by Lilian Coutts
Maintaining sobriety after struggling through years of addiction is no small feat, but if anything can motivate, it’s a mother-child bond.
Mona, 47, of Mission, is no stranger to these difficulties. She entered alcohol and drug recovery for the first time at Union Gospel Mission’s Lydia Home in 2005. Despite having deep-seated addictions for decades, she has stayed clean and sober for nine years without a relapse. A motivating factor in Mona’s life is building a healthy relationship with her 14-year-old daughter Catalina. By focusing on Catalina, Mona is giving her daughter the childhood she never had herself.
Mona started drinking at age seven, when she would sneak alcohol from her mother, who herself was struggling with alcoholism. Mona was kicked out at age nine. Homeless on the streets of Chilliwack, she had to steal food, clothes, and other essentials for survival. Due to her theft, Mona spent time in youth detention, and was subsequently tossed between group homes.
Mona lived in many cities in her adulthood across North America before ending up back in Mission, when she became pregnant. With the help from Catalina’s grandparents, Mona was able to raise her child, but she was too deep in her addictions to reach her full potential as a mother.
After years of this difficult lifestyle, Mona finally was ready to get clean and attempt to build a relationship with her daughter. A group of loyal friends helped her enter into the program at Lydia Home.
“I could not have made it without the staff,” Mona explains, “they were always available to guide me through the rough patches.”
Once she completed her three-month stay, she had a five-year-old daughter waiting for her at home.
“When I left recovery I was totally scared. What do you do with a kid? For the first time in my life I acknowledged my little girl.”
Despite her fears, Mona successfully navigated parenthood and built a strong connection with her daughter. As Catalina remembers, “she was actually there trying to cook for me and talk to me. It felt really different… I was happy.”
To this day, Mona is actively working on her parenting skills. She takes weekly parenting classes where she learns how to communicate with teenagers.
“I want to listen to my daughter,” says Mona. “I want it to be different for her than it was for me. I want her to have what I didn’t have – an education and a mother.”
Mother’s Day is particularly meaningful for Catalina and Mona. It’s not just a chance to spend time together, but a benchmark of the extremely positive strides Mona has made.
Mona is actively involved with Lydia home, speaking to women in recovery going through what she once did. “Talking to the ladies at Lydia Home reminds me of where I once was, and how hard I have worked,” Mona says.
Union Gospel Mission has been feeding hope and changing the lives of men, women, and children for over 70 years. Through its seven locations in Metro Vancouver and the city of Mission, UGM provides counselling, education, safe housing, and alcohol and drug recovery to those struggling with poverty, homelessness and addiction.
To find out more, visit www.ugm.ca.