Our Stories; Nicole Skinner
TRIGGER WARNING: ADDICTION, SUBSTANCE ABUSE, SELF-HARM, DEATH
For those who don’t know me, I wanted to start off by saying I had a great childhood. I was brought up in a normal home with a Mom, Dad, and sister, who is three years younger than me. My Mom is an optometrist and my Dad was a mechanic. My paternal Nan and Pop, have always been very close with us.
Everything was perfect until my dad passed away in a tragic accident. An accidental fire was caused at his work late at night and unfortunately, he never got out in time. I was only eight years old and my sister was only four. Our whole family struggled at this time and still do to this very day. Many, many years later my mom met a man and started dating. While my sister and I were fine with her dating him, it was still very hard seeing her with someone else. Part of me felt like there was no one out there that was worthy of having my mom.
For myself I found happiness in figure skating. I started in CanSkate when I was a young, progressed through the levels, then started skating with the older girls. My sister also started figure skating, so we were in it together which we really enjoyed. At this point I had two groups of friends. One group I would hang out with in school and the other group were my skating friends.
One of my guy friends from school started getting jealous if I hung out with anyone else but him. He started trying to control my life and everything I did. I felt if I didn’t do what he told me he would torture and bully me. My mom immediately knew something was wrong, and knew I had to get out of this toxic relationship. Thankfully I stood up for myself and left that group of friends.
At this point I didn’t feel worthy for anyone and this is when the depression and anxiety came into my life like a ton of bricks. I started self harming myself which didn’t help my mental state at all. I found that the physical pain was a release for my emotional pain.
My Mom let my sister and I get a dog for our family. We were over the moon! We chose to get a Bernese Mountain dog from a breeder in Nova Scotia. We decided to name him Nicco, and he turned out to be a 150-pound baby who we were so grateful for. This is when I realized that animals help release emotional pain and it gets replaced with pure JOY!
I had just started high school and started drinking alcohol with my friends. I got introduced to an older guy who lived in a different town. When I was around him, I was hanging out with people older than me, who were always using drugs and drinking alcohol. One night I decided to try pain killers with them, which was a huge regret for me, because after that night I wanted them almost all the time. I’d never had anything in my life that made me feel numb, and I became hooked.
Unfortunately, at this difficult time, my Mom found a lump in her breast, which later turned out to be breast cancer. My family was so broken... Our mom had always been the centre of our world and to see something happen to her was heartbreaking. We were so worried about her. She had one of her breasts removed right away, and we took a few weeks off to be with her for her surgery. Thankfully, everything went according to plan, and although it took a long time for her to get back to how she was before, she eventually recovered and is cancer free.
While this was going on, my depression and anxiety worsened. I was tired 24/7 and just wanted to sleep all the time. I had zero energy and felt so upset and worthless. My mom noticed something was wrong, and after a visit to the doctor I was put on medication for my depression and anxiety. I was only 16 at the time, but my mom, and the doctor, knew that was what was needed while I was on a waitlist to see a psychiatrist.
Finally, after a month, things started to slowly get better. A few months later, I graduated high school with first honours, and I got a summer job teaching junior golf. Everything was going well until, I got into a serious car accident driving home from work. My Jeep was totalled and I was so beat up, I was lucky to be alive. A few weeks after my accident I was supposed to start university in Corner Brook. But, after the accident, my depression turned extremely bad again and it just wasn’t the right time for me to start university, so I decided to drop out. I also wasn’t working at this time, and was so upset, so I started taking more pain killers. I felt like I had failed myself and my whole family by dropping out of school. My boyfriend, of many years, and I broke up shortly after this happened. It was so hard, but we were both using drugs and enabling each other all the time.
Thankfully, my mom found out that I was using pain killers and sought help from a councillor. They found a rehab in Grand Falls, which was for ages 13-18. The program was only three months, but I felt like it was going to take forever to finish! Once I got there, it actually went by quicker than I expected, and I enjoyed most of my time there, even though it was extremely HARD!
When I got out of rehab, I was three months clean and I stayed sober for another three months. Then one night, I had a “friend” stay over, only to realize days later that they had stole my Mom’s, and my passed father’s, jewelry! I had been betrayed and I felt disgusted and so overwhelmed, so I resorted back to using pain killers. I was so disappointed in myself. When my Mom found out I was using drugs again, I went to a private rehab in Quebec. This time I wanted help so bad, because I didn’t know how to help myself anymore.
After three months of rehab, I was set up to see the methadone nurse in Corner Brook, little did I know, it was a two-year waitlist to see the actual methadone doctor. I felt defeated, again! To make matters worse, our loving family dog, Nicco, died at just five years old from cancer. I didn’t know where to turn, so I turned to old ways. Pain killers.
My doctor then recommended that I see a councillor, and apply for rehab in Harbour Grace. I was put on waitlist once again, this time it was five months. This program was only four weeks, which many professionals believe isn’t long enough, and I struggled the whole way through it. When I got home, I struggled even more.
Months later, a friend told me about a doctor in Springdale that takes new Methadone or Suboxone patients. Within a week of getting a hold of them, they called me saying they would see me. I finally felt some relief. Within an hour of taking my first dose of Methadone, I noticed a change. I felt “normal” again. I was so thankful that something finally worked, and it truly did wonders! The correct dose of Methadone, with the help of my medications, turned my life around! I was clean and felt amazing!
Thankfully I met a girl in 2016, who changed my life. I realized I was hiding something, and eventually admitted to myself that I was gay. So, in 2017, she became my girlfriend and I moved to Marystown, so we could be together. I was extremely happy to have found someone I love so deeply.
In April 2018 we were introduced to Abby and Layla’s Angel Cat Rescue, a non-profit organization that rescues cats. There are so many people in this group that I’m grateful for, all of which are helping animals. We are very proud to say we have been fostering for almost a year now and have fostered/rescued more than 60 cats.
Fostering cats and kittens has helped my recovery so much. I wake up motivated, knowing my purpose. I didn’t realize before getting involved with this organization how important it Is to spay and neuter your animals. We are extremely lucky to have adopted three cats from fostering them! Our first kitty we kept,(Precious) was the first kitty we fostered. She was supposed to be a TNR, which is a trap, neuter, release which is for cats that are trapped but are too feral to be inside, but they decided to try her in a foster home with us and we completely fell in love with her. The second kitty we kept Is Angel. Who was from a girl whose cat had kittens. The last cat we decided to adopt was Quinn. She was taken into the groups care, very pregnant! Thankfully she is recovered and spayed now. I feel lucky to have all these beautiful animals in my life.
Recovery doesn’t happen over night. It takes many, many long days and night of crying and sadness to get to where I am now. All the things I’ve talked about have shaped me and made me into the woman I am today and I am so happy to say that I’ve been clean since January 11th , 2017. I will forever be grateful to my family, especially my mom, and my amazing girlfriend for always making me smile. I don’t know where I would be without you guys.
Recovery is always possible.