LETHBRIDGE- She didn't grow up in a disadvantaged family and wasn't abused. She had just about everything a girl could ever want.
24-year-old Saraa Wever is another face of drug addiction in Lethbridge. Now, she also wants to be part of the solution.
Not only did she travel down a dark and dangerous road over a period of four years, she also came out of it and is now thriving.
Wever wants to share her story in the hopes of inspiring or helping someone else.
Childhood and Rejection at School
"I grew up on a farm. We had a little acreage with horses and cows and all the fun stuff. I went to a small town school in Claresholm."
Wever describes how she took part in the 4H club, rodeos, dance, and gymnastics. She had great parents, two brothers and what many would consider an idyllic life.
"My parents were wonderful. They were always there. I have nothing to complain about my childhood at all. It was perfect."
Things changed when she transitioned from middle school to high school.The friends she had when she was younger, suddenly rejected her.
"I wasn't good enough for them anymore," she recalls. "So then I just kind of started trying to fit in with anyone who would accept me."
She went into a deep depression and began self-harming.
The turning point came when she went to a grade 9/10 school dance. The new friends she wanted to fit in with, offered her something she'd never had before.
"Everyone was drinking and I didn't like it. I was never one to drink. So we were offered ecstasy. And that's when it all started."
After that night, she and her friends went to a home where the parents were rarely around, and stayed for two months. Her mother tried bringing her home, but it didn't work.
"I pretty much just disappeared. My mom was always calling me, but I'd shut off my phone so she couldn't find me."
It was at that same home that she met a drug dealer who would become her boyfriend. He had connections to others who would provide him with cocaine, heroin and other drugs.
"I was like, 'oh, this is the way to get in to everything.' That's how it started."
She moved from the Claresholm area into Lethbridge in grade 11 where she attended LCI. She was kicked out of her former school she says, for poor performance.
Although Wever knew she was in trouble and addicted, she was in denial, and tried to make it appear as though everything was under control by holding down a job and trying to go to school. She realizes now that was not the case.
"I would go and get high whenever I wanted and then go to school."
Still, her family - although now distant - was there for her when she called or needed something - even the times when she says she took money, or 'guilt tripped' them into giving her things.
"My mom knew I was still in there. I know it hurt her and it hurt my family."
But at that point, anything and everything was on the table as far as drugs were concerned. Her job didn't pay enough to support her habit, so she too began selling, and driving people around the city for 'pickups' which was terrifying.
"They would pay me to drive them around. The type of people I met when I did that, because they weren't people I knew, they were just 'hey you gotta drive these people around.' I was always scared, but then I would just get high to get rid of that feeling."
"I personally did anything to get my next fix. I was an ecstasy addict, an oxycontin addict, heroin addict, fentanyl addict.
And not even the fear of overdosing was enough to get her to stop.
"We would smoke fentanyl patches. Oxycontin, heroin and fentanyl - they're all like, the same high. Just fentanyl is a way more intense high.
"The green 80s that are going around? I did that. The way I felt on them, now it makes me wonder why didn't I die from those? Because you would do them and you would nod off. So nod off is when you overdose a little. And I used to do that all the time. I should have been one of those people who didn't make it."
She went into detox once, and was clean for about a month, but then slid back into addiction.
She also travelled to Saskatoon at one point to try and sober up, and then heard that a friend overdosed and died. Back to Lethbridge she came.
Just one month later, she found out she was pregnant.
"That's when I was, 'ok this has to stop.' Even when I was in Saskatoon, I still found everything. Once you're a drug addict, you can find stuff."
Recovery and Relationships
During the years she was addicted, Wever says her family never cut her off. She would contact them every once in a while to let them know she was still alive, but they too, kept their distance.
"Loving at a distance was huge. You can't keep pushing for someone to get clean. They won't get clean unless they want to."
Once she knew she was pregnant, she found the strength to leave her boyfriend, get into a detox facility and to quit using, with her parent's help. She went back to their home and stayed inside for the next few months, knowing that if she left, she would start up once again.
She described withdrawl as 'the flu times a million.' She acknowledges that if she hadn't become pregnant, that she would likely still be addicted.
"You're not just in recovery for a year. You're in recovery for the rest of your life. You've gotta fight for it."
At this point in her life, Wever says she has everything she has ever wanted. A loving boyfriend, three children, a home-based business and a healthy lifestyle.
"I could never wish for anything more. When I do get to those points of 'hey, I could do heroin and I would feel better'... I look at my kids, and I think 'no', THEY make this day better."
Growing up she wasn't very close to her father, but now has a good relationship with him. She is best friends with her mother, who also became pregnant in her teens, and she is repairing her relationship with her brothers.
Saraa Wever will be clean and sober six years in March, 2018.
She wants people to know that becoming an addict wasn't a choice. People become addicted for a variety of reasons ranging from abuse to peer pressure, depression, rejection or not knowing any other way of life.
"Yes that was totally my choice to do it for the first time, and my friends were doing it too. I felt peer pressure and wanted to fit in. But once the drug has you, you don't have a choice. You don't understand until you're an addict what it can do."
And despite how frustrating and hopeless it may seem at times, Wever emphasizes that if there's an addict in your life, don't give up on them.
"Keep on loving on them. Doesn't matter if they're your sister or a close friend or a relative. You have to keep loving them, even if it is from a distance.
"Once you lose hope, they lose strength."
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