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Courage To Come Back: Addiction recipient leads by example in her recovery

Last Updated Mar 21, 2019 at 10:01 am PDT

Geri Bemister is the winner of the Courage to Come Back award in the Addiction category. (Source: Geri Bemister)
Summary

Geri Bemister believes her life didn't begin until she entered rehab in 2004

Bemister went back to school at the age of 34, earning a Bachelor's from Vancouver Island University

'I was able to open up my own business and I started doing interventions'

Vancouver (NEWS 1130) – Geri Bemister believes her life didn’t begin until she entered rehab in 2004.  Our series of Courage to Come Back award profiles begins with the recipient in the Addiction category. However, her story actually starts much earlier than that.

Born in Victoria in 1969, her parents placed her in the care of relatives, people they thought could be trusted. “And I was significantly sexually abused by these trusted family members for a good portion of my childhood,” she explains.

Soon, she began seeking out ways to help her cope. “Anything to divert the pain. It didn’t really matter if it was riding my motorcycle at fast speeds, criminal activity and the drug and alcohol use, nefarious characters of sorts that were not appropriate for a young woman to be hanging out with.”

Bemister felt a sense of belonging that eluded her at home, but it took a long time for her to realize how out of control her life had become. Then her mother and her sister told her to list the people she wanted at her funeral, because if she continued on the path she was on, she was going to die. “Yeah, so what they saw and what I saw were two very different things,” she admits. “And, you know, they showed up one day and said, ‘This is what we see and we want you to get some help’ and I never looked back from that day on.”

Bemister is a criminologist, a drug and alcohol specialist and a trauma expert. (Source: Geri Bemister)

Then came a moment of clarity. “My three nephews were very young at the time and my sister had told me I wouldn’t be able to see them anymore.  And that was the turning point for me,” she says. “I basically went to that rehabilitation facility because I couldn’t stand my life without them.”

Bemister went back to school at the age of 34, earning a Bachelor’s from Vancouver Island University and then a Master’s from the University of the Fraser Valley.  “And I was able to open up my own business and I started doing interventions.”

Today, she’s not only an interventionist, but also a criminologist, a drug and alcohol specialist, and a trauma expert.  However, Bemister is quick to shift the focus away from herself. “It’s not about me, it’s about helping other people, and, in turn, I get to stay sober during that work, I get to use my experience.” And it’s from that experience she draws The Courage To Come Back.

NEWS 1130 is a proud sponsor of the 21st annual Coast Mental Health Courage To Come Back Awards, which are being handed out April 24 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.