by Kim Latimer, North West LHIN
June 5, 2019
From left to right: Cori Bannon (MAP Coordinator), Russell Mason (MAP client), Michelle Jordan (Executive Director Shelter House), and Nora Fox (MAP Client).
Nora Fox began drinking at age 10. She says that she’s been struggling with alcohol ever since. She’s now in her 40s but can’t recall her exact age.
“My childhood was awful. Not because of my parents but because I went to residential school … and you know what happened there,” said Fox, of Bearskin Lake, looking down at her hands.
“When I was a teenager I wouldn’t eat from all I went through. I noticed that the pain from being hungry kept my mind off what I didn’t want to remember and I would cut myself on my arm, just to keep my mind off the other pain.”
“At first it [drinking] started as an experiment and years later it became more,” she recalled. “Life was good for a while. I did lots of work. I was a teacher. I was happy teaching the kids in kindergarten and in daycare.”
“I had my two daughters but their dad died. They were two and four and it was just me that raised them. It was hard raising my kids alone, especially up north in a moldy house that would shift. Sometimes it would crack on one side of the house and split open.”
“That’s when everything went down, when things got real bad. I lost them [her kids] a few times. My son was three and I gave him up because I felt so bad about what he was going through when I was drinking, I would sit alone and drink in the basement. There’s a lot of traumatic stuff. I went through a lot of things.”
Fox ended up on the streets where she survived for nearly a decade. She was going to Shelter House for meals. There, she was identified as a new patient candidate by the Managed Alcohol Program (MAP) - a partnership with NorWest Community Health Centre, St. Joseph’s Care Group, Shelter House and Brain Injury Services of Northern Ontario.
She has been with the program for two years and said it is the reason she’s alive.
When asked where she might be without this program-and replied softly and sincerely, “I would probably be dead.”
Fox was drinking Ba-Bash - the street name for non-palatable alcohols including hand sanitizers, hairspray and mouthwash. “I was in and out of the hospital a lot. People around me have died, friends and family… I tried going to detox and oh my goodness, all those feelings, I couldn’t do it. I was barely able to climb the stairs when I first came here.”
Since joining the Managed Alcohol Program, Fox has started to eat and gain weight. She’s also cooking for other residents: “I’m eating. I like the slow cooker and I like cooking for people that need help.”
“She’s like the house mother,” said Cori Bannon, the program coordinator. “She was so weak when she first came here we were concerned that we might have to install something to help her up the stairs where the women’s dorms are … but she bounced back, she’s so resilient.”
Bannon says that Fox has also formed connections with the residents at the house. She has ideas and hopes for the future.
“I have friends here, and I feel calmer,” Fox said. “I get my anxiety at night when I go to sleep, and I want to go walk around. I got used to being at home here and I want to stay here. I want to eventually deal with the things that give me anxiety and I want to stop drinking and be with family. I’m expecting a grandson,” she said smiling.
“I have lots of friends here. I like cleaning, I like cooking. I’ve come back.”
To learn more about Managed Alcohol Program (MAP) and adult addiction support services contact NorWest Community Health Centre 807-622-8235. In Kenora, contact the Morningstar Centre at Lake of the Woods District Hospital at 807-468-5749. (807)
The Managed Alcohol Program receives funding from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The Kwae Kii Win Centre for Managed Alcohol Program at Shelter House is a 15-bed program. It is operated in partnership with St. Joseph’s Care Group, NorWest Community Health Centre, and Brain Injury Services of Northern Ontario. There are two funded Managed Alcohol Programs in the Northwest in Kenora and Thunder Bay. The program’s mandate is to provide supportive housing paired with harm reduction strategies to reduce alcohol dependence and to reduce contacts with police and emergency health services related to alcoholism.