A 24-year-old Yellowknife woman who says substance abuse problems have consumed half of her life hopes her story will help others think twice about abusing drugs and alcohol.
Kara Dennill was born and raised in Yelllowknife. Adopted at birth, Dennill says her upbringing was a good one, but she admits it was hard coping after learning of her adoption.
"I dropped out in about Grade 7 just because of bullying," she says. "I was an outcast. I was a nobody. And it just went downhill from there. I started to get into the drugs and the alcohol at about 12 to 13 years old. Started drinking heavily."
Within two years, she was hooked on crack cocaine and living in drug houses.
"I got quite bad to where I would stay up for days and days and I would start hearing stuff," she said. "I remember this one time I was about 15 and I was at home and I thought I heard the phone ringing, so I'm yelling to my mother 'Answer the phone' and she's like, 'What phone?'"
Dennill says she supported her drug habit by dating drug dealers.
"Prostitution for drugs I've seen," she says. "I've seen people beg on their hands and knees for drugs. I've seen people cry for drugs. I've seen parents spend their money that's supposed to be for food for their kids on drugs. And I've seen like little children in that environment with their parents on drugs. It's a horrible sight."
Dennill says her addiction caught up to her. She spent time in a juvenile detention centre after getting caught stealing. She says it was a blessing in disguise.
For one month she underwent a gruelling detox.
"I was physically shaking and not stopping. I would bite my fingers to the point where they were bleeding," she says. "And just thinking 'Oh, I want that drug.' Feeling hot and cold. Not being able to eat and being physically sick, and it was bad."
She kicked her crack addiction but continued drinking and abusing cocaine. At 21, she served more time for trafficking drugs and gave birth to her son while she was in jail. But she didn't slow down until her family and fiance said they had had enough.
"He almost gave up on me," she says. "And I just pleaded to him, 'no, I need you. I need you in my life.' I don't want to live like this anymore. I don't want to be that drunk downtown that can't take care of her kids because I'm a great mom."
Now Dennill says she's caring for her son, with a roof over her head. She's looking for work and focusing on her health.
"I get cravings all the time but I look at my son, I look at my life now, I'm healthier," she says. "I drink water instead of alcohol. I work out instead of partying."
Dennill encourages others battling with addictions to reach out for support. She says she has regrets but is looking forward to a bright future. She says she finds peace in nature.
"I just wish I never wasted my youth," she says. "I wish I could have seen the beauty I see now. It's breathtaking."