“I’m 43 years old. I want life,” she pauses before adding, “I choose life.”
Tammy used to be angry – mad at the world, at life, at God. She wanted someone to blame: blame them for all of the abuse she has suffered, someone to blame for what the drugs have done to her. “You start using because it is a quick fix. It’s how I coped.” But every time the drugs wore off, the pain returned. Desperate, scared and alone, Tammy turned to the Women’s Addiction Recovery Mediation (WARM) program in Fort Erie. WARM is a safe place for women who are struggling with addiction to join a group setting where they can share their stories, talk and heal. For Tammy, WARM was different from the other programs she had tried because it was for women only. After having struggled with abusive relationships, a setting where men were part of the group caused her anxiety. “And WARM is different from talking to a counsellor,” she explains. “The other women have been through the same thing; they get it. It is such a comfortable environment because we can trust each other.”
“WARM and the YW saved me.”
Tammy smiles and beams when she speaks about how WARM has changed her life, but the journey was not always easy. “In January, I tried to take my life.” The words linger in the room as the pain rushes over her face, ever so briefly, before she adds, “But WARM and the YW saved me.” To maximize resources, the YW has taken on WARM as part of the Skills Development department. When Tammy reached out to Kara Muscat, the YW’s WARM Worker, she supported Tammy’s drive to break out of her downward spiral. Kara advocated for Tammy’s choice to move to the YW’s Emergency Shelter in Niagara Falls and become engaged in the Skills Development Program which Tammy says has turned her life around. “I now live in an On Site Transitional Housing unit, I am a peer mentor for WARM, I volunteer in the community. I love the fact that I can give back. And every time I talk about my story, it loses its power over me.” Tammy 3knows that it will take her a long time to heal, but for the first time in her life, she believes that she can. It is the safety of the shelter and the incredible support from Kara and the Women’s Advocates that have helped her get her life back. “Not just that, they gave me my family back – my world!” Her big, genuine smile is contagious when she talks about her daughter, who, after years of silence, has now started talking to her again. “She tells me that she loves me and I see my grandkids all the time!”
The life-changing work of WARM would not be possible without the Niagara Community Foundation (NCF): “Through our community grants program, we are pleased to support the WARM program. We thank the YWCA and wish them continued success in improving the lives of those in our community,” says Bryan Rose, Executive Director at the NCF.
As far as the future goes, Tammy has a plan. “I will continue to work on myself, return to college to get my Personal Support Worker degree and move to an Off Site Transitional Housing unit.”
“I’m 43 years old. I want life – I choose life.”