One year later

Today is the anniversary of the wildfire that devastated my community of Fort McMurray. All 80 plus thousand of us evacuated out on the one road – heading north or south through flames.

It is an odd thing to be part of a mass trauma. Everyone around you has experienced the same thing…to different degrees. And each of them reacts differently. The city feels prickly. People are short tempered and self focused. Comparison becomes a source of guilt. It’s hard to even express that.

The city itself has been left with a hum of discontent. We all experienced amazing generosity from across the globe and even that was hard to accept – to go from completely self sufficient to scared, lost and possessionless is very scary. And during the first days the not knowing if our house had burnt down, if I still had a job to go back to, if everyone was ok, was heartbreaking. 

We are fortunate. We did not lose our house. Our employer supported us fully. Kind people made our stay in Calgary easier.

But the scars from the days of fear remain. I still get upset looking at pictures. I still remember being on the highway with my daughter and not being able to connect with, or find, my husband and son in another vehicle. With fire burning along the road. That distress clings to my throats even as I type.

 I know many people who relapsed during this time. The loss of the familiar leads to unexpected behaviour. Craig and I both found support when needed to protect ourselves. Self care must continue no matter what. This was absolutely a time where doing less helped.

I didn’t want to return here last summer. First we didn’t want to leave…then I didn’t want to go back. The mind is complicated!

I continue to consider moving away. Every day I drive by vast stretches of burnt forest. It surrounds us. It used to be lush and green. I am afraid it won’t be this year. And it has become a constant reminder of what was…

My other side feels like moving is running away, although as time goes buy this belief is less and less true.  I have spent a year returning to my life and what I have found is that the old life is gone and a new, different life exists. If I choose to move it is because I know even another different life can be created wherever we go. Not because of the fire…just because home is where you make it.

I hope that one day I will look back at this as just another experience of our life. But today I am still stuck in the emotional upheaval.

I will take time to hug my family tight today. Please do the same. And remember…there is no experience so bad that you can’t make worse by drinking.

Thank you all for you support. I appreciate it. Especially jean from Unpickled, who is my close friend, and who interviewed me about the evacuation on the bubble hour. It helped me last summer. 

Stillness and peace,

Anne

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26 thoughts on “One year later

  1. so frightening.
    and yet, you did it, and a year later give hope to those who need it, facing their own trauma and setbacks.
    you’re right, home is where you make it…

    1. There will always be traumas and setbacks. Once upon a time I believed if I could avoid them I would be happy. I was wrong…
      It turns out it’s ok not to always be happy. So instead I focus on my moments of contentment.

  2. Working in the same industry that you do, I was connected to the news stories about this event. Tragic for sure! I can only barely imagine having life changed this drastically!
    But, you are strong and admirable for getting through all that!

  3. I’m shocked it’s already a year passed since this horrible event. You’ve been through so much trauma, upheaval and change in this time and you’ve done it all sober. Your story is so very inspiring, thank you for sharing it all. Hugs x

  4. I am forever grateful that after all you went through during the evacuation, and while living in temporary digs in Calgary, you took the time and care to step out and meet a stranger for coffee. I e-mailed Jean, she texted you and here I am…307 amazing days later. Words fail me.

  5. Anne,
    Thank you for sharing this with us.
    It really helps me understand how trama affects people, and how long it takes to heal.
    You are so right about home being where you make it.
    And I hugged my hubs tonight.
    Love,
    Wendy

  6. There is a grace and honesty that comes through in your writing. I can’t directly relate to the experiences you’ve had, but I can certainly appreciate the way you’ve chosen to approach your challenges. There are wonderful lessons in there for me and, I suspect, for all of us. Thanks for writing.

  7. I’ve wondered how I would handle a disaster of this magnitude. I have such a fear of wildfire that I can’t image what you’ve been through. Thank you for showing that survival without alcohol is possible. Maybe it is enough to make you want to start over somewhere still green. I’ve made a few moves in the last few years and each has been better than the one before. I have relatives in Calgary who say it’s the most beautiful place on earth. I’m going up there one of these days. xoxo!

  8. I listened to the episode on the bubble hour where you spoke about the fire. This must have been an out of body experience for you. Trauma can cause us to feel as though nowhere is safe and as if nothing in the world is solid anymore. So true that drinking would only have made it worse and you have been faced with two devastations.It must be really hard remembering it and being reminded of it regularly. I’m writing this one down: there is no experience so bad that you can’t make worse by drinking.” Thank you for always being so supportive, you really are an inspiration. xxx

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