March 21, 2018
Interest in the study of human behaviour as it is shaped by society and in turn affects the social contexts in which we live, drew Sarah Hope to obtain her BA in Sociology from Brock University. Sarah initially started her working life in Corrections and volunteering with the Niagara Suicide Prevention Coalition and the Human Justice Coordinating Committee in Ontario. As the Lead Instructor at Everest College, Sarah taught in the Addictions and Community Services Worker Program, was an outreach worker and volunteered at Canadian Mental Health Association providing support for individual clients.
Sarah has had a longstanding interest in addictions arising from personal experiences with friends. “I was always the one who wanted to help out people who were having difficulties,” she says. “Seeing friends who struggled with addiction really set me on that path and through this journey, I noticed there were gaps in the way we were serving people.”
Sarah took additional training in addictions and became a certified Addictions Counsellor. She also completed some specialized training in working with women to better understand the unique needs and experiences of women.
After moving to BC, Sarah worked with RainCity and then joined Phoenix as an Addiction Counsellor in March 2017 to establish LUNAR, the Society’s first treatment program for women. Through a feminist lens, this program centres on assisting women to tap into their strengths and abilities. It works to embrace their natural abilities to create bonds and connections with one another.
Early in her career, Sarah was taken aback to see young women involved in heavy drug use and prostitution. “One in particular was the first person who really had me thinking in creative ways of how to help her help herself,” Sarah says. “All I could see was the person behind the troubles and this inspired me to help her see that person too.”
Sarah has learned that every person needs to determine their own journey and that, “watching them fall down is hard to see.” But the experience was a valuable life lesson for her.
Trauma is one of the big drivers of addiction, she believes, and she’s not just talking about Big T trauma, such as murder or assault. “The small ones we often overlook or normalize—divorce, not feeling loved by your parents, attachment that’s missing—are just as important,” she says. “Unfortunately, Western culture believes in quick fixes. We’re a culture that avoids feeling.”
Sarah has also been taken aback by the critical attitude society has towards addicts. “People think that others choose this lifestyle,” she says. “I find it really surprising that in 2018 people still have this moral belief system that if you have enough willpower, you’ll be cured.”
Society’s critical beliefs help perpetuate addiction, Sarah believes, further alienating people and pushing them down a self-destructive path. She sees that “at Phoenix, we focus on exploring feelings and challenging old belief systems. Our culture is focused on empowerment and strengthening the assets that already exist in people.”
“These are people who are hurting and they’re looking to feel good and be happy just like everyone else wants,” she adds.