Sabrina Rivers was addicted to pills — any painkillers she could get her hands on — for 10 years.
In her eyes she’s battled her addiction and come out on the other side, but there’s still one thing holding her back.
“The only thing I had stopping me right now is my weight and my body. My personality does not reflect my body,” she said.
Sabrina Rivers started taking pills after her doctor prescribed 300 of them to ease her back pain, which was caused by her big chest. She was delighted that she was able to run around with her children, enjoying things most people take for granted.
A year later she had a breast reduction, but she wasn’t happy with the results. As she described it: “I was left with a lot of scars and a lot of, I don’t even know how to say it, things in the wrong places. His artwork was not very good, to say the least.”
She suffered from depression, and pills were the only thing that got her out of bed in the morning. Her partner of 17 years, who was also addicted to pills after being in a car accident, helped her feed her addiction.
Two years ago, after a 10-year addiction, things got bad, she left her partner and moved back with her parents.
Rivers, now 35 years old with two children, finished a year of university and lives in low-income housing in Gravenhurst. She is on Ontario Works and participating in the boot camp for the summer put on through Living In Balance, a program for those who have dealt with addictions.
The boot camp is a pilot project aimed at integrating those who have battled an addiction back into society and into jobs. It targets mental, physical and emotional health, and includes meditation, exercise and a healthy diet. Twice a week the group gathers for a day of mental and physical fitness.
For Rivers, it’s the exercise that matters.
“I don’t want to go back to addiction. If I can get healthy, there’s less chance of going back,” she said.
Dave Marshall, owner of CrossFit Muskoka, is donating his time and the gym to help the group gain their lives back.
“Growing up I had a lot of contact with people who were involved in a lot of similar issues and just had a hard time with life and I know if they would have had the opportunity to participate with something like we have here, it’s possible it would have gone a lot better for them,” Marshall said.
His regimen includes a lot of theory and instruction on how to work out, walking them through the exercises, then a challenging workout at the end.
One of the rules of the gym is the participants have to do a burpee for every minute they’re late.
On one of the boot camp days in week two, the women hurried to the gym after lunch with plenty of time to spare to make sure they could avoid doing burpees, only to find out there were burpees in their routine that day.
The gym is a big open space without equipment cluttering the floor. Some of the equipment is stored against the walls so the women have to set it up and also clean it up.
Bonnie Euler, coordinator of the program, said one of the goals of the boot camp is to make the participants take responsibility and clean up after themselves.
“It’s not just that they’re going to work out twice a week, they’re learning organization, discipline, teamwork,” said Euler.
The group takes notes from the board at the front of the gym and prepares to get the run-down on how to work out correctly and efficiently so they can achieve the most effective results, best time, least injury, and learn how to be courteous to each other. They learn how to row, lift dead weights, and do a chin-up, among many other things.
“My hope is that this is a starting point for them, it’s a beginning, it’s not a temporary fix. I hope they find a love for being healthy and fit,” said Marshall.
Even after only one week, Rivers is ecstatic.
“In the past two weeks I have done more as far as fitness and health-wise than I have ever done in my life. I am following the diet to a tee … and the fact that I had followed it for two weeks has amazed me.”
It’s changed the way she used to think from “I could never, that’s a big thing, I could never do that,” to “Keep throwing it at me — I want to see what else I can do.”
But she wasn’t quite as optimistic the first week of the fitness class. Their final workout consisted of four minutes of rowing, 40 squats, 30 sit-ups, 20 push-ups and 10 pull-ups.
Rivers, who had never worked out in her life, looked at the 40 squats alone and was overwhelmed, but she made it through.
“It’s such a feeling, it’s indescribable that I could do that. It just gives me the courage to go on,” she said.
In all this, she said she is working toward her one goal to have a career, always have food in her fridge and have her kids fed every day.