Cocaine Anonymous (CA) is holding its Third Annual Steps in Action Workshop event on Saturday August 3rd. It is being held at the St. Joseph’s Hospital campus on West 5th St. Steps in Action is a day where the organization opens its doors to the public to explain their 12 step program. Tabatha Chordis is a member of CA and began attending meetings in July 2018. She has now been sober for just over one year.
Her story is heart wrenching to hear but as she details her long and difficult journey to sobriety, Tabatha’s voice is strong and steady. For a young woman of only 28, she has been through more than most people will in a lifetime but she possesses clarity, self–reflection and has taken ownership of her life, the good and the bad.
As with so many painful stories, Tabatha’s started in her childhood. “I did self–harm. That started about [age] 11… I was being bullied a lot throughout school.” Tabatha says that she suffered from intense insecurities and feelings of isolation. “My mom struggled with being a single mother [and] my brother and my sister were more or less focused on their lives so I felt really alone.” At the age of 13, she found a way to comfort herself and to push the pain away in the form of alcohol. “When I’d first drink, I fit in. Like, I was able to laugh. I didn’t really care about my appearance. Nobody else really seemed to care about my appearance. I had the courage to stand up for myself in certain situations when sober, I didn’t right, like I cowered. I kind of stood in the dark, sat in the corner. I wouldn’t eat in front of people, you know, I was a very shy person.” Alcohol finally gave Tabatha what every lonely child craves. “I felt like I had friends, I felt like I had arrived.”
As Tabatha describes, she was “a blackout drinker from day one,” causing her to completely forget nights out drinking. She would often have to be told by others about the embarrassing antics that she had gotten up to. “I didn’t really know what I was doing. I couldn’t remember…” The most serious consequences of her drinking resulted in her receiving two assault charges. The first came at the age of 21 and the second at age 26.
Just a few short years ago was when Tabatha took cocaine for the first time. “My son’s father, he was using cocaine. I never had touched it…” At first, cocaine felt like a positive alternative to alcohol. “I was hooked right away just because you know, I didn’t black out and go stupid.” She was able to wake up without a hangover and continue on with her life. She enjoyed being able to keep up with those she was partying with and not giving people “stories to make fun of me.”
As is the case with many people suffering from addiction, her disease began taking its toll not only on her life, but on those who loved her the most, namely her two sons. “They have witnessed a lot… They witnessed many different strangers in and out of the home, my blackout stages if I wasn’t using cocaine where I would destroy the home. I would get random babysitter’s. They went through a lot.”
By 2017, Tabatha’s life had taken a really dark turn and she was living rough. She had lost her home. She was preparing to be prosecuted for her second assault charge and her two children had been taken into Temporary Kinship and were living with her mother. “I had lost all self–will, self–respect, self–worth.” Tabatha began to sell her body for drugs and alcohol. “I would hook up with men at bars and basically solicit my body at a bar, leave go to the bathroom, go to their car, you know stuff like that so I could get the next bag, so I could fit in a little bit longer, have money for more beer just to keep my night going. I didn’t know how to stop.”
It was another cocaine addict who first introduced Tabatha to the world of selling her body for drugs and in turn, she introduced other women interested in the life. “I was willing to take them down with me because this, it’s a disgusting disease.” With the trading and bartering of her body came the ever present dangers associated with it. “I’ve had physical altercations where men are taking advantage of me. I’ve had situations where I didn’t get paid.”
In July 2017, Tabatha finally checked herself into Womankind Detox Centre in Hamilton. She was able to get her own place in November 2017 and her two boys (currently age 9 and 6) were able to move back in with her. Although on paper things were improving in her life, she left herself exposed and vulnerable to relapse. “I didn’t attend meetings. I didn’t stay in contact with my sponsor…I didn’t attend my after care that I was supposed to attend.”
Tabatha suffered a major setback to her recovery when she was hit by a car and suffered injuries. That very day is where her “addiction started taking off again... I picked up a six–pack and then I ended up right away picking up a bag which then again went right back to selling myself for cocaine.”
She says that she used her very real physical pain from her injuries to give herself a way to excuse her drug abuse with not only street drugs but with opioids. “I started using hydromorphone, walking an hour to meet a dealer even though it’s my hip and my back that hurt which didn’t make any sense but that’s what I did.” At this point, Tabatha knew that if she continued on like this, it would not end well for her or her family. “My children were hating me. My house was dirty. I had no friends. My family wasn’t coming around anymore.” When she ended up in the hospital due to alcohol, opioids and cocaine, she decided to reach out to the sponsor that she had first met in detox. She was finally ready to begin her recovery.
Tabatha had been sober for two months and had begun regularly attending CA meetings when she went to her first Cocaine Anonymous event last September, 2018. This was their Round Up meeting. It is a day when CA members from all different chapters come together to listen to different speakers and concludes with a dance party. She threw herself into the event getting involved in helping with the set up and tear down. “I do believe that’s a big reason why I am still sober today, by being a part of that [event]. Both hearing and seeing [and] meeting the speakers as well as being able to be involved.”
During her one year of sobriety, Tabatha has mended her relationships with her loved ones. “I’m closer with my family today than I have ever been.” Tabatha and her sons now live with her mother who is a great help to her while she continues to recover. Her mother regularly watches her sons so that she can attend her CA meetings. “I couldn’t imagine life in any other way. I have more support today than I ever, ever had. They support my recovery both with my physical recovery and my addiction.” Her sons are very aware of her sobriety journey as they themselves are going through their healing process and attend counselling. They are all receiving the professional help and group support that they need “to cope with [the] mental health and trauma” that they have suffered.
“They encouraged me to go to my meetings. They hug me and say, ‘See you after, have a great meeting.’ They express how proud they are of me, to have their mom home and you know, how I don’t drink beer anymore.”
Saturday August 3, 9:30 AM–5:30 PM. St. Joseph’s Hospital, West 5th St. campus. The event is open to all, addicts and non–addicts. A hot lunch and refreshments will be served. Admission $10.