The long journey
Forty-year-old Serena Campbell-Barnes describes her lifelong
struggle with addiction as “a long journey.” She was born to a
16-year-old mother who had been abused as a child and a teen. They
lived in poor neighbourhoods.
Campbell-Barnes was sexually abused by her stepfather
throughout her childhood. By 12, she was regularly drinking alcohol
and smoking pot and cigarettes.
“I was an angry, hurt little girl,” Campbell-Barnes remembers.
When her mother didn’t believe that she’d been sexually abused,
Campbell-Barnes tried to kill herself and was sent to live in a group
home. She dropped out of school in Grade 8.
“I’m 14. I’m out of school. I have no money and I’m in an abusive
relationship,” she recalls. “It becomes the cycle; and I’m continually
By 15, Campbell-Barnes was injecting hard drugs. She worked in
the sex trade until she was 20, the first time she tried to get clean.
Her mother, now sober, divorced and working on a teaching degree,
took her in. Seeing that inspired Campbell-Barnes to find treatment,
go back to school and make sense of her life.
“What happened to me began with social exclusion,” she recounts.
“Even as a child, I felt a deep sense of shame that set me apart from
everyone. I had no opportunities in those early years. I was never on
a team, nor did I have any of the experiences that allow kids to build
a sense of social competence. For most of my life I felt completely
After upgrading, Campbell-Barnes started university. She
relapsed, married an addict and had a baby before getting clean and
graduating six years later.
Then while studying for a master’s degree, she was prescribed
painkillers after surgery and relapsed again. Her mother took her
two children away from her.
“I knew I had to change,” she says.
She worked through a substance abuse program and now both
she and her husband are clean and living with their two children.
In June 2015, Campbell-Barnes earned her master’s degree in health
promotion. Today, she is an addiction counsellor at Thorpe Recovery
“I’m grateful to work in an environment where my history is seen
as valuable,” she says.
Early childhoodexperiences, includingthose before and rightafter birth, can changebrain architecture inways that may makeaddiction more likely.Living in poverty increasesthe risk of poor health andcan lower life expectancy.The more adverse childhood
experiences (ACEs) a
person has, the higher
their risk for health and
social problems later in life.
People with three
Addictionisnot achoice;seeking treatmentis.
ACEs are more likely to
have a lifetime history
of depression or to
Repeatedly shaming a child can make her feel inferior, insecure and lonely.It’s normal for people
breaking free from an
addiction to relapse a
number of times.
Find help with mental
health and addiction
problems by calling one
simple number: 811.
TheThorpeisa not-for-profitcommunity organizationthat reatsdrug,alcohol, sexandgambling addictions.Learnmoreat horperecoverycentre.org.