YWCA Regina launched a campaign to raise awareness about our work including great big billboards around town. One of the people who has been integral to that campaign is Joan Beanlands. In the week of International Women’s Day, it seems appropriate to share Joan’s story of surviving and thriving because she attributes much of her ability to turn her life around to the support she received from women of the YWCA – both the women who work at the YW and her friends in residence.
Joan Beanlands – Her Story
We spoke with Joan Beanlands in December 2019 about how she came to be a resident at YWCA Regina in 2013 and why she lives at the YW today. The following article was edited from that interview. Here is Joan’s story.
“You can be rich, and you can still have a problem and your whole world can fall in a day and you might need a room at the Y. Hopefully, somebody directs you there.
I grew up in Regina and then I moved to Saskatoon and then Calgary and then moved back to Regina.
I have probably drank all my life since I was 14 years old… I didn’t come from a family of drinkers, abuse, or anything like that. It was just something I was hell-bent on doing it, like destroying my life, and in the meantime, I destroyed everybody else’s who chose to love me.
I think there was something in me like a loneliness type of thing that I never knew was there and I just drank it away.
I would be one of the last persons that I would have ever thought needed help.
My partner for 25 years, we had a successful business. We had the house with the pool, and I got a Corvette for Mother’s Day, so money wasn’t a factor or anything like that, but we both drank… Things happened and you split up and then I had another fancy house with somebody else, but my kids were growing up at that time and then once I split up from that relationship I just stayed on my own.
Every time I went to detox, I came out, I drank harder because I was screwing up more. So, the last time I went, the third time I went, I had lost my job. I had broken relationships with my family, with my kids. Used everybody. Told horrible lies.
I knew I was going to lose everything, so part of me thought: ‘I’ll just drink myself to death.’
I was drinking a 40 of vodka straight a day and I thought that was normal. Who drinks a 40 of vodka?
My sister found me in my apartment and if she didn’t, I would probably not be sitting here… My sister said: ‘You’re going to die and we’re not going to watch you, so you better make a choice.’
They took me to detox… When I came out of detox, and I had to go to a shelter because I was homeless, I ended up at MAP, which is My Aunt’s Place, and I was there for 26 days… My Aunt’s Place is a shelter for women going through anything from homelessness, to domestic violence, to – in my situation – I was going for my sobriety for recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction.
The manager of My Aunt’s Place at that time helped me get a room at the YWCA downtown so that I could go ahead with my treatment and have a safe place to come back to… and I’ve been there ever since so that’s six and a half years and clean and sober.
I didn’t know what the YWCA was all about. I thought it was the place where you learned to go swim and that’s how naive I was.
They were amazing women that we’re working there at the time… They were just a bunch of compassionate women that really had your back… They saw how broke I was, and they wanted to help me, and I wasn’t used to anybody wanting to help me… They gave you a sense of belonging.
I can go home and see a smiling face is there. I’m not going home to an empty apartment. If I’m having a bad day, I know I can come flying down the stairs and go into the workers’ office and bawl my eyes out if I need to and the support is there.
I don’t think I would have made it out alive if I didn’t have YWCA… very powerful women just want to see you do your best and take your next step so I feel I have become the person I am because of the women of YWCA… They give me; they gave me hope.
It’s the resident women there too. We became kind of a family and we all are really there for each other… When the younger girls come in there if I can be helpful, just to be a mentor. It makes me feel more powerful and it keeps me grounded to who I was when I walked through those doors the first time.
I live at the YWCA and I still work downtown at my job at Tim Hortons in the Cornwall Center and I’ve been back there six and a half years and my life is good, but I still need the women that are there to keep me going.
I will never forget coming back from treatment and they were all so, ‘Oh I’m glad you’re back.’ It was like you come from some place so dark; it was so dark where I was, and it’s like you see the light and it was the YWCA; it’s women; it’s power and you know they’re there for you.
The YWCA to me is my safe haven where I know the women are there for me. It saved my life. I wouldn’t be here talking to you today if it wasn’t for the YWCA. Simple as that.