Village of Hope Stories – Abigail


“There’s nothing I could possibly do or say that would show the extent of my gratitude. I owe my life to Dave Smith.”

I was in my first year of university in Montreal when I got into trouble. I had moved from my hometown outside of Ottawa to go to McGill, and I guess I got in with the wrong crowd. Coming from a small town and going to a big city is never easy, and so I made friends with people I maybe shouldn’t have. I was really deep into the party scene. I downplayed it to my parents, but they could sense that something was really wrong.

Every time I came home, I was exhausted all the time. I was pale, and I’d lost a lot of weight in a short amount of time. My mom was able to connect the dots pretty quickly. I wouldn’t even admit to myself that I had an issue, but my mom was very worried. She started doing research and found Dave Smith.

After five or six months away, I came home to Ottawa after having quite a big breakdown in Montreal. I realized it was the right move. The person I was with in Montreal had broken up with me because they said they loved me and didn’t want to watch me die. It was tough.

My mom had had gone through the first steps of getting me into the program at Dave Smith but I was reluctant. I was like, ‘You don’t know me. You don’t know what my problems are.’ But I guess I realized that I did have a really big problem, and it was becoming more and more clear that I couldn’t handle it on my own.

On my first day, I was nervous to meet the other girls, and then I was really upset. After a week of being there my parents came to visit and I remember sitting in the room with them, bawling my eyes out, and telling them, ‘I don’t belong here. I need to leave.’

I think that, deep down, I knew it was right for me, but it was hard to say that. I didn’t really want to be there until around the two-month mark, and by then, I never wanted to leave.

There were a lot of group sessions that were really good. One was called Reasons for Quitting. The first couple of times we had it, I was really pissed off, but it became my favourite group. We would go around the room and each person would take a turn giving reasons why we quit and everyone else would rate it on a scale of one to five according to how much resonated with them. That group gave me reasons I didn’t even know I had.

Dave Smith also instilled in us a lot of healthy practices, like mindfulness meditation, healthy eating, healthy patterns, and healthy amounts of exercise. The counselors were phenomenal as well. Looking back, I don’t know what I would have done without some of those people. If the counselors were not as good at their job as they are, I don’t think I would have made it.

I’ve been sober for just over four years now. I started working with the Federal public service in August. Before that I was working for the Ottawa Hospital in the call centre. It was a hard job to do during COVID, but it was good for me because I was able to move out on my own. I live by myself with my two cats, and my parents moved just down the street. I love it. I don’t think anything can make a person as grateful for their parents as I am after what happened with me, and I know not everyone has that kind of family support.

If it were not for Dave Smith, I would be dead or homeless in Montreal. I would have no money, no job and no place to live. There’s nothing I could possibly do or say that would show the extent of my gratitude. I owe my life to Dave Smith.

Abigail is an alumnus of the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre.


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