Betty-Lou Kristy is not only a survivor of mental health issues and drug and alcohol addiction, she is also a bereaved mother who lost her 25-year-old son to an accidental drug overdose in 2001.
It’s been a tough go since his death but Kristy said it’s important to her to tell both their stories.
“I am still standing,” said the Georgetown resident during an interview Tuesday.
In recovery from multiple addictions and extreme childhood trauma since 1999, Kristy eventually would experience a dramatic recovery.
But as she slowly improved her son fell into the same pattern of behaviour she had once known, utilizing alcohol and prescription pain pills for the relief of his physical and emotional pain.
His doctors, Kristy said, refused to recognize the mental health issues he struggled with, instead they focused solely on addiction.
Despite desperately trying to help him, Kristy lost her only child Peter Beattie to an accidental but lethal overdose of Oxycontin and psychiatric drug two days before Christmas in 2001.
He was in psychiatric ward and was supposed to be under supervised watch.
Naloxone would have saved his life.
“It’s not something you ever heal from or get over,” she said. “You learn to live with it and integrate it. Like recovery for mental illness and addiction — it becomes part of you.”
Instead of giving into overwhelming grief after his death, Kristy, who had experienced multiple breakdowns and suicide attempts herself, said she decided after her son’s death she had something to give back.
“I thought I’m not going to survive unless I can try to be part of the solution,” she said. “It was no good to just sit there and say the system failed me and my son.”
Kristy has been an advocate for change with what she refers to as “a delicate roar.”
“It’s being an advocate for change without starting a war,” she said.
Kristy went on to become a provincial lived experience/family systems advisor, educator and advocate who helps to frame policy, governance and funding for many provincial organizations such as the health ministry.
“I’m helping others to ensure their kids stay safe,” she said.
She is also an experienced speaker, trainer and facilitator and the recipient of the 2009 CAMH Transforming Lives Award.
Kristy will speaking in Woodstock at the Women and Wellness event on Sept. 29 in support of Oxford County walk-on counselling program located in Ingersoll, Woodstock, Tavistock and Tillsonburg.
“The clinics are not funded by government of any level,” explained Shirley McCall-Hanlon, chair of Women and Wellness 2017 committee. “They are proving so valuable to residents we are committed to continue fundraising.”
Sponsored the GM Cami Assembly Plant the event also includes a silent auction as well as a live auction for several travel baskets.
--- --- ---
IF YOU GO
What: Women and Wellness, Oxford County
Guest speaker: Mental-health advocate Betty-Lou Kristy
Where: Craigownan Oxford Golf and Country Club
When: Sept. 29, 6 to 9:30 p.m.
Tickets: $35, available at CMHA Oxford, 522 Peel St.