In the beginning…  

My name is Jane. I am a 26 year old Cree woman who was born and raised in a small community in Manitoba, but I have lived all my adult life in Winnipeg.

I have four children…all are in care. The oldest is 10, and a permanent ward of the system. His father was an older relative of mine who raped me when I was 15. Physical, sexual and emotional abuse were my realities growing up.

I have always been on welfare, as were my parents. Both of them went to residential school and were not able to teach me much, except how to drink. I figure that I’ve been an alcoholic for nearly 12 years. The alcohol paved the way for other drugs and the need to turn tricks or steal to support my habits.

I have had a string of relationships (if you can call them that), including attempts to create a family, sobering up, then back to the streets and running from help.

Instead of family life, each of these relationships left me battered, beaten and confused, with one more baby that I didn’t know how to take care of. The drinking and drugs numbed the pain of watching them being taken away from me.

I hit bottom nearly seven months ago. I was found bloody and bruised on Austin Street and taken to Main Street Project to dry out. I knew that my life needed to be different, or I would die. I wanted my kids back with me. I wanted to live, and I wanted their lives to be different. I was pissed off at the world and what it had done to me. I was alone and scared.

Through some time at a shelter, and someone to talk to, and a referral from a friend, I got into the Native Women’s Transition Centre. That was nearly 10 months ago and I am just now starting to feel different.

Five months later….

I have been clean and sober for nearly five months. It has been hard, very hard and sometimes I think that it would be much easier to go back to my old life. But I need my kids with me; they are my life; they are what drives me.

I started to get visitation rights two months and eleven days ago. These visits give me strength and are my hope for the future. The Centre helped me arrange them, and provides the safe place to visit. My kids are changing so fast, and I really need to be with them. I cry a lot at night, because I know that my eldest will never be able to be part of our family again. I have some goals and a plan. I am starting to see a difference in me, and some possibilities for a future. I am not as angry as I used to be. I know that my healing will be a journey that I will be on for the rest of my life.

Some days I feel more confident. Every day I still feel scared.

I have good people around me. Women who understand me and don’t judge me. They look for my gifts, and help me find my strengths. I’m not ashamed to be Aboriginal anymore. These women are patient with me, and I am learning patience from them. I am starting to think that I may have more opportunities than I ever imagined. My journey has been hard, and it probably always will be. I have stumbled and fallen, but now someone is there to help me up. Someone who believes in me. That’s a first for me.

My kids give me focus away from my old life. I will get them back. Maybe my sister will start talking to me again! I have a chance, a chance that I will continue to use until I make it.