Stigmas hurt

We’ve all heard the word, but have we suffered at the hand of it?

The definition of a ‘stigma’ is a ‘mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.’ 

Just reading that definition alone highlights how harsh and damaging applying stigmas is. Would you want a stigma attached to you? I think the answer is obvious.

Beyond its definition, stigmas can be further broken down into three main types:

  1. Stigma associated with mental illness
  2. Stigma associated with physical deformation
  3. Stigma attached to identification with a particular race, ethnicity or ideology

Of particular relevance to Karis is number one on this list. The Stigma often placed on people (in our case women) can lead to them avoiding or resisting help. It’s difficult to admit you have addiction issues or mental illness if you are then judged by friends, colleagues or family. It’s like being placed in an additional box when you’re already battling to escape the entrapment of addiction.

We are all human. If we start with that basic concept and work back from there, then we’d learn to be kinder and more understanding to those fighting the grips of drugs and alcohol. Addiction is a disease. If a woman has taken the bold, overwhelming step to admit she needs help, we should take her hand in ours and whisper words of encouragement and support. 

When you are feeling overwhelmed, scared, alone and helpless, it can take a simple, judgement, down-the-nose stare from a passerby to push you over the edge. Likewise, a kind word, gentleness and no judgement can push women battling addiction to take the all-important brave first step. 

We should all take the time to listen. Have you considered what that woman living on the streets has gone through? Yes, we can say, ‘she made poor choices.’ But do you know her full story? What about your work colleague whose breath gives their alcoholism battle away? What about that young girl with the sad eyes? Addiction is convoluted and can affect anyone. People develop addictions for a whole host of reasons. It can be unexpected life events, grief, abuse, genetics, biology and chronic stress. The list goes on. Addiction almost always begins as a way to numb trauma or pain. Or it can be ONE poor choice that marks the beginning of a can’t-stop spiral. 

If you or any woman you know needs help, start by assuring them that they are brave and respected for taking that first step. Let’s change what our eyes see, and allow our hearts to do the work. 

Inside the brain. What happens when you take drugs?

Let’s start with how it feels: euphoric.

A person becomes motivated to repeat an activity due to a flood of the chemical messenger ‘dopamine’ to the brain. Dopamine provides a feeling of elation, love, and escape from reality. The world seems rosier and for a while troubles waft away. However, euphoric surge ultimately draws back like a wave and crashes on the shore, fading away along with its energy and magnificence.

It does not matter who we are. We are all human and all susceptible to addiction, because life isn’t a straight line. It moves up and it moves down, the only thing that may vary is to what degree. For those that have suffered abuse the down is far more severe that someone just having a bad day at the office. Often this abuse can stem from childhood, sometimes its domestic abuse or a violent event that can spark a downward spiral. Many of the women that Karis has cared for over the years have experienced some form of abuse. 

There are other factors that can spark crashes and the need for that release, that euphoria, that need to escape what feels like an escapable reality:

Biology

It is believed by some that genetics can contribute to some people’s battle with addiction. Mental disorders, for example, can make some more susceptible to depression or bi-polar disorder and the escape is often drugs or alcohol.

Environment

Besides abuse, things like early exposure to drugs, extreme stress, lack of parental love or guidance can contribute to addiction later on in life. Teenagers are particularly susceptible to peer pressure and can be pressured into experimenting before their brains have developed clear judgement and decision-making.

Karis recognises all these factors, and that is exactly why the society was formed – to help. Not to judge. We understand that addiction is a disease, and one that nobody willing signs up for. No one does drugs or drinks excessively because they want to experience the long-term negative effects that this can create by damaging the brain chemical systems and circuits. They do it because it creates a high, and a high is often mistaken for joy in the short-term. We understand. We are here for you.

The journey won’t necessarily be easy, but it will be worth it in every way. You can do it. Yes – YOU. If you or someone you know is fighting addiction, apply to Karis and let’s get the conversation started. It’ll be the bravest thing you’ve ever done, and it’s important to know you aren’t giving up anything, it’s what you’re gaining – your life!

Raising hope in 2021

We are excited to announce that together with NOW Canada, Karis Support Society has been chosen as joint beneficiary of the annual TREE OF HOPE campaign for 2021.

The giant led-lit Christmas tree is erected each year in the Landmark District, Kelowna and stands as a beacon of hope and goodwill in our community.  It is more than just a holiday symbol. It is also an opportunity to usher in a season of compassion, generosity, and gratitude, all while educating ourselves on issues that face our community and charities that exist to address them. We call this initiative within the celebration, Raising Hope.

In partnership with the Landmark District, TD Canada Trust, and Stober Family Foundation, RAISING HOPE 2021 seeks to highlight, address, and elevate the conversation of “WOMEN AT RISK’.

Together the work of NOW Canada and Karis is focussed on supporting women to transition from a life of addiction, abuse, exploitation and mental health challenges to a life in long-term recovery and self-efficiency. 

This year highlights the importance of supporting local. It has been a challenging year for many in our community, we saw more vulnerable women, youth and children need our programs than ever before. 

Thanks to the TREE OF HOPE, the impact of every dollar donated will be DOUBLED up to $100,000! If you are planning to give this year, please give local. The donations received through the TREE OF HOPE will become an invaluable investment, #RaisingHope for vulnerable women and children in our community.

Change of season brings reflection

We love where we live. Kelowna has a unique richness that can be referenced in numerous ways. There is a richness of beauty with every change of season, as mother nature treats us to new visual delights. As Fall has arrived, we have admired how the leaves change from vibrant shades of green to warm hues of yellow and orange. Our immediate surroundings are rich with mountains, lakes, and pristine beaches – they are settings that aid the healing process. However, the richest thing about Kelowna is the immense sense of warmth and community. Time and time again, we witness the residents of Kelowna band together not just in the good times but in the challenging times too. At Karis, we feel privileged to experience this coming together of people firsthand. 

Our blessings are multifaceted, and as the season changes, we reflect even more closely on what these blessings are. 

Our volunteers. 

Karis’s volunteers come in many forms. From businesses to school goers to retired folks, all our volunteers give of themselves selflessly and with an infectious positivity of spirit. We couldn’t do what we do without you. Thank you for bringing even more smiles and laughter to our Karis home – we are forever grateful.

Our participants.

We are honoured to witness healing and transformation in motion. Our participants are some of the bravest, strongest, and committed women we have ever met. They show us that anything is possible, even in the face of some of the most significant adversity. They are the proof that silver linings do exist. What a privilege it is to be part of their journeys. 

Our donors.

Without our donors, Karis would not be able to do the work it does. Our donors give generously and with so much heart. Our gratitude for their life-changing impact goes beyond words.

Our staff.

We are like a family. A community of like-minded people who are driven to do the same thing: transform the lives of our participants. This is done with big hearts, generous souls, and an unwavering commitment to the support of the women in our program. 

We look forward to what this next season brings. We have no doubt it will be filled with joy and even further blessings for us to reflect on in the months ahead.  

It’s never too late

That brave first step is where the healing journey begins. 

Karis is here to support, guide, and nurture participants’ return to the world within a safe, supportive environment. Addiction and mental health are often brought on by past and/or current trauma. Through the Karis 3-stage program, participants can learn, heal and go on to genuinely appreciate being alive and feeling well. Karis supports women (and their children) as they walk through the obstacle of their addiction to ultimately achieve a well-rounded life.

Karis provides the building blocks participants need to live independently in the world by focusing on empowerment, goals, and self-sufficiency skills and tools. The healing process is not, and should never be, rushed. In the First-Stage, participants are encouraged to focus solely on recovery through daily recovery specific classes, group facilitation and on-site counselling. However, the foundation tools and skills needed for the Semi-Independent Program are also learnt.

In the Semi-Independent Program (singles and parenting) stage, going back to school and finding employment are encouraged and ongoing support is offered through the Aftercare program.  Aftercare workers provide encouragement and advice as part-time work, or school, is pursued in the gentle shift towards independent community living.

Once successfully transitioned into the community, aftercare workers still serve as advocates and support for participants. Structured support systems outside of Karis allow participants to build on the robust and solid foundations they have developed.

Participants learn relapse prevention, but more than that, they have the necessary toolkit required for interpersonal skills, relationship skills, and financial literacy. Through community collaborations, participants can go on to receive secondary and employment training.

You see? Never give up. With a self-directed Care Plan and a designated key worker to assist with adherence to the plan, a meaningful life is always possible. 

We believe in you. You can believe in yourself too. We’ll show you how.

What does overcoming addiction look like?

At Karis, we have the great privilege of seeing what dedication to recovery looks like. Overcoming addiction is by no means a linear, simple journey. It is one with many challenges that require our women to dig deep. It’s about keeping on keeping on, even when growing weary or when addiction tugs. 

So, no, it’s not a holiday, and it’s certainly not a walk in the park. HOWEVER. It is one-hundred percent worth it. Because do you know what overcoming addiction look like?

Let us try to paint a visual picture.

1) Renewed families

It looks like a mother and child laughing, making memories, and (most importantly) staying together! Where children are involved, Karis is dedicated to keeping mom and baby together, to keeping families together. It’s what is best for our women, their children, and the community at large. Destructive patterns can be broken. New positive trajectories can be created; you do not need to be a victim of your upbringing or trauma. We see it with our own eyes. So, please trust that it’s possible. 

2) Renewed freedom 

Freedom means more than just being free from addiction. It’s far broader than that. It looks like joy and renewed confidence as participants realize they are free to reintegrate into and contribute to society. It’s the glow of freedom that flushes on cheeks as participants find their true selves. It’s eyes that are free from guilt and addiction’s shackles. It’s slow walks through nature, again noticing and appreciating the little things and moments that make souls dance. 

3) Renewed connection

Saying goodbye to addiction gives our women new hellos. We witness trust and meaningful connections being formed with the people of Karis as women move through the program. This sense of connection then extends into the world, both socially and professionally. Women become part of the solution by bringing their skills and clear mindset to the fore. We see the pride and the happiness that renewed connection brings.

4) Renewed love

Once the dust settles and clarity comes, we witness participants begin to love again. This love is not just extended to friends and family. There is also self-love that is taught and grows during the Karis program. We have all heard it before, but we get to see firsthand just how important self-love is in the healing process. Yes, love yourself first, and all those loved ones around you will benefit.

From our heart to yours. We see you.

Addiction to Sobriety

Anything is possible when you choose to change.

Karis is a not for profit that provides recovery-focused programming for women battling substance misuse. So, seeing our clients not only survive but thrive both physically and emotionally makes our hearts burst with pride. Anyone that has experienced addiction will understand the bravery it takes to seek help. Kay (name changed) is one such brave woman, and we thank her for sharing her story. 

Kay’s commitment to a better life has had an exponential effect on those around her. Not only are her children thriving, but she is touching and aiding others through her teachings of meditation and spirituality group facilitator.

Testimonial by “Kay”

Karis Society Recovery

Date: March 17, 2021

I am so grateful to Karis Support Society for being a safe place to heal my trauma and create a new life for myself. When I went to Karis, I believed I had many psychological disorders and felt like a victim to the circumstances of my life. My self-worth was so low, and for the year prior to arriving at Karis, I was using drugs and drinking alcohol to cope with my reality. My experimentation with drugs and alcohol started at 12 years old and slowly progressed until I finally made a choice to put myself first and move to Karis. 

The staff are so warm and understanding. They treated me with respect and taught me new ways to cope with my feelings. They taught me that feeling is part of life, and I am worthy of love from myself and others. They lifted me up and helped me to experience joy naturally for the first time since I was a child. 

I am now married, have a second child, and my 12-year-old daughter is thriving. I teach meditation and facilitate spirituality groups and see the good in the Universe. I hike and ride my bike for joy. I no longer have any mental health issues or addictive behaviour. I have found balance and live a healthy, holistic lifestyle. 

Karis allowed me to build a strong foundation for the life I have today. They truly have figured out the most graceful way to support women in recovery and with mental health issues. 

Sincerely, 

Kay 

Need help? If Kay could do it, so can you.

Take those brave first steps. 

Contact Karis.

Karis Support Society is a non-profit organization. We provide recovery-focused programming, counselling, and support to vulnerable, at-risk expectant women, women with babies or toddlers, women working towards reunification with their children, and single women with no dependents living in poverty, homelessness, or at-risk of homelessness.

Karis participants are women whose negative experiences have led to substance misuse or mental health challenges, negatively impacting their lives. They are now actively working on personal recovery.

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