June 8, 2016.
Judie’s story is one of trials and tribulations, yet she embodies hope and happiness. Born in Peterborough and having spent a majority of her life in Toronto, Judie moved to the Guelph community August 2015 to be closer to her daughter in Kitchener. At first, Judie and her family of five were living at a hotel and she would come to HOPE House to access the Food Market and HOPE Stylin’ for clothes. Judie began volunteering at HOPE House because it felt like her second home.
When asked what she imagined her life would look like as a child, Judie laughed. She said, “I guess just because of my upbringing I was just a little brat, if I’m being honest. There was a lot of stuff going on in my childhood that wasn’t very pleasant. So I just wanted to get out of my mom’s reach.” As the matriarch in her family, Judie’s decision to leave Toronto was life changing.
Judie’s daughter Robyn had suffered from a meth addiction for over twelve years and had lost parental rights of four of her beloved children. After Robyn’s last daughter Olivia was taken away, she ended her life at the age of 37. Judie shared:
“[Grieving] my daughter is the biggest obstacle that I’m still trying to overcome. To be quite honest, at times when I do see people who are troubled with addiction, especially women, I have a really hard time just…honestly, I want to shake them and I want to say ‘you’re ruining your life’. I obviously can’t do that and sometimes it’s really, really difficult not to.”
Judie is currently on the path to helping others in the Guelph community by raising awareness to young people about drugs and addiction. She wishes to go into schools and talk about her experience and honour her daughter. Her story challenges the common misconception that addiction is an individualized experience:
“Some people may think, ‘you know, it’s just that one person’. You know, you don’t have to drop everything and go to her, but in reality, you do. You have to go on thinking maybe this time is the last time. Maybe this time she’s going to get better and stay away from the drugs. But you know what, at the end of the day, it’s easier said than done. It’s a struggle.”
The courage Judie demonstrates when she tells her story is admirable to say the least. Aside from striving to share her story in local schools, Judie hopes she could stay at HOPE House forever. Laughingly, Judie explained that HOPE House is a place where she not only feels safe, but she feels that it has helped her in healing: “Without HOPE House, I cannot honestly say that I would be here right now…They’ve been so supportive of everything that I went through. There’s never a day goes by that somebody hasn’t said a kind word to me here.”
Recently, Judie planted a lilac bush in the garden outside HOPE House and scattered Robyn’s ashes to pay tribute to her beautiful daughter. The love and sense of community Judie feels at HOPE House pales in comparison to her kind spirit and her desire to have a positive impact on those who may be facing addiction.