#WeAreNot9to5 is a campaign to share a series of lived experience stories about mental health and substance use from our Not 9 to 5 community. Our aim is to encourage us to learn from one another.
This story is written by chef Kamoy Williams:
Some of the sweetest blessings in my life have come out of moments of incredible hardship, self-destruction, and doubt. One of those blessings is my journey of being substance free for 4 years while manifesting a loving and caring family and community.
In 2018 I was in a relationship that looked incredible on paper- we connected, did outings together and even went on a trip overseas. I thought I had found my person. However, my actions didn’t read in that way and inside, I felt extremely unhappy and empty. The restaurant I worked at was experiencing some hardships. We were evicted by the landlords and had to close abruptly. As a result, I left my apartment of 5 years and moved into a completely new neighbourhood. Between moving and losing my job at a place that felt like a tight-knit ‘family’, I felt as if I had lost my entire community. I kept smiling on the outside, not quite able to identify how hard these big changes had affected me. I was smoking an incredible number of cigarettes and experimenting with drugs like MDMA and cocaine because at the time, some of my friends and I thought it added an edge of fun to the night. My partner at the time was drinking excessively and would go into bouts of depression.
Since things weren’t going great at my new place, I decided to move back home with my mom. I felt like a failure, I had no job, was on EI (employment insurance) and living at my parents’ house. After some time with my partner and our relationship progressing, we decided to move in together. His father had an extra room at his house, and we moved in there. I was no longer working full-time, and he found a position out of town that required him to live on-site.
I was left alone at his father’s house wrought with loneliness and lacked a sense of direction and purpose. Cooking had always been the thing that kept my mind focused; but I was feeling too stricken and depressed to reach out for any culinary opportunities.
After about a month of being apart, I went to visit him, but the connection felt different. The distance was putting a strain on me within the relationship. I felt that he lived in his own world and that I didn’t really have a partner. After leaving that visit, I felt more alone than ever. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that he valued everything more than me.
One night after going to an ecstatic dance class, I acted on impulse to meet up with a man that I had known before my boyfriend and reconnected with him intimately. At the end, we both acknowledged that our connection felt different, but I was left shocked wondering what I had just done. Even though I felt disconnected from my partner, I still acknowledged that we had plans and dreams for the future to build a life together, have kids, get married and do all the things. I knew that with this one act I had thrown that all away. I felt shocked because I wasn’t cognizant of my unhappiness within the relationship, and the fact that I cheated was a bitter mess for me to handle.
Within two weeks I told my then partner what I had done, and he asked me to pack up and move out of his fathers house. I left with a suitcase and stayed at a friend of mine’s house. I was still on EI at the time and was making a minimal amount of money, but I searched avidly and was able to find a small room to rent in Toronto.
I was feeling low and empty and relied on the small connections that I had with various people over drugs to bring me a temporary feeling of fullness. I began doing cocaine every day and meeting random men, women, and couples online that I would do drugs with and have sexual encounters.
I kept on pursuing these temporary feelings, not remembering how to create relationships in a healthy and fulfilling way. My spirit was truly broken. I gave so much of myself away with these random encounters and needed cocaine to feel like my typical bright and joyful self.
It was notable that during this time my mother was really active in my life- she would come and visit me at my small room that I was renting and bring me soup or food. I didn’t ever tell her what was happening with me, but I think she could tell that I was in a very dark place due to dreams that she was having.
I ended up getting sick with strep throat. I called my mentor and sister, and she was sincerely worried about me and stressed that this wasn’t a light cough or cold. She was clear on the fact that there was something in my life that I needed to shift. I couldn’t do drugs or eat anything for several days and along the way I realized that I wanted to gain control of my actions and my mind. I decided to gain some self-discipline. That bout of illness shook me enough to finally recognize the value of my life. The actions that I was taking could kill me or leave me very badly hurt. I made a choice that I was only going to have sex with and do drugs with one specific person moving forward. I chose the man that I had cheated on my partner with because I had known him the longest. I stopped hooking up with strangers online and would only see him. It felt safe and stable to make a choice about moving forward with my life, and even though I was still using cocaine, I felt that the chaos settled a bit with this choice.
During this time, I got an incredible opportunity to be a sous chef at a restaurant in PEC (Prince Edward County) and took that as a stepping stone to change my life drastically. I focused on creating a menu and building a new life for myself. Things were going well. I lived and worked in the County and on weekends I would go and hang out with my lover. We had stopped using drugs because I knew I couldn’t work and use substances like cocaine due to the withdrawal and come down periods. I wanted to be able to perform at the expectation of my mentor, as her opinion was very important to me.
On his birthday weekend, August 9th 2018, I took my last bump of cocaine. I found out a few weeks later that I was a month pregnant and my whole life changed for the greater. I decided that I would stop using chemically produced substances and stopped smoking cigarettes.
My pregnancy was like rehab for me. Not only did I connect with the child in my womb, I reconnected with myself. I gained self-awareness and restored my personal self-worth. I knew that I had to create an environment of growth for my child, and that required me to make incredible changes.
I gave birth to my son on April 9th, surrounded by nine of my closest sisters and friends at the Toronto Birth Centre. I connected with my sister who was living as a single mother and we decided that we would live together and raise our children in community. We have been living together ever since. All of us cook together, eat dinner together and have built a community. Now there are five of us in a community who are raising ten children. Different things are happening as the community grows- we are finding partners, having more children, and continually learning the different ways in which we want to create and raise our family. I have had to find different ways to navigate the culinary scene as I am no longer cooking on the line since becoming a mother. I have come a log way and these days I do food styling, catering, and recipe development. I also connect within the hospitality community through workshops, 1:1 consultations and mentorship.