You can’t touch this

I may have written about this before, so please excuse me if I’m repeating myself. The topic is physical touching, I’m not referring to being attacked or raped in a car park, I’m talking about being in a social situation and someone you barely know decides it’s OK to lay hands on you in the spirit of ‘Christmas’.

Women are often given the message that if we ask not to be touched, we come across as bitches. We may give a cold stare or physically remove the person’s hands from our body, and get the ‘what’s your problem?’ retort. It’s not right at any other time of the year, why do some folks think it’s all hands on just because Santa’s almost here? It bears thinking about.

With the recent conversations about some holiday songs, (“Baby, it’s cold outside” being the tune that started it all), and the strong opinions for and against banning it from the airwaves, it seems we have a lot to ponder while we shop. As a woman and feminist I feel strong in my opinions about things, but then often say nothing if the above situation happens to me. Having an open and friendly demeanor gives the impression I’m without awareness of my personal space. Am I that worried about hurting someone’s feelings if I say ‘get your hands off me’ in public? Where do my boundaries end and their humiliation begin? In the spirit of the season, as an acquaintance to someone, please ask them first. Friends would already know, strangers tend not to impose anyway, but with casual acquaintances; men please ask if contact is OK, and try not to get too upset if the woman says no, you’d want your daughters/nieces/wives to get the same respect from somebody else wouldn’t you?


Mental Yelps

Picture a woman who’s normally calm, even-tempered and friendly. Put her in a stressful (for her) situation and observe what happens. She gets quieter by the minute, she feels that there’s no point trying to speak up because the myriad of sounds, voices and opinions expressed will just drown her out.  When she’s angry she just gets silent. No yelling, no fighting or raising her voice, just silent. For an alert person watching, the signs are all there, the tapping of a pen on the table, the body language that includes rubbing her head to ease an imaginary headache, the physical space she tries to put between her and the source. Having a notice hanging around her neck that says in capital letters “BE QUIET” would be just as obvious.

In a transition house or support program we are used to seeing the signs of upset, anger, frustration, and fear on the faces of our clients. Supporting them to deal effectively with these emotions is part of our job, what happens when the workers need the same support? Despite what some folks think we don’t just live in a white space until it’s time to come to work, we have family lives, losses, money stresses and other problems. We are human and sometimes doing the job we do on top of our own worries, maintaining a calm and supportive demeanor while our mind is still whirling from events on our days off can be difficult. Hearing the often sad and painful details of our clients’ lives is somewhat soul crushing and despite our mantra of ‘leave it at the door’ we wouldn’t be in this job if our hearts were made of ice. 

Burn-out sounds like an overused word for something we all cope with, it’s how you live on your days off that helps defend against it. Reading, exercise, spending time with friends, and travelling are healthy ways of releasing the breath you hold at work. For this writer, it’s easy. If I’m getting quiet, check in with me, because although I’m not a constant talker I will express myself if it seems safe and opportune to do so. What’s your communication valve like? Do you have someone to talk to?

A Christmas Contribution Conversation.

Every year people in Powell River give generously to local charities; the Food Bank, Salvation Army, Grace House and others of their choice. This is the true meaning of Christmas in my opinion. The decision to donate money or gifts to those in need instead of, or in addition to, presents for their family members.  We are a very warm hearted community in times of need.

In my nearly 6 years with the Powell River & Region Transition House Society, I have seen it repeatedly. The sheer number of items dropped off for women and children in our agency is nothing less than humbling. I want to take this opportunity to thank you all who have provided the clients in our home with toys, clothes, beauty products and personal care items over the years.

We have been going through some storage clear-outs in the last couple of months and as a result of this process we have made some changes to our policies. To this end, we are graciously accepting smaller items as donations and Christmas gifts for women and children that may be staying at Grace House. This includes comfort items such as socks and slippers for women as well as underwear, nighties and pajamas. Perhaps a fuzzy warm blanket to cuddle up in? If providing items for children  warms your heart, we are always in need of new scarves and mittens, as well as coats and jackets for boys and girls.

The number one most useful gift at this time of year though is the gift card. This way a woman can choose items for herself and her family.  Cards for local grocery stores or Walmart are a plus, I understand that Dollarama also sells them. Having choice is something we all cherish, and giving that option to a woman could be a most unselfish present this year. 

A day to start 16.


  November 25th is fast approaching; in case you believe it’s just another cold day in a drizzly month, I will add that it’s also the ‘International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women’. Being in this field I obviously think that this should occur every day in people’s minds, but if it has to be just one specific 24 hour period, then lets make it a good one. Take the time to honour a woman in your life, or do some research on local agencies for a woman you think might need help. 

November 25th-December 10th, inclusive, are the 16 Days of Action. Please click on the link to see the Canadian Governments page on the details of this years memorial. In our community, the Police Based Victim Services program is linking with the RCMP to bring the annual Shoe Memorial to Powell River. This year it will be held on December 6th, from 10:00 am-6:00 pm at the Powell River Public Library (instead of the Town Centre Mall). It’s a very moving presentation, some people have a very hard time with it on an emotional level. We will have our agency staff on hand to answer any questions or just talk things through with you.


Answers to Yesterday

mental miseries   Mental Miseries; Making the Grade

Give yourself one point for each true answer on the test.

Pts.                    Results

1-3                      You generally feel good about yourself. Keep up the positive thinking.

4-6                      The mental miseries may be gaining on you. Take time to renew your                              positive traits.

7+                        Challenge yourself to change your way of thinking.



Read the following information to take a closer look at some of the attitudes behind each of the 12 misery makers. Seek out the resources and information suggested to enhance positive thinking and achieve greater self-understanding and awareness.



Misery Maker #1: Do you believe others cause your feelings? Do others make you feel guilty about things?

Turnaround Mentality: You create your own feelings and make your own decisions. People and events do not cause feelings, but they can trigger your mental habits. you may wish to empower yourself with more information about relationships and communication skills.

Misery Maker #2: Are you so conscientious  in your self-improvement efforts that you never miss a chance to remind yourself what you should or shouldn’t do? ‘I should have studied more, or I shouldn’t have eaten so much’.

Turnaround Mentality: Shoulds don’t get the job done. They’re just a way of punishing yourself after the fact. Guilt and shame don’t produce much action: mostly they drain your energy and discourage you. More information about realistically achieving peak performance may help you.

Misery Maker #3: Are you a relentless critic, always finding fault with the way you look and feel or the way others act towards you? Do you nag yourself and others, especially those you care about?

Turnaround Mentality: Replace criticism with encouragement. Encourage yourself and your friends rather than criticizing them. Give a compliment or a pat on the back. Visualize the positive and achieve what you want. Read more about improving self-esteem.

Misery Maker #4: Do you believe that you must do everything perfectly or not at all? Do you sacrifice fun in your life to achieve every goal?

Turnaround Mentality: Perfection is a high goal to aim for: don’t insist on starting there or even arriving there. Do your best and then accept it. You can enhance your life performance and have fun too. Seek out help to deal with your perfectionist tendencies.

Misery Maker #5: Do you assume you’re to blame whenever someone is upset? Do you often ask yourself, “What did I do wrong?” if your roommate or significant other is in a bad mood, do you feel responsible for it?

Turnaround Mentality: The person who is upset owns the problem. Stop apologizing and accepting blame. Everyone has the right to have angry feelings but you don’t have to feel guilty. Recognize that interpersonal conflicts can be healthy, leading to constructive change and deeper understanding. Strive for emotional wellness with yourself and your relationships.

Misery Maker #6: Do you steal responsibility from others? Do you feel responsible for the happiness of another person? Do you take on others’ responsibilities, then get angry when they don’t appreciate all you’ve done for them?

Turnaround Mentality: Stealing responsibility from others only cheats them out of a growing experience. Learning to deal with the consequences of one’s behaviour is part of being an adult. Seek greater self-responsibility and self-determination. Make some lists to clarify your own needs and wants. Remember, the world has many shoulders to carry it.

Misery Maker #7: Do you call yourself stupid if you make a mistake? Do you call yourself a failure if you slip off your diet or skip a test review session? If your mistakes are pointed out to you, do you feel as if you are under attack and become defensive. 

Turnaround Mentality: You’re only human so treat yourself with kindness and not abuse. Allow yourself to make mistakes and then forgive yourself. Move ahead with a positive attitude; take time to laugh at yourself. Explore the healing power of laughter.

Misery Maker #8: Are you a compulsive people pleaser? Maybe you need the frequent approval of others and forget to give yourself approval. Do you make sacrifices and then get mad at yourself?

Turnaround Mentality: Give yourself permission to decide you’re doing the best you can. Don’t wait to hear it from someone else. Tell yourself you’re doing a good job, and ask for encouragement when you need it. Do something extra nice for a very important person-you!

Misery Maker #9: Do you motivate yourself with fear? Fear and scare tactics may get your attention, but they won’t last long as far as motivation is concerned. You may end up feeling anxious and unhappy.

Turnaround Mentality: Motivate yourself with choice not fear. Visualize success and make decisions that fit with that image of success. For instance, picture yourself succeeding at a task and think of the satisfaction and good feelings  you’ll have when you meet your goals. Learn more about effective self-assertion.

Misery Maker #10: Do you interpret events and comments in a negative light? If your friend says ‘your hair is looking good today’, do you ask yourself ‘what was wrong with it yesterday?’

Turnaround Mentality: You do have a choice, so choose a positive interpretation. Accept a compliment! Look at temporary setbacks as opportunities for growth. The positive appraisal will help you maintain your energy and give you and improved outlook. Encourage positive self-talk from those inner voices.

Misery Maker #11: Do you hang on to painful memories? Do you dwell on bad feelings to justify your bad mood? If someone doesn’t say they’re sorry, do you stay mad at that person?

Turnaround Mentality: The only part of the past that affects you in your present interpretation of it. Only you are in charge of that. Try to reinterpret those past events in a positive way. Forgiving is helpful and, at times, is necessary to move forward. Don’t forget to forgive yourself too.

Misery Maker #12: Do you coach yourself into believing you can’t do certain things or deal with change? Do you frequently hear yourself saying or thinking “I can’t”? If you say this often enough, you will soon believe it. It will become a self-fulfilling prophecy and you will feel even more powerless and out of control.

Turnaround Mentality: Believe in yourself and realize that you’re a capable person. Give yourself positive, encouraging statements. if your goal requires a response or approval from others, you revert to feeling helpless. Work at feeling good about yourself and become more self-reliant. Seek help when you need it.

*You are responsible: All of the above messages reinforce the fact that you are responsible for your self. Your happiness or your misery depends upon what you tell yourself, how you treat yourself and how you interpret your world. It’s an inside job! If you feel you need some help with working this through, find a counselor in your area to help pull these points together. Relying on someone else, no matter how close you are to them, for your confidence and strength isn’t fair on either one of you.


Mental Miseries Quiz

mental miseries   This quiz and it’s answers were found in the book ’12 ways to make yourself absolutely miserable: And how to conquer them’. by WW Johnston (1990) pp 102-105, 113. I hope you learn something, I sure did! Try the True and False quiz first and then I’ll go through the answers to each question as per the book in my blog post Tuesday, November 13th. 

1) I  believe others cause my feelings.                                                  T       F

2) I’m always telling myself I should do this or that.                      T        F

3) I constantly criticize myself.                                                              T         F

4) I think I must do everything perfectly or not at all.                    T         F

5) I’m always apologizing for one thing or another.                         T         F

6) I feel like I’m carrying the world on my shoulders.                      T        F

7) I’m really hard on myself when I make mistakes.                          T        F

8) I bend over backwards to please others.                                           T         F

9) I scare myself into action by imagining horrible things               T          F

that will happen if I don’t do something.

10) I tend to look on the negative side of things. My glass is 1/2        T        F

 empty at all times, rather than half full.

11) It’s hard for me to forgive and forget. If someone hurts me        T        F

I tend to cling to that feeling.

12) I often feel helpless. There are so many things I can’t do.              T         F

A paperless society?

115px-Portable_violet   The theory is, that with computers and other technology, our society will be paperless in the next 20-30 years. I heard that eons ago and yet here I sit, in the office at the house surrounded by paper forms of many kinds. We’ve done some updating, re-organizing and tossing out of many items here in the last couple of months. It feels cleaner in a way, but the paper remains. It hangs on bulletin boards, it lurks in files, and it hides in the cabinets. Client files,intake forms,notices about house rules, staff notes, pay stubs, work schedules it goes on and on, never mind the fax and copy machines that make even more! Social service agencies tend to thrive on information, the giving and receiving. Information that must be recorded on paper. (This is in case the computer fails, but I didn’t say that out loud so it didn’t hear me).

True, you can now pay pretty much all your bills online, choose not to get bank statements or other receipts on paper. I’m not advocating for a completely paperless world, I’m a Powell River resident, a descendant and wife of former employees at the mill, it might even be sacrilege to mention the ‘paper’ issue out loud. 

I’ve discussed the dangers of technology before, this is the flip side. For a person considering leaving a domestic violence situation having support numbers written out, or receiving information in the mail about their queries can be dangerous. Any appointment reminders, notices about meetings, calendar notations are also potential hints to the abuser that something is changing; that the abused is looking at options, perhaps seeing a banker about switching accounts. If you’re not sure how to receive information in any form, go to a safe place and make some calls on a landline, call the program number you feel best suits your needs; victim services, stopping the violence outreach or counselor and let them know about your situation. They will help you to strategize without putting out alerts.

Is That Legal?

One of my coworkers brought back a booklet from the last training session in Vancouver. It covers what the law says about online harassment and abuse. It provides a very handy chart as well, that covers the age of consent in relation to other people in sexual relationships. It is easy to read and meant for younger people who have questions about sexting, online relationships and consent. 

The booklet was written and produced by the joint association between the Legal Services Society and West Coast Leaf. You can order this booklet for yourself or agency by clicking on the link below and searching the information. 







By the light of the silvery? moon.

moonj    It’s a full moon tonight, October and a week before Halloween. Driving to work this morning I could see it just hanging in the sky, almost beckoning. She’s a powerful force this Mother Nature, she has the ability to affect people and the planet in all sorts of ways. Tides change, emotions run high, hospitals, women’s shelters and police station employees will all tell you the same thing, ‘there’s something to the old tales’. Almost every culture has an association with and name for the moon. 

So what does the moon have to do with domestic violence? Apparently there is little scientific proof to show that people’s behaviour actually changes at this time of each month. I have included a link to an article to argue that side of the case. What I’ve seen in person though is somewhat different. Whether it’s used as an excuse for violent behaviour, “the moon made me do it.” or a physical pull on people dealing  with mental health and addiction issues, the result is the same; some humans are genuinely affected by the full moon. Whether it’s themselves or their partner is irrelevant, the numbers of women in transition houses during this part of each lunar cycle speaks loudly.

All we can do is support the victims, find them counselling, housing, and hope. We can shake our fists at the moon all we want but at the end of the sun-lit day, it’s their partners that are responsible for the hurting. 

What’s the Dif?

k0557766  In a book by Jed Diamond, he discusses the differences between healthy love and addictive love. The book is called ‘Looking for Love in all the wrong places’. I’ve listed the differences for you, read through them and see how your relationship compares in each case. If there’s more addictive behaviours than healthy, it might be time to talk to someone.

-Healthy love develops after we feel secure. Addictive love occurs when we feel frightened and insecure.

-Healthy loves comes from a feeling of being full of love. Addictive love is always trying to fill an inner void.

-Healthy love begins with loving ourselves. Addictive love keeps us from looking at ourselves honestly and has us seeking love from that special someone.

-Healthy love comes to us after we have given up the search. Addictive love is always sought after.

-Healthy love grows slowly. Addictive love grows fast, as if by magic.

-Healthy love thrives on time alone as well as time with our partner. Addictive love is frightened of being alone.

-Healthy love is unique. There is no ideal lover. Addictive love involves a certain type we are attracted to.

-Healthy love is gentle and comfortable. Addictive love is tense and combative.

-Healthy love creates a deeper sense of ourselves the longer we are together. Addictive love creates a loss of self.

-Healthy love gets easier as time goes on. Addictive love requires more effort because it’s hard to sustain a romantic image.

-Healthy love encourages us to broaden our interests. Addictive love does the opposite.

-Healthy love teaches us that we can only make ourselves happy. Addictive love expects the other person to make us happy and demands that we try to make them happy.


As fall turns to winter.

leaves    Given the weather outside, and the amazing colours Mother Nature is gifting our eyes with this week I decided to blog about seasonal changes. This is not an opportunity to gush praise on the mighty Maple tree, or mourn the long summer evenings. It’s a place to address what happens in an abusive relationship in the close and cold confines of winter. 

Numerous domestic violence experts report an increase in domestic violence incidents between November and January. There are a few factors that may make domestic violence more likely to occur during this time of the year:

  • People spend more of their time with family and at large gatherings, which may increase stress. Extra time with family, watching football or hanging out where alcohol is present can also add a dangerous dimension for some people.
  • Various financial strains – including tax return filing, reduced work hours and the arrival of holiday bills – occur during this season.
  • Cold weather can trap people/couples indoors, making them spend more time together. The weather, if dark and wet can also bring about a form of Seasonal Affective Disorder. This makes life harder to handle sometimes.
  • In the current housing crunch we see more people living in smaller spaces, perhaps with pets, or small children. This can make things extra tense.

While none of these factors are an excuse for domestic violence, it is easy to see how they may raise the risk of it occurring. As we stand at the halfway point in October it may be time to look at some of the signs already appearing in your relationship. If you’re feeling nervous about the upcoming winter, please call one of our programs for support. 


Are you in charge?

hard life

You know how some people tell you to shop in your own closet when you say you need new clothes? I’ve been taking that same bit of advice when it comes to searching for blog post ideas. There are all sorts of pamphlets and hand-outs in the house; pieces of papers with ideas already written on them! It’s the same with pithy statements and deep quotes, I don’t need to climb a mountain or seek a guru when I can just type in a statement and the internet gives me a bunch for free. Don’t get me wrong, I like having independent thought, it’s what separates me from robots, but a wise person once asked, “Why reinvent the wheel?” 

Today’s advice is on taking charge of your own life. This is hard for women in abusive relationships, they are being controlled, however subtly it may seem by their partner. The secret is to read these statements every day until they become a part of your thinking. 

  • I am a unique and precious human being, always doing the best I can, always growing in wisdom and love.
  • I am in charge of my own life.
  • My number one responsibility is my own growth and well-being. The better I am to me, the better I will be to others.
  • I refuse to be put down by the attitudes and opinions of others.
  • I make my own decisions and assume responsibility for any mistakes. However, I refuse to feel guilt or shame about them.
  • I am not my actions. I am the actor. My actions may be good or bad. That doesn’t make me good or bad.
  • I am not free as to the things that will happen to me. But I am 100% free as to the attitude I have towards these things.
  • I do not have to prove myself to anyone. I need only to express myself as honestly and effectively as I am capable.
  • I am free of animosity or resentment.
  • My emotional well-being is dependent primarily on how I love me.
  • I am kind and gentle towards myself.
  • I live a day at a time, do first things first.
  • I am patient and serene, for I have the rest of my life in which to grow.
  • Every experience I have in life (even the unpleasant ones) contributes to my learning and growth.
  • No one in the world is more important than I as a person.
  • My mistakes an non-successes do not make me a louse or a crumb or whatever. They only prove that I am imperfect, that is HUMAN…And there is nothing wrong with being human.

Some of these are perhaps a bit wordy, but if you’re feeling like you need some self-confidence, recite a few to yourself before you head out, and don’t let anyone treat you badly. 


Laundry bags and stuffing

dirty-clothing-close-up-shot-BMB27P      About a million years ago I went away to Nanaimo for college. There were a few of us from Powell River that went so it was good to know some people when away from home for the first time. I remember the first time we piled into cars and made our way up the Island Highway, heading back home with our heads full of new information and our luggage full of dirty clothes. We played the music loud, lifted our feet when going over train tracks, and talked about which professors we liked or didn’t like. 

I didn’t know then what would happen in my life, where all these friends would scatter to, what roads their educations would take them on. If I had just one day to appreciate sitting in the back seat singing along to Sting or Cindy Lauper I would. I would also take the time to really listen to my siblings and family members while I was home. Thanksgiving was this weekend and it usually gives people pause for thought. What do they have, or who do they have in their life that they’re thankful for?

In the midst of crisis there is often a solid calmness. There is something you find within yourself that will help you get beyond the chaos around you, I don’t know where that quote came from, or maybe it’s just life experience talking. There’s been some chaos and loss since those days on the Island Highway. I wager we’ve all had our share. Maybe we thrived because we had a loving place to bring our laundry, a close family to share turkey dinner with, and friends to get us there and back. Whether it’s turkey or ham or a vegetarian option, enjoy the time spent with those you love, and after the dishes are all put away, take care of you.





Kerzenlicht   Reading an Oprah magazine recently I noted that the theme of the month was “What do you find beautiful?” The answers were varied; their children at rest, sunrises, gardens etc. Of course it made me think of my own answer, (that’s what magazine articles do). Living in a town like Powell River there’s a lot on offer. Our beaches and lakes, walking trails, the sun going down over Forbidden Plateau. I admire all the above as well as the smiles on people’s faces, flowers and window displays outside someone’s shop, the sound of children laughing in the water park at Willingdon Beach, and enjoying a coffee with my mom at Starbucks on a Saturday morning.

Would most people label that last one as beautiful? Perhaps not, but as the expression goes, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’ To spend time with her, watching as she dives into my bag of almonds, talking with pride about my niece and nephew, discussing the news or a movie she watched the night before. At 75 she’s beautiful inside and out. A big welcoming smile, an interest in people, a sense of humour that emerges especially when someone is being saucy. She loves her food but is so health conscious that her sea-walk strides help keep her fit. (I’m not going to go into the dancing every time her cell phone peals out ‘Despecito’). When so many people my age have already lost their parents I’m going to treasure the one I have left. Losing dad was incredibly tough but like any strong amazing woman she’s making the necessary decisions on her own. We haven’t always got along, but I’d say we’re about 98% to the good. So, what do I consider beautiful? The incredible role model, friend, travel buddy that I’m lucky enough to have all rolled up in a woman who loves me unconditionally. 

If you still have a mom, and you get along with her as adults, call her up and ask her out for coffee, you may be surprised at the woman inside the mother. 

Family Fare

leaves   So, back from our two weeks in Great Britain, and it was a lot of fun; sitting on trains, sipping dark beverages (some of it was tea), attending sporting events and getting to know a lovely group of relatives. None of them looked anything like me but because they knew my mother was a cousin they kept peering at me as if expecting my features to reveal a hidden DNA molecule. Sorry, my features come from the land of Haggis and Scotch not the BBC and Crumpets.

Family is an interesting phenomenon though, whether you get along with each other all the time or not, they are your family, they have shared memories, habits, and (approximate nose size). When I went out with a cousin I laughed to see her lick every finger after finishing a snack, it’s what I do and I’d rarely seen anyone in my direct family do that! It’s true that some people’s family members don’t behave well, and some are downright unethical, abusive or emotionally cold, but the good ones are worth hanging on to even when they drive you nuts.

I was anxious to return home the last couple of days, even while enjoying my time away, there’s always a pull to what you know is familiar; your own bed, your spouse or children, your own stuff. In the case of vacations there’s also the dread that all those ‘chips and pints’ will have added a few stone onto your frame. Getting out for exercise isn’t always easy ( or expected) and so you allow yourself to stay in vacation mode a little longer, thereby putting off the gym re-joining when you get back. Anyway, the blog posts shall continue, the website shall be refreshed with current information and I will head into Autumn with renewed commitment to support those that need it, including myself!

Substance Use and Violence

medication bottles

Another post from ‘The Women’s Addiction Foundation’ hand-outs. This one deals with the combination of substance use and domestic/family violence. The substances could be taken by either partner, or both. Either way the use of drugs is detrimental to a healthy partnership. 

‘Violence against women in relationships refers to any private or public act done by a woman’s partner that causes her physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering. Both substance misuse and violence in relationships are complex problems and in combination they become even more complicated and dangerous for women.

-The connections between substance misuse and violence against women; The combination is common in our society, in all communities, and in all social classes. Both problems often run for generations in a family, creating patterns of secrecy and denial, and isolating family members from one another. Over time, the combination can lead to situations that can be life-threatening for women.

-Social Attitudes: The National Violence Against Women Survey (1993) found that men’s drinking is a major factor in wife abuse. This does not mean that drinking causes male violence, but it is often used as an excuse for male violence. Society still promotes the attitude that drinking/drugging and violence are normal male responses to frustration. As a result, many violent men excuse their abusive behaviour, and many women are encouraged to believe “I deserved it” or “he wasn’t himself because he was drinking/using.”

Masking the problem: Women who were abused as children may use substances to deaden painful memories. Women who are currently being abused may use drugs or alcohol to cope with or accommodate an abusive partner. This, in turn can increase their vulnerability to violence. Sometimes doctors can also play a negative role in masking abuse by prescribing addictive drugs to women who have experienced, or are experiencing violence. Drugging a woman ignores the real problem: the abuser’s violent behaviour.

What are the barriers to getting help?

Fear and danger: A woman who is abused in her intimate relationship is often controlled by fear, threats, and violence. She may find it extremely difficult to even think about making a move to get safe and free, let alone stopping or reducing her substance use. The dangers are real. Women often will not seek treatment because they fear their partner’s violent reaction against them, their children or pets.

Depression: Abused women are also at a risk for depression, anxiety, and self-harming behaviours. This can make it very difficult for them to reach out and seek help.

Memories of childhood trauma: Sometimes when a woman takes steps to deal with an abusive living situation or to address her substance use, memories of earlier abuse surface. These memories may make her turn to drugs or alcohol again. For this reason some treatment programs discourage women from working on childhood abuse issues, but women also relapse when they do not deal with early abuse. Each woman is unique and must determine for herself when and how to deal with both issues.

What Works?

-Programs that recognize women’s need to heal from substance misuse and experiences of abuse in a safe, supportive environment: Drug and alcohol treatment programs can provide women with a safe space to explore needs for growth and change, and build skills and confidence to protect themselves.

-Transition Houses that provide a safe space for women with substance abuse issues: Specialized transition houses that actively work with women on both violence and substance use issues from a harm reduction framework are essential. And it is important for all transition houses to find ways to commit to working with women on substance use issues in a routine and supportive way.

-Working together: Service providers are coming to recognize the links between substance misuse and violence. They are beginning to to share their expertise and work together to ensure safety for women and their children, while supporting women’s  recovery from or change in their substance use. They are also exploring links with service providers working with women on mental health and HIV issues. It is a worthwhile goal to develop services that are holistic and welcoming to women with a variety of issues.’





Women and Problem Gambling Pt.2

woman gambling     


‘Barriers to getting help:

-Not recognizing the problem: A woman may not believe that she is a problem gambler. She may rationalize that her gambling is merely entertainment or time for herself-a common explanations among problem bingo players. She will use any win to validate these beliefs.

-Feelings of guilt or fear:A woman may be unable to tell people what she has done because she feels too guilty and ashamed about her losses, lies and the means she used to get the money. She may fear retribution from an abusive partner.

-Lack of understanding on the part of those in a position to help: Women’s gambling is often not visible. When it is noticed, relatives and social service providers may view gambling as a sign of weakness, or a relatively minor problem, rather than a health and social problem with significant life consequences. Family members may find it hard to be supportive if they have experienced dishonesty with a woman who is a problem gambler, or if they have loaned money that has been lost.

-Lack of understanding about women’s experience of health and social problems: Women’s problems with gambling are often denied or minimized. Misconceptions such as ‘bingo is not really gambling’ or ‘women cannot really be problem gamblers’ still exist. These misconceptions are less prevalent in women-only support groups and treatment settings, yet few of these exist for women problem gamblers.


What Works?

Today’s research and programming does take better account of women’s needs. As a result women can and do make changes that address their problem gambling every day. Counselling with service provider who are knowledgeable about women’s problem gambling can be very helpful. Effective counselling

  • Provides a non-judgmental space to explore one’s concerns about gambling.
  • Offers information about the impact of gambling and strategies for changing it.
  • Supports a woman’s motivation to change and helps her identify the people, places and things that can support her in making changes.
  • Offers a safe place to talk about difficult emotions and new ways of coping.
  • Provides referrals to supports such as debt counselors. 

Support groups, including self-help groups, are often available on a drop-in basis. These groups are most effective when used along with counseling. They can provide a sense of connection as well as feedback, encouragement and support from peers in a non-judgmental atmosphere. 

Residential treatment programs can also be helpful to women with an overpowering compulsion to gamble. They can provide a controlled environment, a break from daily life, and intensive therapeutic support that builds understanding about problem gambling, as well as strategies for personal change.’ 

empty purse  This information taken from the handout provided by ‘The Women’s Addiction Foundation”. They are no longer practicing but their information is still very relevant. If you have a gambling addiction please talk to someone before it takes over your life.

Hit ’em high!

115px-Portable_violet   I checked on the number of hits the website has received so far and I’m proud to say we’re up over 13, 005. That may not seem like a lot to some web-masters, but to me that’s a real boost. This means a lot, as Sally Field once said “you like me, you really like me”. Of course I know the site isn’t connected to my personality, it’s a work creation only, but after all the research on subjects, typing in endless resource numbers, adding community links to the pages to make things easier, it’s reassuring to know there’s an audience out there using it. 

A big thank you to Nora LeClaire as well, she’s the one who keeps an eye on the site for our agency, it’s great to have that kind of experience backing us up. Anyway, a short post for now, I believe I have Part 2 of last week’s post on ‘Women and Problem Gambling’ to add later on today. Enjoy your Labour Day and don’t forget all those who fought and won our rights to safe work places and decent wages.

Wanna Bet?

woman gambling  As with the last blog post, this one was taken from a handout through ‘The Women’s Addiction Foundation’. It’s title is ‘Women and Problem Gambling, it’s not about domestic abuse, but there is an element to addictions that are related to family violence or a result of them. 

‘The number of women who gamble has increased rapidly in the past decade. Women often gamble to meet social needs, and it can be affordable, safe and fun. However, when women are drawn to gambling as a way to avoid loneliness, painful emotions and difficult life situations they are vulnerable to developing gambling problems.  Women are vulnerable to becoming problem gamblers when they are trying to:

  • minimize loneliness
  • escape emotionally from past or current traumas
  • escape physically from chronic pain, addiction, or other health problems 
  • get out of poverty by winning money
  • avoid conflict or abuse at home
  • relieve stress

Gambling can cause women to lose money that their families need for food, shelter and basic necessities. When a woman’s gambling causes such problems, she can feel intense shame and guilt. As many as 1 in 5 women who have a gambling problem seriously consider suicide. 

Connections between gambling and substance misuse: women who are problem gamblers are 2 to 3 times more likely to also have problems with substance abuse. Sometimes women substitute one strategy for another, replacing gambling with drinking or drugging for awhile, and vice versa. Women’s problems gambling has similarities to problem substance use:

  • A problem gambler can have the illusion that she is ‘”in control”
  • A problem gambler chases after the initial high or feeling of escape associated with a win
  • A problem gamblers’ tolerance increases over time. She needs to gamble for longer periods of time, and wager larger sums of money.

Gambling can pose a risk for women recovering from substance dependence. Mistakenly, gambling is often presented as a safe way for a recovering woman to have fun in an alcohol and drug free environment. If she is struggling with boredom-a common feeling during early recovery-gambling can provide excitement. If she is struggling with past traumas, gambling can offer escape from overwhelming feelings. If she is dealing with financial difficulties or poverty, the temptation of easy money can be very strong.

Watch this space next week for the continuation of ‘Women and Problem Gambling’.

Barriers to getting help

alcohol-pic    Part 2 of ‘Alcohol and Older Women’ post, taken from the hand-out ‘Alcohol and Older Women’ through the Women’s Addiction Foundation.

In the first installment of this post from Saturday, August 25th, we looked at the facts and dangers to women over 65 who use alcohol. In this segment we’ll look at the next stage, ‘getting help’. Some of the barriers;

  1. Not recognizing the problem; many older women do not even know they have a drinking problem. They may show signs and symptoms but their family members, friends, doctors and other health care professionals often see these as signs of ageing, not alcohol use.
  2. Admitting the problem and feeling hope that you can change: Like all people who have an alcohol problem, it may be hard to admit you have a problem. Many of us have learned that ‘only certain kinds of people’ have problems with drinking, and that having a problem is shameful. But the truth is, people from all walks of life use alcohol to deal with issues in their lives, so you are not alone. It’s important to know that even older women who have had a problem for a long time have been successful at making positive changes in their use. And older women do as well as, or even better than younger people in treatment. 
  3. Depression: you may experience depression and this can make it very hard to reach out for help.
  4. Fewer treatment options for seniors: Alcohol treatment programs are often not suited to the needs of older women. For example, they can have schedules that don’t allow much flexibility for clients who need a different pace. Also, and older woman may find that she is the only one of her age in the group. She may feel that she can’t connect with some of the issues of younger women.


So what works?

  • Dealing with depression: older women who have drinking problems often feel depressed because of their health, financial situation, life changes, or the death of their spouse, partner, or close friends. In some cases, counselling for support groups that help deal with the cause of the depression can be helpful. In other cases, medications for depression can help.
  • Dealing with social isolation; older women who have drinking problems often feel isolated. Many women have found that reconnecting with family and friends, and going on social outings have been an important part of their recovery.

Programs that suit older women: older women have found that they are more successful with cutting down or stopping drinking if they attend programs that respect their needs and offer the following; 

-support for transportation or they are held in accessible seniors facilities

-counselors that understand and are trained to work with ageing issues.

-a pace that matches your energy level

-a focus on all the challenges that are important in your life, not just on drinking.

-a connection to other resources (for example, pain management)

  • Not going it alone; It is important to get the support you need if you choose to change your drinking. It can be dangerous for older women to stop drinking ‘cold turkey’. So finding a supportive doctor, nurse or other health care professional can be important. They can help you withdraw safely from alcohol and/or connect you with withdrawal management services in your area. 





In a few weeks I’m going on vacation to visit relatives in the UK. of course I’m looking forward to it, and yes even though I’m in my 50’s I still feel like a kid waiting for Christmas, the hardest part is being patient. The second hardest part is reminding myself that life is to be lived in the meantime. To spend time with family, friends and my partner, to do my share of the household chores, to work my shifts with the same energy and enthusiasm I’ll have when I get back. 

Patience is a strength of character. It may have been covered in this blog before but watching the news and some people, it occurred to me that it bears repeating. Waiting our turn is often difficult, whether it be in traffic, at the grocery store or at work. Some humans take extra time to do things, if you’re behind an elderly person going 30 in a 60 zone how is honking the horn and tailgating them going to help matters? Ease back, it won’t be long before your body slows down and starts to test others’ patience. Rushing and wishing time away is almost an insult to those loved ones who don’t have much time left. Think of someone you’ve lost recently and honour them by appreciating the view and experiences that you’re still alive to enjoy. 

Here’s your homework for the next week, if you choose to accept the challenge. The next time you feel yourself getting upset when someone is taking too long; take some deep breaths, see if there’s a way that you could help, smile at them, count to 10 in your mind, look out a window and enjoy the view (even if it’s a parking lot outside of the grocery store). You might find that if you pay more attention to what’s happening around you instead of what’s going on in your own life, it will open your eyes to other people’s struggles. A bit of a change in closing this time, Take care of others.

Are you too old to drink too much?

alcohol-pic   This blog post comes to you courtesy of a hand out I found here at the house. It’s one of a series put out by the Women’s Addiction Foundation. They are no longer in operation under that name but I chose to attribute credit. 


‘More than half of women over 65 drink alcohol, at least occasionally, and many are affected by the drinking of someone they love. Most older women drink moderately and for pleasure. But others can begin to drink more than is healthy, and to rely on alcohol to cope with major changes, such as physical or emotional pain, coping with caring for a spouse who is also ageing or ill, death of a spouse, and poverty.’

About 1 in 12 older women has a serious problem with alcohol. Many have had this problem for a long time. But for many others, the problem is new. Drinking too much can affect women of all ages, but there are specific things that older women should watch out for. 

  • Nutrition; drinking can often make you feel much less like eating. Alcohol also blocks your body’s ability to absorb and use vitamins. This can lead to poor nutrition, which can put your body under stress.


  • Accidents: You can be more susceptible to falls and fractures. This isn’t because you’re falling down drunk, but because alcohol can weaken muscles and damage nerves. As is true for anyone, drinking can also affect your driving. Studies have shown that drinking-related accidents that cause injury and death are a significant problem for seniors.


  • Memory problems: Drinking too much can make it difficult to remember things that happened recently. This loss is not due to ageing. 


  • Depression: Some older women drink to cope with loneliness, depression and anxiety. But depression can actually arise from one’s alcohol use instead of alleviating it.


  • Drinking while on medication: Over 150 common drugs and medications can adversely interact with alcohol; antibiotics, aspirin, pain killers and sedatives such as Valium. The list also includes common medications for blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes and stomach conditions. Many over-the-counter drugs and herbal remedies can also cause problems if you drink while taking them.


  • Body chemistry changes; As you grow older your body goes through major changes in metabolism. You produce less of the chemical that breaks down alcohol and your liver and kidneys work more slowly. As a result, alcohol remains in your body much longer, causing damage.


  • Stomach problems: You can get stomach problems from drinking, including indigestion, gastritis, and ulcers. Alcohol also significantly increases your chances of developing mouth or stomach cancer.


  • Abuse; Alcohol use can also be connected to abuse of seniors. Sometimes when ‘friends’ or family drink they can become violent or emotionally abusive. They may even become financially abusive and take money away from you. When older women are under the influence of alcohol, clear decision making is more difficult, making them more vulnerable to remaining in abusive situations. Older women may also overuse alcohol to cope with the shame or guilt they feel about abuse done to them.

Part 2 ‘Barriers to getting help’  will follow in the next couple of days. 



A Little Black bag.

garbage bag              At certain times of the year people do a spring clean. It doesn’t have to be the actual season (Spring) for it, it just occurs when piles of things get in the way. It would be handy if we could do that with things on our mind. Just delete them, junk them or hand them over to someone else. I suppose that’s what counseling is; handing someone your concerns and asking them to deal with it for you. 

Moving on from an abusive relationship and receiving advice in the process is akin to cleaning house. It’s OK to do it alone, but having someone to support you in a major decision is often wise. Have you ever been going through stuff that you had intended to give away and find yourself hanging on to it ‘just in case’ or ‘what if I need this later?’ A counselor can ask you the question ‘in case of what?’ He/She will make you really look at what’s going on in the relationship and help you make the break and let go of the ‘what if’s’. It’s a fear of the unknown in most cases. How will you feel once that separation has happened? Will being without be harder than hanging on to something that doesn’t fit you anymore? If you need support with relationship or family abuse, call Cyndi at 604-485-6965 

THS Logo, hires

Something non-abusive to say?

microphone   When’s the last time you listened to someone and realized that what they were saying was verbally abusive. I believe many of us hear it from someone at least once a week; all you have to do is watch the news. I’m not referring to politicians or reality ‘stars’ though. I’m talking about people around you, maybe even family members. How do you handle it?

A coworker and I were talking about that this morning. When you meet someone or know someone who feels it’s their right to speak to you in a derogatory way. Are we meant to just sit and take it because they’re family? What if you’re literally paid to ‘listen to people’ and you receive an earful of abuse, how far does that go before the lioness in you rears up? It’s a difficult situation for many of us.

If you’re in an abusive situation and you hear someone you thought loved and respected you, undermining you daily for no logical reason, how far can they push you? As women many of us were raised to be polite and ‘lady-like’. Developing and then holding on to our personal boundaries takes practice. It’s much easier to hang up on a pushy phone solicitation than it is to tell your spouse that you don’t like the way they’re talking to you. There’s no danger on the phone, in the same house though things could escalate from verbal to physical abuse. How do we develop that line in the sand? How do you teach your kids that they don’t have to listen to abuse from anyone, even family? It’s a process but starting as early as you can with your children will help them understand what’s appropriate advice and what’s just someone’s unsolicited opinion. Look below for some resources on this subject.

The Verbally Abusive Relationship-Patricia Evans

The Verbal and Emotional Abuser:Recognizing the verbally abusive relationship and how to defend yourself-Michele Gilbert

The Nice Girl Syndrome-Stop being manipulated and abused-And start standing up for yourself-Beverly Engel