As I write this, I’m sitting on a Mega Bus traveling from Montreal to Toronto for work. I feel excited and prepared, and most of all safe. There’s no real reason for me not to, except that the last time I made this trip alone it was a total disaster. I had done a bunch of cocaine the night before - just me, myself, and I - and was still in a strung-out daze as the bus made its first stop in Cornwall. When we pulled up to the gas station, I hopped off with a few other people and ran inside the little convenient store to quickly grab a water bottle. My mouth and throat were dying for some hydration. A few minutes later, I stepped back outside into the blazing July heat but saw no bus or people waiting for me. Only endless bare pavement that threatened to swallow me hole. I just couldn't believe it; either the bus had vanished into thin air, or it had left without me. Taking my suitcase with it. Leaving me stranded. In that moment, I was seized with an agonizing dose of paranoid rage and terror. “What the FUCK!” I yelled at a plastic bag as it casually breezed by me.
For the first time in my life, I felt doomed. I knew I’d get out of that gas station eventually, but I wasn’t so sure that I’d feel any better afterward. My life in general was becoming pretty scary, and bad things seemed to keep happening to me. This particular mishap felt like a code-red warning.
Thirteen hours and four buses later (don’t ask), I finally reached Niagara Falls at midnight. I was supposed to attend the AFN the next day with my Uncle Francois, but I wound up sleeping through the whole darn thing. My body simply couldn’t go on without a boost, and my baggie of blow was empty. I didn’t confess this to my Uncle at the time, but I could tell he wasn’t impressed. Neither was my Mom. When I tried to explain my ‘clumsy misfortune’ to her over the phone, it was clear she wasn’t buying it. There was frustration and worry in her voice: “Xina I still don’t understand what really went wrong!”. I was annoyed that she didn’t feel more sorry for me. But even then, in my deluded state, I couldn’t escape the truth. My Mom suspected I was lying, and her intuition was bang on. Takes one to know one, as she’d say. Alcohol used to be her drug of choice, so she knew all the tricks of the trade. She also had years of beautiful sobriety under her belt and she had the clarity to see through me with eyes wide open.
Over the next few months, I gradually began coming clean to my Mom and family. I had no choice; every facet of my life was morphing into a private hell. Still, things got worse before they got better and I continued using even after concluding I had only two options: stop it or kill myself.
I could feel the raw pain in my Mama’s heart each time she discovered it was worse than she’d thought. But she simply refused to turn me away. In fact, she did just the opposite and pulled me in closer and closer. She was a Mama Bear protecting her cub who had been searching for freedom - acceptance - in the wrong places. I seemed to keep letting her down and even used my guilt as an excuse to fall further, but she bravely stood by me just as she had in every other moment of my life. Pulling my skeletons out of hiding felt excruciating in one sense, but my Mom was able to help me transform them into breakthroughs - for both of us. Each day, she encouraged me to disinfect more and more of my life with sunlight and love. She didn’t lose hope when I slipped; instead, she stuck by me as a warrior who had stood up to similar monsters and knew it was possible to win. I had always known that she loved me, but not to this degree. I had never given myself permission to fully accept it, but this enormous mess I'd created forced me to open the flood gates entirely. I was amazed to find that the more of her love that I let into my heart, the less room there was for the drug.
Flash forward six months, and here I am; back on a Mega Bus. The January landscape zooming past me is shades of soft grey. This time, I’m sitting in a comfy reserved window seat with a table for my laptop. It’s minus 8 outside, but I’m toasty warm in my wool socks and velour leggings. I’ve got new business cards in my purse, my luggage is in site, and my Mom and I are texting each other swooshing heart emoticons. This time, I’m not high. My Mom knows it, I know it, and it’s a gift we’re celebrating together. Her same intuition that pissed me off is now joining our two spirits in a brand-new way. Finally, there’s enough honesty for us to truly know and love each other. I am so blessed.
Title Cover Artwork - Bear Cub With Strawberries, Lisa Boivin 2015
Xina Cowan is the Editor-in-Chief of WIOT Magazine, and a digital media Producer at Rezolution Pictures in Montreal. She has the privilege of working with remarkable community members every day, and uses the web as a platform to build strength, connections, and ideas. In her spare time, she loves bopping around with her two bunnies and dreaming about beadwork.