Joelle’s Story

After Joelle’s addiction escalated, she wound up homeless and with an inability to trust others. But at UGM, Joelle learned to trust again, and built healthy relationships which empowered her toward restoration.

Joelle had an unsteady childhood, but her struggle with addiction started in her mid-20’s after surviving a toxic relationship. “It was role modelled to me to stay with an abusive partner. I didn’t know you don’t have to,” she explains. This man was physically and mentally abusive, and he also introduced Joelle to cocaine, whose use escalated quickly. “I didn’t know how to cope with the trauma—so after I left him, I ended up using even more alcohol and cocaine.”

Despite her drug use, Joelle was still determined to pursue her goals. “I managed to function for years. I went to school, got a degree in psychiatric nursing, and worked at a naturopathic clinic,” she shares. Life was on an upswing, but then, she met a man in AA who got her into heroin. “That’s when my life really spun out of control. I was working at a detox centre, and only lasted a couple of months before I had to stop working. My addiction caught up with me.”

That started a cycle of recovery and homelessness. However, bringing a precious daughter into the world disrupted that. Not only did Joelle receive stabilization support and was doing well in recovery, but she also found subsidized housing as a single mother. “However, I had my partner stay over, and I got kicked out. After we got our own place, we relapsed—and my daughter was taken away,” she remembers. “It was heartbreaking; it was like a piece of me was missing.”

“My bottom came when I was homeless with that man, and he left me,” Joelle explains. “I was completely blown.” She tried committing suicide, and ended up in the hospital for a few weeks. It was here that Joelle realized if she wanted her life and daughter back, she had deep healing to do. “I hadn’t dealt with my traumas. That’s why the relationships I ended up in were abusive. I needed to do things on my own, and surround myself with people that really cared.”


That desire brought Joelle to The Sanctuary, UGM’s residential stabilization program for women. She’d been before, and knew UGM was a safe place. “Everyone was super welcoming. The Sanctuary always had an open door, and took me in wherever I was at,” she explains. This time, Joelle embraced the support, and courageously worked through her traumas. “I didn’t trust a lot of people, but because of the unconditional love I got, I learned to really trust. I was given time to rest and heal, which is what I needed after years of chaos. They made me feel like I wasn’t alone.”


Joelle is incredibly grateful for UGM’s Aftercare programs, which provide avenues to rebuild her life, while staying connected to the community. “I can’t stress enough how important it is to have that continuity of care. Without it, I don’t know if I’d still be sober,” she shares. Today, Joelle is a Support Worker Intern at The Sanctuary, where she’s both giving back, and restarting her career in health and addictions. “It’s the perfect transition back into the workforce. And, it’s given me a sense of purpose; it feels really good to show women there’s a way to stay sober.”

Joelle doesn’t have to look far down the road to feel hopeful; this fall, she’s reuniting with her daughter, who’s now six! “If it wasn’t for UGM, I wouldn’t have my daughter back so soon. They wrote a support letter to the Ministry, and have housing for us in the new Women & Families Centre—so they’ve been a big part in reuniting us,” she says. “Focusing on my daughter is going to be big. My greatest hope is to show her that you can be resilient. You can make mistakes, get back up, and keep going. This building is going to offer women an opportunity to be a role model to their children, and help raise healthy families.”