I think a lot of people who know me through the gym or see me on the street assume that I’ve always been this way— physically strong, determined, and committed to fitness. This isn’t the case at all. I have a flawed past that is riddled with substance abuse and it took me years to get to where I am now.
I grew up in the small town of Sault Ste Marie. My family life was pretty normal—our parents always loved and took care of us. They sent us to good schools throughout our lives, brought us on vacations a few times per year, and got us started in sports from a young age. My sport was gymnastics.
I competed at a high-level in gymnastics for most of my young life. I won some big titles in Ontario and was offered university scholarships along the way (including Northern Michigan). When I was 15 years old, I fell into a foam pit and hit my neck which forced me to spend time away from the sport that I loved for nearly a year and a half. When I’d hit my neck, I’d just started high school. Although I wasn’t actively competing or training in gymnastics, I still got involved in cheerleading. Normally, you might think that I would have gravitated towards the jocks if I was involved in cheerleading, but it was the complete opposite. Even though I never got involved with drugs, I started hanging around people who would use them regularly. The people I started hanging out with would skip class, sneak out at night, and smoked a lot— my parents started to notice a change in my behaviour and grew concerned.
By September of grade 10, my parents had enrolled me in an all-girls boarding school in St. Thomas. I didn’t feel threatened and I definitely didn’t let this affect my behaviour. I didn’t change— whatever trouble I caused at home, I brought with me to the boarding school. I was still mischievous. In fact, I still managed to sneak out at night and the boys from a neighbouring boarding school would pick me up and we would go to London to party. A strike at the boarding school started up in March of that school year which eventually led to its closing. Still unwilling to bring me back home, my dad brought me to a new boarding school in Whitby to finish off the year.
I went back to my high school in Sault Ste Marie to kick-off grade 11. I kept the same friends and boyfriend that I’d left behind a year earlier. My interests hadn’t changed. When I turned 18, I applied for the Interior Design Program at St. Clair College in Windsor. My parents thought that this would be a good change for me— to get me out of the town and away from the people who encouraged me to lead a stagnant lifestyle. The main reason I applied to school in Windsor was to get away from my mom and dad. They moved me into a nice apartment, paid for my rent and gave me financial help whenever I told them I needed it. They wanted the best for me, but I would often take advantage of that.
I applied for jobs while I was in school. I started working at a few bars downtown and eventually got hired at the casino. I gave up on school. I still think about that sometimes— If I would have pushed through the physical trauma in gymnastics, I could have accepted a scholarship to a prestigious school anywhere in North America. My parents were willing to send me to any school to study whatever I wanted. If I would have surrounded myself with better people at a young age, the way my life panned out would be completely different. I could have maybe avoided a lot of the challenges and heartaches I endured along the way.
The work that I started with at the casino was anything but glamorous. Because I had experience working in bars, that’s exactly where they assigned me to start. Working in the beverage department was comparable to being in high school. We would finish our shift at the casino and go out to drink and party. We would stumble back home around 11am— just in time for a quick nap before we would have to go back to work and do it all over again. I kept this lifestyle up for years. I loved to drink and party. It ran my life.
I met my daughters’ father sometime throughout this stage of my life and fell pregnant with my first daughter when I was 25. Reality hit me like a train… I had to grow up. My relationship with their dad was unhealthy from the beginning. By the time I was 28, I was approaching my “Rock Bottom”. I was still working at the casino, but I was struggling to balance my position as a mom and a partner with the partying that I wasn’t ready to give up. I was unhappy in my relationship— we both were, but we pressed on anyway.
At 29, we bought our first house together and I thought maybe that would solve some of the problems in our relationship, but it didn’t. I stopped caring about everyone else. The only things that brought me joy anymore were my daughters. Going out and drinking was no longer “fun”, but “necessary”. I would continue to party and drink to cope with the sadness and despair I felt daily. My ex and I would try to spend time away from each other as much as we could— to the point where we would avoid coming home at all, even though we had two kids to care for.
When I was 32, a friend of mine called my mom and told her about how toxic my life had become and how it was affecting my kids. My parents travelled to Windsor to uncover the life that I had been trying so hard to hide from them. After a few tough conversations with my dad, he convinced me to look into the Employee Assistance Program through my work. Almost immediately, they arranged for me to enter into a rehabilitation program in Guelph for 30 days.
I came home a month later and did everything I was supposed to do. I attended AA meetings, I stayed away from the people who urged me to go out and party, but things weren’t better at home. My relationship with my partner was still broken and I wasn’t getting the support I needed from him to stay sober. After a year and a half of sobriety— I was back to drinking and partying again to deal with my home life. All I would do was drink— I weighed 96 pounds by the time our relationship finally found its end. We listed the house for sale and I started searching for apartments. When I wasn’t working or looking for places, I was drinking. At 37 years old, I had a grand mal seizure and nearly died. The doctor told me that the seizure was a result of mistreating my body and that I was killing myself.
Once I was discharged from the hospital, the Employee Assistance Program arranged for me to go through a rehabilitation program again before they would bring me back to work. Months after I finished the program, I finally started to better my life. I wanted my girls back. I moved into a new apartment, I continued to work and would come home once my shift was done. I was granted shared custody of the girls because I worked so hard to get them back— I wanted to give them the best life I could.
After a few years of focussing on bettering myself and taking care of my girls, a coworker of mine wanted to introduce me to Roger— a friend of hers who never had a drink in his life. I couldn’t believe it. I thought that he was scared to drink because he’d been around alcoholics before or that he had a bad experience with alcohol, but that wasn’t the case. He just never felt the need to try it. This annoyed me— I wasn’t really eager to get to know him as a guy, but the thought of someone just “choosing” not to drink almost angered me and I wanted to pick his brain. As it turns out, Rog turned out to be a good match for me and we’ve been together ever since.
Rog was in the military before we met and I spent a good part of my life partying. Although I’d quit drinking well before we met, I weighed about 100 pounds and smoked like a chimney in the early years of our relationship. Rog begged me to try CrossFit (the physical training regimen they used in the military). After signing up for a Paleo nutrition challenge at his gym, Rog asked me if I would help him cook and prepare his meals so I joined in on the challenge with him. After noticing how much of a difference these challenges made for Rog’s physical health, I finally agreed to go to a “Bring a Friend” class with him. I loved the gymnastics aspect of CrossFit. I think that’s what drew me in the most. I was surprised by my muscle memory and how I was still able to do pull-ups after all these years.
I would go to CrossFit 3 days per week until Rog had to go out of town for a Sergeant’s course for 3 months… then I ramped it up. I started going on my own every single day and I’ve been hooked ever since. I’ve competed in many CrossFit and Olympic Weightlifting competitions and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon.
I am so grateful for what my girls, Rog, and CrossFit have done for me. They saved my life. I never imagined I would be where I am now.
It’s easy to get caught up in what’s on the surface. Most people don’t know about the dark ins-and-outs of my life. I came to All Level a few years ago looking to share my passion through coaching. I felt accepted and believed in from the second I walked through the doors. The culture at our gym is unlike any other. I didn’t want to be “that” person anymore. I took CrossFit and I ran with it. I use this sport to help me be a good role model to my kids and to whoever’s on the gym floor. Anyone can do anything to change their life— it doesn’t have to be a drastic change. Any positive change is still a change… it creates a ripple effect that expands over all aspects of our lives. It’s hard being vulnerable and this part of my life is hard to dig up, but I think it’s important to share with the people in our community. I want to be raw and transparent with my All Level Family because you all mean so much to me. When I look at you and tell you that “You can do it”, I mean it. If I was able to crawl out of such a dark place in my life, I promise you that you have the strength to get through whatever you’re going through and to become the best version of yourself.