I’m Steph, and I am a drug addict.

“I am thankful for my struggle because, without it, I wouldn’t have stumbled across my strength.”

 – Alex Elle


One year ago I had to make the hardest decision in my entire life. Evolve or, quite literally die.

With a month left of my long strenuous studies, I chose to drop out of my Public Relations program, write the Minister of Health a letter begging for help, and throw my ass into treatment for drug and alcohol addiction.

Growing up in an alcoholic household I vowed it would never be me. I saw the pain and chaos it inflicted on the sufferer, and almost worse, the sufferers family. Wonderful people with so much potential shriveled up and became shells of themselves, and I wanted no part of it. Surely I was “better than that”.

But addiction is a sneaky thing. It doesn’t come all at once, and it’s not exactly something we openly talk about. It trickles in slow little bits before you ever notice its residence.

For me, what started out as recreational use and exploration, slowly (or perhaps even quickly) turned into a social lubricant for the mixers my new field of work required of me.

What’s wrong with a few drinks to toast to the end of an exam?

What’s the harm in a gin or two to give me the courage to talk to that CEO I hope to work for?

I write better when I’ve had a few, and I’m doing everything that’s required of me anyway, do I really have a problem?

But that’s the problem. I was doing the things that were required of me, and no one ever stopped to question it. I wrote the papers, I went to class, I did the public speaking events on self-love, and no one, least of all me, ever thought to say “you might need help”.

And why would they? From a “Public Relations” standpoint, I wasn’t exactly about to advertise any of my inner turmoil. After all, it would ruin my public image, wouldn’t it?

Wouldn’t it…?

With graduation on its’ way, things came to a sudden halt for me. I couldn’t do it anymore. Instead of finishing my papers I was drinking. Instead of going to class, I was drinking. Instead of establishing positive connections and networks in my field, I was ruining the potential for any future offers.

One night I had had enough. I drunkenly asked a respected mentor if openly admitting to dealing with an addiction would “ruin my professional image”. And to be quite fair, she didn’t know. Like any good Public Relations professional she walked me through the potential of my own personal “PR Disaster”; as someone just starting out in their career, it could either make or break me.

I don’t remember much after this, and in a way, it doesn’t really matter. What I do know is, this experienced changed me forever.

Where I once sat judging others, claiming their lack of willpower, I now found myself, facing barrier after barrier to getting help, despite my best efforts. Further, I found that if you are not of a privileged class, you have many obstacles ahead of you. If public treatment is your only option, the likelihood of securing a bed date for treatment sooner than a few months is nonexistent. If you are a woman, you will wait nearly 3 months, and let’s hope you’ve secured your own childcare.

1 in 5 Canadians report struggling with addiction, and of these only half are willing to disclose. In 2008, more than 47,000 Canadians died of drug or alcohol addiction, due to a lack of available services, public education and of course, the ever prevailing stigma surrounding addiction.  

Through the powers that be and the undying love of a kind, well-known family that lost their son to addiction, I was able to access treatment; an opportunity I now realize not nearly enough people will have. I was able to heal and remove myself from the grip of this death sentence, and truly gain a second lease on life.

When the time came to thank my guardian angels, they stopped me to tell me I have no reason to be ashamed.

That though addiction could “ruin my image”, recovery could be the conduit that gives others hope, that like that cheesy little quote, my struggle could lead me to my strength.

But not without being changed.

Today, I have a good life. I have the opportunity to finish my Public Relations program and work for an organization that values my experience with addiction. In the place of many fair-weather friends are genuine connections.

Beyond these external gifts though, are the feelings of humility, gratitude, and the yearning for authenticity. Shame has left me, and I am now open about my struggle, in hopes that it encourages someone else to ask for help.

Cliche as it is, the very thing I feared most has become the greatest thing to ever happen to me, and I will never be the same again.

All of my love,
– Steph Jael




Caution: Women at Work

It’s all in the details. The subtleties we probably don’t notice. That is until they are present, and we wonder why it took so long for the rest of the world to catch up.


© Google

The first time I used my smartphone I was in awe with all of the emoji options. They had come a long way from the MSN icons of the early 2000’s and now gave me the luxury of using food items and inanimate objects in my communications!

If I really “needed to”, I could send you an array of any emotion I might be feeling, expressed in an emoji. That is unless I felt like being a female with a profession.

On Thursday, Google announced women professionals will soon be better represented in emoji form. In May, they submitted a proposal to create a set of emoji’s “with a goal of highlighting the diversity of women’s careers and empowering girls everywhere.” Within these will be a doctor, a scientist a farmer and a welder, with customizable genders and skin tones.

And while it might make little sense as to why a company as large as Google would go through the effort of changing such a thing, it really does come down to the details. With most emoji users being female, the updates are being made to “help make emoji just a little more representative”.

The world is changing and becoming just a bit more socially aware. With it, is the demand for organizations to follow suit. And while I am still more likely to send a pizza slice emoji than I am the female farmer, I’m grateful to exist during a time (and in a country) in which efforts to respond to underrepresentation of female diversity are being made.

My only question now is, what exactly does a woman look like anyway?

All my love,

– Steph Jael

Say what you need to say

That person you’ve been meaning to text?

The one, or two, or four, that cross your mind throughout the day?

The one you didn’t expect to make a difference in your day…

They are waiting for you to say something;


Tell them what you feel.

Say what you need to say, baby. Before you can’t say anything at all.


All of my love. Always,

– Steph Jael

Nothing pisses me off more than Social Injustice and Ugly Shoes!




To whom it may concern,

And really, it’s everyone’s concern. I am writing this as a Métis woman who cried over having white privilege the other day. That’s right. I cried, over being “too white”! You see, in order for me to claim certain benefits as an Indigenous woman, I have to prove my ancestry. My father, who is a wonderful man but sick with alcoholism, has lost any documentation proving where we came from. My mother, who is European herself, grew up in an Indigenous community, with Indigenous children, and has been struck with concerns that many Indigenous individuals are forced to deal with, given our current state of affairs. My mother, with next to no resources as a single, lower income parent of five, had run to my rescue, trying to sooth my white privilege nerves by going to Vital Statistics, and again – on a lower class income – paid for me to rush order any proof that I am in fact not completely white! I can apply for that one scholarship! I can declare that underneath all of this white privilege that I am in fact Indigenous and I deserve to be treated as such!

And then it got me to thinking… what does it mean to be treated as such? As we were in line my cousin came in. A single mom of two, trying to support her children on next to nothing. Somehow she managed to step away from her children for a short moment, to bus downtown, and wait in line to pay for something, with money she really doesn’t have, in the hopes of being able to not lose the social assistance that supports her family. A situation all too familiar to my childhood friends. I can’t count the number of times my closest friends were sneered at as they lug their stroller onto the bus, in hopes of someone making room for them. Trying to care for their family, with probably no guidance of their own as a reference, under the judging gazes of others.

Later this afternoon as my mom and I had gone to a reputable government institution offering job search assistance, I noticed the receptionist looking my mom up and down, not realizing I was with her. My mom was wearing these awful, neon blue/neon green running shoes, and a pink tank top (probably from Giant Tiger, or the 80’s. Or both)! My mom, who herself is not of aboriginal descent has grown up and raised her family in a heavy Indigenous area of town. She herself has had to suffer for her children, for her friends, for her income, under the judging gaze of others. She no doubt has had to lug that same stroller onto the bus, carrying me, trying to avoid eye contact with those judging her for being a young parent, with my Indigenous dad beside her, looking just as uncertain. She had to drop out of college sometime early on in my childhood to take care of my four brothers and I, and my dad, a product of the residential school system who carries his addiction like a genetic disposition. To put it lightly, my mom did not have the opportunities I have had. To move from a lower to middle-class. To wear designer underwear, own a nice pair of Nike’s, or go after not only a first post-secondary diploma but a second. While she herself is white, she suffers the issues so many of my family members and friends, who are and “look Indigenous” are forced to deal with.

Last week a kid I grew up with was shot, by another kid we grew up with over gang related issues. Both boys are Indigenous.

Today at the bank an Indigenous woman was being ushered out by Caucasian employees. She was clearly in hysterics and upset over something. Not speaking English, probably frustrated she was being misunderstood, had finally left. The (white) bank employee rushed to his other bank employees to wash his hands with sanitizer and complain about how uncivilized this woman was being… uncivilized.

Growing up in traditional Métis culture I often went to sweat lodges, received many teachings, medicines, and my colours early on in life. All of which made me feel incredibly proud of who I was and where I came from. I had never been shunned away from any of these, by any of my community members or family (though with the slight joke that I was a little “white washed” looking). My blonde hair and green eyes were greeted with a “Welcome Home” the first time I attended the Sweat lodge. And I don’t know if it was until today when suddenly I felt like a brown person trapped in a white body when my heritage felt threatened… that I had realized just how much privilege I have carried my entire life. That the very stereotypes my friends and family members have been fighting to defy I was trying to jump into.

Let it be said that I, Steph Jael, a self-proclaimed white-knight (pun intended) of social injustice from her neighborhood, cried over having too much opportunity. Cried over not being able to apply for a scholarship (while being fully funded the SECOND time) while her cousin paid $65 (for a birth certificate, proving her child is, in fact, her child) from the $300 she receives to support her kids. I cried over being virtually invisible as the bank tellers judged this woman who was clearly just misunderstood. I cried over not being able to throw my white privilege out the window in order to be a visible part of a minority that is STILL forced to deal with so much hate, judgment, and divide.

Perhaps it’s bold of me to link poverty and racism. But today it particularly stood out to me as I reflected on weeping over having one less thing I had to fight against.

Nothing pisses me off more than social injustice, and ugly shoes.

P.S. I love you mom, but you need new shoes

“F*ck Social Media” The 3 Reasons to Love (not hate) the online world.

We all have that friend. The one that “doesn’t believe in social media”. They claim it promotes disconnect from real life and only brings about unnecessary drama. Or perhaps we are that friend. We used to use social media like an addict. You know, when the initial craze hit. But eventually it became so consuming and overwhelming that we had enough and just deleted all of our accounts. Drama over. I have a friend like this. We’ll call her X.

My friend X is in my Communications program and cringes every time an instructor tries to hit home the relevance of social media in modern business. And while I’d love to say I blame her, I can’t really. The truth is, there are a lot of totally justifiable reasons to hate the online world. First being, it fully endorses the shame and reward system. We somehow have single-handedly managed to stifle freedom of speech with how quick we are to shame others for their content (I am not exempt from this either). Similarly, it has also made “number of likes” synonymous with self-worth. And for all intents and purposes we probably will miss several real-time moments in our lives because we are checking Instagram/Twitter/Facebook/Insert Any Platform Here.

But for all of the millions of reasons there are to not jump online, I have managed to fall completely in love with social media… and while the offline community (and my pal X) have completely valid reasons to hate it, I am here to tell you the top 3 reasons I f*cking love social media (and you should too):


Random meme, feel free to claim this kind stranger.

1. Relationships: This is the age of Aquarius baby

Social media often has a bad rap for stifling interaction. Of course relationships and connectivity can exist offline. No one is arguing that. And really nothing can beat face to face interaction. Or can it? One of the reasons I love social media is the ability it has given me to connect with people. Whether through a “like” of support, a friendly comment reminding them someone cares, or comforting a lonely soul at 3 a.m. via online chats – social media has allowed me to connect and build relationships with people that I may not have met otherwise.


I recently received this message from a stranger turned online-friend. We have never physically met. She was inspired by my media to leave a situation that did not serve her. Two months later she was able to pay it forward to another stranger. I love the online community!


2. Think Global: do you want to be friends with famous people or not

Part of the incentive of my getting a twitter was in being able to connect with my one and only love, Leonardo DiCaprio. Long over are the days that there are 100 degrees of separation between you and your celebrity crush – or anyone for that matter. While that thought can be a scary one it has its’ positive aspects too. As an artist, I have been able to connect with other established industry people, which in turn has landed me contract after contract. Additionally, I have been able to gain mentorship with media professionals, partake in workshops all over the world, and engage celebrities that want to share and support in my causes. When and where else could this happen?


Ms. Universe and I became online pals. Leonardio DiCaprio has yet to get back to me, but I know he will.


3. Influence: you’re making bigger waves than you think

This is the one that still blows me away the most. A few weeks ago I started this blog for a school assignment. I was dreading it. Blogs (and social media in general) are exhausting, demanding, and require so much thought it’s not even funny. In some ways, this has required more effort than any relationship I have ever had. But damn is it worth it. On the day that I finished the course and no longer had to continue blogging, I received these messages in my inbox:

Making Waves

You actually do have fans… and surprise, they care about what you have to say!

What you have to say matters, and believe it or not people are paying attention to you. You have fans that are watching, reading, and internalizing what you put out into the world – online or otherwise. You are making bigger waves than you think you are… and chances are someone is finding comfort in what you have to say.

Go on, reopen that old account…

So sure, while cell phone screens have replaced lighters at concerts, grassroot artists are now able to promote and manage their entire career online. And yeah, princes(s) charming may be too busy checking their Instagram to notice you making eyes across the coffee shop; but you are now able to jump on a dating website and filter who you do/don’t want to talk to, solely based on a profile write up.

As individuals, we have become exponentially very powerful rather quickly with the rise of the online world. Like anything, there are problems and benefits with this. As an ode to that, my good friend Prevail from Swollen Members (who I met offline, to be honest) recently did a TedxVancouver talk entitled: Pandora’s Box. As Tedx states, it is “a telling tale of the power we all hold in the tip of our finger”.


-Steph Jael

Question Roulette: Is Communications changing you and if so how?

Question Roulette: Is Communications changing you and if so how?

Is Communications changing me? The simple answer is absolutely. How could it not? Anytime anyone experiences something new I think it can be expected that we will be changed, even if only slightly. This goes for a good book or movie, traveling to a new place, having kids, or whatever. For me, I think the biggest indication of change shows in noticing my thought patterns shifting from “influenced” to “how to influence”.

For example, the other day I left school and managed to find time to go grocery shopping. Being in such a fast pace and intense program, grocery shopping has been delegated to my partner over the last few months (god bless your little heart Hannah). While I was in the store going through the aisles I started noticing things I had never thought about before. The labels of products started to jump out at me – and not in a “how many calories and carbs are attached to this” kind of way. More in a “how did this get here kind of way.” I began asking myself what actually went into the design of that label, and  what kind of strategies & tactics (which are in fact two different thingswere used to gain product awareness.

After asking all of these questions I found myself trying to answer them. I found that concepts I had been learning in school were undoubtedly used in every single product, movement, etc. in our world today. That behind everything was a strategy; intentional or unintentional, effective or ineffective.

This pattern of thought has changed how I think about everything. I now sign on to social media and wonder how many of the successful movements that are currently going viral are natural? Or is the concept of  “astroturfing” actually responsible for how effective these are? Who are the greatest influencers behind these movements? And how much of this actually goes offline?

*The concept of a movement going “offline” is that in order for it to be successful people have to be talking about the movement in their physical lives. This requires the evangelists mentioned in my last Question Roulette blog. 

I am beginning to realize just how much power the “average person” truly has in influencing. As Joseph Ranseth said, “you now have more information at your disposal than major leaders did just a few decades ago”. Coupled with all of this information, we have a plethora of social media platforms and communication tools that give us the ability to share our content far and wide. 

It is in realizing that with a little planned strategy, transparency in your message and the assistance of those who share our values that now more than ever it is possible to start a successful movement. It is this shift of thought of being influenced to influencing that has changed me the most while in communications so far.

Thank you again for the great question. Take care, my influencing friends!

-Steph Jael