Life Health

Tammy’s story: There’s hope in recovery

By Ada Slivinski, 24 Hours Vancouver

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Tammy Madigan started using drugs before she was thirteen-years-old.

Both of her parents were addicted. At thirteen, her father sold her to a drug dealer who she refers to as her abuser.

For over 20 years, she lived as an addict in Surrey’s Whalley neighbourhood. It wasn’t until the last time she ended up in jail that “the burns from my abuser throwing methamphetamine at me were just starting to heal,” and she started thinking about recovery.

By that time her abuser was dead and she felt free of him and thought she could invest the energy necessary into recovery.

Tammy managed to get a bed at B.C. Women’s and later transitioned to the Elizabeth Fry Society. Recovery was extremely hard work, she told me over coffee near Vancouver’s downtown eastside.

She said feels lucky that she was able to access the resources necessary to escape addiction and knows there are so many people trapped in the throws of the fentanyl crisis that will never be so lucky.

Now, the mother of two young boys has been clean for seven years, but said she is always aware of how easy it can be to relapse.

“The wait for a good recovery home is three months long,” said Tammy, adding that there are not enough resources to keep up with the demand. Tammy reached out to me after reading my last column in this space advocating for more support for prevention and recovery.

She told me that the stories of those in the throws of addiction are similar to her own, noting many addicts come from homes where their parents use drugs and are often dealing with abuse and depression. The reason many who attempt recovery often relapse, she said, is because there is not enough support to help them to transition into another way of life or to address the root of what caused the addiction in the first place.

Tammy said an addict learning to live free from drugs is like a toddler, many times they don’t know how to clean, how to cook and how to take care of themselves, let alone any children they might have. She said that investment in recovery resources will make much more of a lasting difference than funding harm reduction which she said is just enabling and prolonging the addiction.

If we want to turn around the terrible drug crisis we have found ourselves in, the crisis that is overwhelming our health system and that has killed over 622 people this year, we need to listen to those who, like Tammy, have made the journey through addiction and are living in recovery because they’re the ones we really need to learn from.

Ada Slivinski is a communications consultant based in Vancouver. She has worked with clients in the recovery field. Contact her at and on Twitter @adaslivinski