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Recovery is possible: Sarnia’s Jessica Plain shares her success story

The warm smile on Jessica Plain’s face belies the many years she spent spun out on drugs and living on Sarnia’s streets. 

But it reflects the joy she’s found in seven years of sobriety, successfully shaking off the trauma of her childhood and making a happy life for herself and her children.

Recovery is not easy and Sarnia needs far more services to help those with mental illness and addiction, says the 35-year-old who grew up on Aamjiwnaang First Nation.

She is one of the lucky ones.

The right supports were there for her when she finally decided to stop abusing drugs and be a mom to her kids. Plain told her remarkable story at Thursday’s Famous 5 luncheon attended by 125 at the Sunbridge Hotel in Point Edward.

The luncheon crowd sat in stunned silence as Plain described a deeply painful childhood growing up with alcoholic parents who partied with their children, bought alcohol for them to drink, and physically fought one another.

“Our home was covered in mold, we had no heat and sometimes we’d sit in the dark,” Plain said, wiping tears away. “We didn’t hear ‘I love you’ as children, and that was hard.”

By the age of 12, Plain said she drank regularly. By 14, she was hooked on crack. At 16, she became pregnant. 

“I cleaned myself up a bit to have (Mariah) and it was okay for a little while,” she said. But her inability to choose her child’s welfare over drugs – and the shame and guilt associated with that — eventually made her leave for a life on the streets.

Plain had two more children who tested positive for opiates and were taken from her. She isolated herself from family.

“I convinced myself I was better off on the street and deserved the punches I’d get from my boyfriends,” she said.

For ten years, she lived in abandoned buildings in Sarnia, shoplifting to get clothes and food, and feeling unworthy of happiness or love because she left her children.

It wasn’t until she met the father of her fourth child that she felt it might be possible to turn her life around. By that time, Plain had been living with addiction for 17 years.

“My partner believed in me and planted the seed that maybe I could get sober,” she said. She got on methadone and sought rehabilitation at a Windsor facility. She relapsed often and became very ill, presenting at the hospital eight months pregnant with black and blistered feet.

Plain said she felt discriminated against by healthcare workers because she was a known patient with addiction. Ultimately, a doctor at Bluewater Health sent her to a London hospital where she had her baby and began the long climb to better health. 

He was one of a string of professionals who contributed to Plain’s recovery. But it was likely the pleas of her own children that really made the difference, she said.

Back in Sarnia, she sought refuge at the Women’s Interval Home and her eldest daughter, then 14-years-old, asked when she’d be more important to her mom than any drug.

“At that point, for the first time, I realized I didn’t have to be an addict for the rest of my life,” Plain said. “I was scared. I was alone and I was sober.”

Counsellors at the Women’s Interval Home talked to her about school, a driver’s licence and a better life.

“I began taking every parenting program available. I got my daughter back. I learned about healthy relationships and I got help from Circles.”

Circles is an award-winning program started in Sarnia-Lambton to alleviate poverty.

The Women’s Interval Home helped Plain find her first home as an adult.

“I promised myself it would be a healthy, happy home and it is,” she said. Plain finished high school and was accepted into the social work program at Lambton College where she’s in her last year of studies.

“I never imagined this life, getting sober, and getting my family back,” she said. “I never imagined being a mom to the kids I lost and building those relationships.”

And for the past three years, she has surprised herself even more by becoming a public speaker, accepting opportunities like Thursday’s luncheon to educate the community and spread hope that even the most dire situations can have good outcomes.

“I don’t let fear hold me back…I will use my voice always,” Plain said. “Yes, I have a pretty gruesome past but I don’t let that define my future.

“I have forgiven myself and I will keep trying my best.”

Jessica Plain was part of an ongoing speaker series hosted by the Famous 5 Foundation Sarnia Lambton to celebrate women’s successes. Organizers include Vicky Ducharme, Janet Doyle, Laura Greaves, Ann Newman, Samantha Saucier, Stephanie Steele and Sue Storr.  The next local Famous 5 luncheon is April 18. Sign up for the Famous 5 newsletter at:



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