News / Vancouver

Constance Barnes: My road to recovery from alcohol addiction

Constance Barnes doesn’t intend to go back to her old ways after hitting rock bottom.

The park board commissioner was charged with drunk driving on May 23, 2009, after falling asleep at the wheel and crashed into a house in South Vancouver.

Barnes, the daughter of the late Emery Barnes — the first black speaker of the B.C. legislative assembly in 1994 and former B.C. Lion, says she’s been sober for nearly three-and-a-half years.

“It’s not an option for me to ever have this happen again,” Barnes told Metro. “I’m lucky to be alive. I’m lucky I didn’t kill somebody. I was one of those people so ready to be (in treatment).”

Repairing relationships

She said entering a treatment facility was the best decision she made as it repaired an already torn relationship with her two grown children, son James, 24 and daughter Dylan, 23.

Her drinking problem crept up to her as an adult, Barnes said, and was a result of many different things — her failed marriage and her experiences of racism and violence as a young girl in Port Moody.

“It became an issue where the masking became more important than dealing with the issues,” she said. “It took me down and hit me hard for a reason because it was time to stop.”

After her DUI, Barnes said she knew she only had two options — hide it or reach out.

“I knew at that point that I had a serious addiction and disease,” she said.

She chose to enter the Orchard Recovery Center on Bowen Island where she spent six weeks in treatment.

“It’s brutal, but it’s amazing,” she said, adding the center gave her the tools to ensure her slow but steady road to recovery.

On Sunday, Barnes will join others in recovery from alcohol and substance use, who are being honoured at the Rally for Recovery at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

The event, which offers people a public forum to discuss and celebrate the hope in recovery, will also have an official proclamation from Mayor Gregor Robertson recognizing Sept. 30 as Recovery Day.

Barnes hopes to reach out to others and encourage them to not to be afraid or ashamed to seek help or to be in recovery.

“Recovery is a gift. You work at it, for some people more than others,” she said.

Barnes celebrated her three-year sobriety on June 12 and she’s never felt better.

Joyful achievement

“I’m just so freakin’ happy,” she said, adding she sold her Jeep and has been riding her bike since 2009. “I’m in a place right now that there’s no way I would be in if I was still drinking.”

She knows she still has a long way to go, but she knows one thing for sure.

“If Pops was around right now, he’ll be rubbing his chin going, ‘Damn girl, you did it and I’m proud of you,’” Barnes said. “My mom also tells me that a lot. She’s still around and she’s a tough cookie. She’s proud, my family’s proud, and my kids are proud.”

To find out how her drinking problem affected her daughter Dylan, click here.

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