A story on the struggles with addiction
By Max Winkelman
Karen Peterson and her twin sister started drinking when they were about 11 years old. Sometimes she wonders if she was born alcoholic or if her body just became alcoholic, adding that sometimes as a kid things happen that you can’t make sense of.
“It was just drink to numb out, to escape from reality, to just not be present in life.”
They picked up drugs when they were about 15, she says, including cocaine and prescription drugs.
“Once you’re in that darkness, it’s like, you don’t even want to be doing what you’re doing. You wish more than anything in the world that you could stop but you just can’t. It’s totally this disease of no choice,” she says. “I didn’t really know there was help. I really just believed I was going to live that way. That was just the way my life was and that it was just going to continue on like that.”
Being twins, they were very co-dependent, meaning they kept each other sick for a very long time, says Peterson.
“I lost everything materially, I lost everything, even my kid. But what’s the worst part about whatever, homelessness all that stuff, who cares? The things that I lost that were so damaging was like my morals, my values, my self-respect, my self-esteem, the ability to be a normal human in society, just living like an animal in such turmoil. It’s like utter lonely suffering.”
The entire day would consist of getting it, using it, coming off it and getting more and then repeat that infinitely, she says.
“I was convinced that the drugs and alcohol were keeping me alive even though I was praying to die. I wanted to die so bad and then just kept on living. You’re basically, literally dying with your eyes open. Just void of emotion.”
That went on for about 24 years.
“I was just totally beaten. I had totally smashed my life to smithereens. I ground my life into dust more than once.”
She ended up in the Kelowna hospital and the gig was up, she says adding that she was 98 pounds and grey.
They had contacted her parents and the doctor said that if they released her she had maybe a couple of weeks to live because her organs were shutting down.
They weaned her off of alcohol in the hospital and then sent her to a detox centre, according to Peterson.
“I’d never been offered help before but I also never thought that help was available. I never knew there was a program of recovery. I didn’t have people in my life that were sober.”
Sobering up is the most painful thing and not just due to coming off the drugs and alcohol, she says.
“To feel emotions for the first time since you were a kid and to actually feel feelings and to not be able to get rid of them. You have to just move through them,” she says.
She turned to a power greater than herself and needed to let someone else run her life.
“Obviously me running the show, not good. I had a spiritual awakening in my treatment centre. I came face to face with God. He was in my room. It doesn’t mean it’s God like from the Bible, that’s not it at all. It could have been the universe it could have been the creator, it could have been the doorknob.”
Originally from East Vancouver, she moved to Bridge Lake after coming out of recovery. She started going to meetings in the community from Alcoholics Anonymous to Psalm 23 and slowly but surely she started to get some time in recovery. That was several years ago. Her twin sister has since also gone into recovery.
“It was a long road. I only literally just started to love myself a year ago. I hated who I was. I had a hard time looking in the mirror. I was disgusted with who I used to be. I couldn’t get past the fact that I was this addict.”
Peterson started doing yoga, which she says gives her a reprieve and makes her feel like a real human being. She tells her story freely to anyone that comes into the studio she now runs (Blissed Out Yoga and Fitness).
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