Angry, bitter and scared: Former Guelph nurse recounts isolating battle with addiction
'This disease just takes incredible beings and does impossible things,' Kim Lewis says of addiction
Kim Lewis says she felt like her addiction to alcohol was OK because she never went to work drunk.
At the time, she was working as a nurse in eastern Ontario. She drank while at home. Her mother was also an alcoholic and died two years before Lewis got sober.
"I was pretty angry and bitter and scared and shameful, particularly as a nurse," Lewis recalled feeling on that trip to Guelph. "We have a very high set of standards for ourselves. I truly believed I was the only nurse who ever did that."
Lewis now works as an addictions counsellor at Homewood Health Centre in Guelph.
Lewis said she wanted to share her story after hearing about the case of a Kitchener nurse who was given her job back after admitting to an opioid addiction, which involved drug theft and falsifying patient records.
"This disease just takes incredible beings and does impossible things," Lewis said.
'Angry and bitter and scared and shameful'
She recalls more than 20 years ago, she decided to enter treatment and travelled to Homewood.
Going into treatment was a "freeing gift," Lewis said, because she realized she wasn't alone. She took part in the Caduceus peer-support gathering at Homewood, which is similar to an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting, but is specifically for healthcare workers.
She successfully made it through treatment and has been sober for more than 20 years.
Now, having worked as an addictions counsellor for 17 years, Lewis leads the Caduceus group. She says it allows her to share her own experience so others seeking treatment realize they're not alone in what they're feeling.
"There's honour in recovery," Lewis said. "If I had a goal in my career, I'd love to bust the stigma as it relates to this disease."
Listen to the whole interview with Kim Lewis: