With a milestone and words of praise and encouragement every month, the first year of recovery from substance abuse is the easiest, says Heather Cameron.
Then real life with a job and day-to-day troubles sets in, and the real struggle to stay clean and sober begins, said the 31-year-old.
“After a year, what do you get? You’ve got a job; you’ve got a house. You’ve got real life. Maybe some mental health issues,” she said Wednesday. “Life is rough. It’s hard to stay clean.”
Cameron is one of five recipients of this year’s Out of the Ashes bursary, which provides between $500 and $2,500 toward each recipient’s tuition, books and other educational expenses.
Each beneficiary battled booze or drugs and pursued an education while sober.
Co-founder Leann Kopytko and Phoenix Centre executive director Sian Lewis handed out the bursaries Thursday afternoon during a ceremony at the Kamloops Yacht Club.
Cameron was in tears when she accepted her bursary. She told the lunchtime gathering she cries for all the recipients.
“I’m a crier,” she said.
A mother of two daughters, Cameron is enrolled in nursing at Thompson Rivers University and has two goals — to be a voice for recovered addicts and a prenatal nurse who works with addicted mothers.
After the ceremony, she told The Daily News she was pregnant with her first daughter when she decided to get off crack cocaine. Cameron said she was determined to keep the baby.
“That was definitely the catalyst for me to want to get clean,” she said.
Even then, Cameron struggled for a couple of years to kick her habit. It was only with the help of community support groups and counsellors that she succeeded.
Cameron has been clean six years.
During her speech, Cameron said helping an addict benefits the entire community. Far too often, people dismiss the addicted, which is a mistake.
“You’re impacting the lives of people who are going to go out and impact other people,” she said. “This bursary helps me to do that.”
Two of this year’s recipients, Paul Gully and Andrea Haugen, were also honoured last year.
Also receiving bursaries were Katherine McParland and Mishaila Gervaise.