the depths of past despair. “I don’t ever want to go back down that hole.”
This is Raylene Thompson’s story.
As a single mom of four, two boys and two girls, Raylene lived life for her children. She attended school and worked a full-time job at Namerind Housing, working hard to provide a good life for her kids; one different than she had growing up.
“I was a very, very busy mom working and caring for my children, keeping the house, and making the money,” she explained. “Every morning I would wake up at 5 a.m. to get ready, to get the kids up, and get them to daycare.”
Life came to a standstill on Nov.1, 2006, when Raylene’s nine-year-old daughter, Ashlee, was killed.
Raylene tried hard to heal herself through grief counselling, but the loss of her daughter and the end of a relationship with Ashlee’s father took a toll on Raylene.
“After Ashlee passed away I was doing okay, but coming up to her 10th birthday on May 31 (2007), I started drinking,” said Raylene. “I used the alcohol to block off and ignore the pain and emotion; I didn’t want to feel any of it.”
“I wasn’t drinking every day, but that’s when it began,” she explained.
Raylene gradually began drinking more heavily and more often.
“I couldn’t cope,” she said. “I couldn’t keep holding on.”
“I started losing everything; I lost my job, I lost my house, and I starting losing my self-respect. I hated myself because I blamed myself for Ashlee’s death.”
In April 2008, Raylene lost her two youngest children to Child Protection Services. It was then that Raylene lost hope.
One year later, while living in Calgary, Raylene hit rock bottom.
“I was drinking every single day,” she said, almost in disbelief. “I did that for two and a half years.”
Raylene’s siblings saw the dangerous path she was travelling, and stepped in with an offer of help and hope. Raylene’s brother opened his home to her, under one condition – she could not drink.
“I quit drinking for six weeks, and went to a temp service and got a job. When I got that job I began to feel worthwhile again. I felt that everything was better. I felt my self-esteem and confidence come back, and it felt good. For once, I didn’t feel worthless like I did all those years after Ashlee passed away.”
Unfortunately, Raylene’s past demons returned to haunt her, and she lost her job, again due to drinking.
“I was getting so tired of losing everything because of the alcohol,” she said. “It finally clicked, I thought ‘heck with that crap, I don’t need to do this anymore.’”
On Jan. 10, 2012, Raylene met with counsellors at Sunrise Addictions Centre. On Jan. 16, 2012, Raylene began recovery, participating in a 28-day out-patient program, regular Alcohol Anonymous meetings, and a three-month Intensive After-Care Recovery program.
As she slowly became sober, Raylene began thinking more about her children.
“I wasn’t drunk anymore to brush those feelings aside and numb the hurt,” she explained.
In June 2012, Raylene returned to Regina. She slowly began to put the pieces back together, securing employment, attending Four Directions Community Health Centre, and mustering the courage to contact her social worker to begin the process of reuniting with her children. .
“The initial contact with them was the scariest because I felt that I had betrayed them. I felt so guilty, and was so scared because I thought ‘what if they reject me?’”
Raylene began regular contact and frequent supervised visits with her children.
Raylene and her children were identified as suitable candidates for the Ranch Ehrlo Family Treatment Program, and so a referral was made to formally begin the reunification process.
“When I met with Patti Petrucka (the program’s director) I was afraid. I asked her, ‘What if I fail? What if I can’t do for the kids what they deserve or need from their mom?’ I was just so scared.”
After being admitted to the Ranch Ehrlo Family Treatment Program, Raylene began overnight visits with her children for one night per week. The visits gradually progressed to weekend visits, and shortly thereafter, the children were placed back into Raylene’s full-time care.
“I’m here now because of all of the help, encouragement, and support that Ranch Ehrlo has given me,” she said. “Involvement in the Family Treatment Program helped me transition to having my kids in my full-time care. It made it easier to adjust to living with one another after all those years.”
Family treatment workers worked with Raylene to provide her with parenting skills, coping skills, and information and resources to support her recovery and her family’s reunification.
“They offered help and suggestions because I couldn’t think quite like a family unit yet,” she explained. “It was hard to get back into the parent role; I could remember a lot, but it was a matter of practicing it and putting into play, making it work. I feel like if the Ranch wasn’t involved I may have failed.”
“Of course there are rough days,” she confessed, “but at the end of the day when I’m tucking my kids into bed, giving them their hugs and kisses, there is peace in my house and in my heart. I look around at everything I have now and it’s unbelievable. I’m living in a three-bedroom condo, I have my job back at Namerind Housing, I’m paying my own rent, my kids have cable, we have our own beds, our own sheets, and our own dishes. It’s just little things like that which remind me of how far I’ve come.”
“I learned a hard lesson, but now I know if anything difficult comes into my life again, there are programs out there, there are people out there, and there are places I can go for help,” she said.
“If you really want something you have to focus on that one goal, and for me that was getting my family back.”
Raylene and her children successfully completed the Ranch Ehrlo Family Treatment Program earlier this year. Their file will be closed with Child Protection Services on Nov. 26, 2013, upon approval.
“All is not lost, even if someone tells you it is,” said Raylene. “There is always hope.”Read More