Laura Pellegrino, battled mental health and addictions all her life, and she ultimately succumbed to her demons on October 28, 2021. This was a very sad day for her son, family, and those that knew her. There were many efforts made by Laura’s family, namely by her father and mother, for the support in which she desperately needed. After Laura passed, her father and sister cleaned out her home where they found the following letter written by Laura, entitled "Letter to The Editor"
Addiction: When you become a slave to a substance and are unable to stop without help. The substance takes the brain hostage and the addict loses power.
"I will begin by saying that I am a strong capable woman worthy of recovery. This letter is in regards to my experience with addiction and mental health issues. Since as long as I can remember, I have struggled with anxiety and depression. As a young girl I literally named my panic attacks “my problems”. I would wake up shaking and go downstairs to my mother and ask her, “is my ponytail too tight” or “are people with guns going to come and kill us”? I have to say that as a mother, looking back at myself, I would be in agony for my child. I came from the most amazing and loving family who spoiled me rotten. As I approached my teens, that is what I became …. ROTTEN. Like a lot of teens, I “dabbled” in alcohol and drugs, yet in my head, all that I noticed was the incredible feeling to NOT FEEL. Although that is an oxymoron, it made complete sense to me. The more that I indulged in chaotic behaviours and used mind altering drugs, the less I faced what my mind was poisoning me with. I left high school early and drove my car out west on my own to see if maybe a geographical cure would help me. Ultimately, it did not. In fact, it set me off into an entire new destructive spiral of self deception. After over a year of kidding myself, I returned home to more emptiness.
After a series of half-assed attempts at College and University, I discovered something. Losing weight somehow offered me the attention I was craving. The skinnier and prettier I would become; someone would hear my cry. That would result in a 5-year battle with anorexia and bulimia that would not end well. Eventually, I pulled it together enough to earn a Developmental Services Diploma. Deep down I thought this would definitely distract me from my deepest issues. I sincerely enjoyed and still feel complete gratification helping children with special needs and their families.
In 2009, I gave birth to my beautiful son. He was my world, my life. But the demons were still there. By the time he was 5 years old I had already done 4 stints in rehab. My 4th attempt at sobriety was at a recovery centre in Toronto. I felt some clarity and for a while things were looking pretty optimistic. I was the queen of creating a helpful aftercare plan. I was truly self advocating from afar, only to return home to canceled programs, unexpected waitlists, and pushy counselors. Just because I have the ability to initiate a plan (while in a safe place) and hold a job does not mean I know what to do when it all crumbles. It bothers me when people say, “it’s now or never”. The reason being is that depression is all consuming and just because I can function in society does not mean that I don’t deserve “a place on a list” or a “bed in detox”.
Today I am still fighting the fight. The amount of ignorance surrounding mental health and addiction is mind blowing. Take a close look at the people you love! Take a close look at the people around you! We are all deserving and require support. From the outside looking in . . . it’s hard to understand. From the inside looking out . . . it’s hard to explain.”
(Laura Pellegrino May 22, 1974 – October 28, 2021)
"Laura was a mother, daughter, sister, cousin, friend, and so much more than just a person battling addictions. Our hope, as a family, is to let our community know what goes on in the mind of some addicts. We'd just like to share that Laura was human. She made mistakes and had flaws. She was also incredibly funny, and cared deeply about her family, particularly her son. At times, Laura was able to articulate herself through letters and journals. While we all didn't understand her or her choices, it was clear looking back through these pieces she'd written, that she had some of the answers. Laura's father, Dom, noted: "Emptying out the bins from her house I found all her journals and all her workbooks from treatment. She had all the answers in front of her. From more than one session. What can you do?" As a family, you can only encourage so much. But that's what they did, her immediate family never gave up on Laura. They did their best to support her through her toughest times. Dom also noted, "As a parent it was very frustrating to not have help when Laura needed it. No beds in detox which is the first step. Appointment in...six weeks. Well that's too late most of the time." This is ultimately a reality for a lot of people struggling with addictions and mental illnesses/disorders. We hope with Laura's letter for people to reflect differently on those struggling with these issues and going through recovery."
Kelly Mental Health Foundation - Free Counselling Services
Three C's Reintroduction Centre - Long Term Residential Recovery Facility
Sister Margaret Smith Centre - Adult Addiction Programs
Government of Canada Resources
Thunder Bay Counselling Centre - Addiction & Mental Health
Crossroads Centre Thunder Bay
Thunder Bay District Heath Unit
Norwest Health Centre
Nar-Anon Family Groups of Ontario
Moms Stop The Harm
John Howard Society of Thunder Bay & District
Kelly Mental Health Clinic - Thunder Bay, ON
Kelly Magazine - NWO's Mental Health Magazine (article resources)
A special thanks to Laura's family for reaching out to us to handle Laura's letter with the utmost respect, empathy, and compassion. It has been an absolutely honour to get to know Laura through her family over the past few months. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire family. May this publishing bring you some peace during your difficult times.
NWO’s source for all things relationships, mental health, wellness, lifestyle, and pandemic support. Kelly Magazine is a mental health outreach initiative created by Kelly Mental Health and supported by Kelly Mental Health Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the community in the area of mental health.
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