My name is Kira Bronwyn Doyle Dunlop. I’m 23 years old.

My mother is my hero. My father passed away.

The pieces of my childhood fell into place after the fact. When I was 13, when I was 15, when I was 17. When I started asking questions.

My parents got divorced when I was 6. My little brother Dante was 3. My mother doesn’t like to talk about the divorce, but she did let me in on one story that put everything into context;

One day my father locked himself in their bedroom with a 24 pack of Alexander Keith’s. He refused to come out. My mother had two young children, she had work, she had responsibilities. Day in, day out, he stayed in their bedroom, drinking. I have no memory of this. A week passed by, then two weeks. My mother focused on us. On making sure that we were ok. Then, half-way through the third week, my father emerged. My mother was outside in the garden, throwing herself into the physical labour, and he came up to her. She looked up and the first thing he had to say to her was

‘Have the kids eaten?’.

Dumbfounded she responded that she didn’t know.

‘well, you’re their mother… shouldn’t you make sure that they’re not hungry?’

That was the breaking point for my mother. She walked away, and she took us with her.

Three years later my father hung himself off the balcony of his apartment. When the noose broke, he fell to his death. I didn’t find this out until I was 18. I was always told that he had his demons, that he couldn’t handle them. I knew he committed suicide, I just didn’t know how. When I did find out, somehow, I was ok. It was fitting.

See my father was an alcoholic and schizophrenic. He refused treatment for his mental health issues because he would have to give up alcohol. And he couldn’t do that.

After my father’s death, I retreated into myself. I was angry, upset, depressed. I knew it was my fault. I wasn’t a good enough daughter. I realise now, I was in pain. And I didn’t know how to make that pain stop.

As I progressed through adolescence, I found alcohol. And drugs. But mostly alcohol. I was 14 and moving from my hometown of Toronto out to Calgary. My family had already left town, but I had stayed behind with some family friends to finish my exams. I drank ¾ of a bottle of Jack Daniels I had stolen from my paternal grandparents and ended up passing out in a snowbank. A good Samaritan called 911. They had to resuscitate me in the ambulance. My heart had stopped.

I can tell stories of being in bars underage and losing myself to whoever told me I was pretty. I can tell you about being taken advantage of, about screwing up, about hating myself, about wanting to die, about needing a drink to feel cool or special or numb.

Because underneath everything I was in pain. I was lost. I was hurting.

But I was also extremely high functioning. I graduated at the top of my class in high school and was heading to Halifax to start at Dalhousie University. That didn’t work out, so after my first year I moved back to Toronto, where I decided I didn’t want to stay so I moved back to Calgary to go back to school. I completed a semester at the University of Calgary and transferred out to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, where, coincidentally, my job was willing to transfer me.

It was in Vancouver that I had a short, painful, heavy romance with cocaine. I would go to school or work and come home, by myself, and snort line after line. Cocaine was my little secret. I was in love with it. I would stay up until 5 or 6 in the morning because I couldn’t sleep and then maybe get an hour or two before I went back to school or work. That didn’t last long.

I had a mental break, what I would classify now, as a mental break about a month into the semester. I walked away from school. Didn’t bother even telling them I was dropping out. I continued to go to work, come home, get high, rinse and repeat. After moving out of my living situation, I knew I had to get off coke. I still dabbled frequently, but I wasn’t up all night, every night. I replaced what I was snorting, with heavier and heavier drinking.

Vancouver wasn’t working for me, I decided, so I moved back to Calgary. I was still high functioning. I showed up at work every day. They even promoted me back to the Calgary store. I got my own apartment; I was making decent money. But I was also drinking every day. I was always at the bar if I wasn’t at work. And if I wasn’t at the bar I was drinking at home, by myself. Nothing was changing. The pain I was in wasn’t going away. I was just prolonging my suffering, numbing myself to what I didn’t want to face.

In June 2017, I woke up and looked at myself in the mirror. I knew I was going to die. Not then and there, but one day. I was killing myself. And then I broke down.

I realised that I was a repeating my father’s pattern. And to honour him, I knew I had to break that cycle. Of course, that is easier said than done.

I quit alcohol and drugs and am now 100% clean and sober.

The first year and a half of my sobriety were unbelievably painful. I was white knuckling it through the days. I don’t consider myself an alcoholic or an addict however I know I had a problem and what I had to continue to remind myself was that going back was to die. I had to learn how to feel my emotions. I had to learn how to sit with my pain. I had to learn how to express myself.

Emotionally, every time I felt sad or upset or stressed, my go-to was no longer having a glass of wine. I stopped spending time with my friends when they were going out because the social anxiety, I felt was so uncomfortable. Every occasion that I normally would’ve drank at, I had to find something else to do. When my partner went out, I stayed in and then would pick fights about his drinking. I lived in the extreme discomfort of someone saving them self through isolation.

Then as time progressed, and life continued and I continued to stay sober and started doing the work, it got easier to go out. It got easier to do the things that I used to do. But I was still alone.

Which lead to the thought that I can’t be the only one feeling this way. And from that thought sprung the Boring Little Girls Club, a community of sober women, trans and non-binary folk who get together to have fun without alcohol or drugs. The BLGC has helped me immensely in my path to healing. Being able to share and socialize and support like-minded folks in a world that seems obsessed with alcohol and drugs has given me a purpose.

This is not to say that I am ‘healed’ or ‘better’ or ‘cured’. Including an alcohol problem, I was also diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety, for which I take medication. Multiple factors got me to the place that I am today: sobriety, medication, community, self-care, humility, my family, accountability etc. I can’t point to just one and say, ‘that’s why I’m alive’.

What I can say is that I’ve gotten to this point, you can too. I will shout this story from the tallest rooftop if it means that someone reading it will realise they are not alone. You are not alone. You have people to support and love and care for you. And you’ve got this.