Finding her Voice

A woman overcomes her cocaine addiction and a past peppered with sexual violence through Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre and goes on to found her own non-profit charity aimed at helping adults detect and prevent childhood sexual abuse and commercial sexual exploitation.

“We would just talk. We would just cry. We would just share.

“The moment you cross the threshold, it is like a warm and comforting hug. It is safe.”

On the outside, everything in Cynthia Bland’s life seemed great. She had a senior position in an Ottawa high tech company, a great husband and four wonderful children – two boys and twin girls. But after 15 years of being sober from a cocaine addiction, Bland felt like she wanted to use again. She was dealing with a difficult employer, her father – with whom she had hoped to rekindle a relationship – suddenly passed away, and she was ongoing some stress in her marriage.

“I had gone from being a really excellent performer at work to sliding down this path where I was really unhappy. I didn’t feel, like, things felt out of control. They just felt out of control,” says Bland.

Bland remembers feeling a lot of pressure and being confused about what was going on in her life. She just felt horrible, she says, and started feeling suicidal.

“I really felt like this was it, that I wanted to get high and then I wanted to just end my life because things just felt crazy,” she explains.

That’s when Bland decided she needed to get help, and turned to Amethyst Women’s Addiction. She says she was nervous about calling because she wasn’t “an active addict” and didn’t know if Amethyst would see her.

“I kind of felt like I shouldn’t really call, but, you know, I’m going to call because I’m so desperate,” she explains.

Although Bland was terrified to come to Amethyst, she said she felt relief when she first walked through the door. “The moment you cross the threshold, it is like a warm and comforting hug. It is safe,” she says.

She started seeing Rose McDade, one of Amethyst’s current substance use counsellors, and after a few months was referred to the Sexual Abuse Support Program. What happened there changed her life.

Cynthia’s Journey through the Sexual Abuse Support Program

When one of Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre’s counsellors asked Cynthia Bland, “Have you been sexually abused as a child?”, it felt like everything came into place. It explained the anxiety, the depression, the panic attacks, the abusive relationships, the feelings of not belonging and the cocaine addiction.

“Why had nobody asked me that before?”, she muses. Although she had seen a psychologist and a psychiatrist for her anxiety and panic, it was the first time in 42 years she had revealed her past of sexual abuse.

“It was really hard. I mean, this was 42 years of a big secret. I went and told my mom, you know. I told my kids and I had to sit and tell my husband, who didn’t know. Nobody knew what had happened to me,” she says.

There are many reasons why Bland didn’t talk, or even think, about her childhood sexual abuse. She explains that as the abuse went on – from ages 5 to 7 by a trusted neighbour – threats and secrecy kept her from telling her parents. After it stopped – because she moved away – she didn’t have the words to express what was happening. And later on, she didn’t understand how her abuse affected her life. “I got hurt, but I guess my brain just kind of, like, put it somewhere else,” she says.

Amethyst’s Sexual Abuse Support Program was very helpful for Bland. She learned that she wasn’t alone, that others had gone through and felt just the way she did, and that she wasn’t “a weirdo”. She says being able to share her story with others was very powerful.

“We would just talk. We would just cry. We would just share. It was like this cathartic, oh my God, I’m not the only person,” she says.

Bland also learned to ground herself, to be gentle to herself and to practice self-care. When she graduated from the program, she was given a touchstone. It reminded her of the skills she had learned at Amethyst and helped her carry them forward in her life.

“I carried that with me so I understood what was happening. ‘Oh, I’m being triggered right now.’ So I could name it. And I could name it and I’d go, ‘Okay, I know what I need to do’, you know, put my feet on the ground and ‘I’m okay’,” she explains.

Moving On and Finding her Voice

Since then, Bland has founded the charitable organization Voice Found. It started off as a blog on which Bland would talk about her own story and evolved into a national charitable organization that provides education and prevention training and supports survivors of sex trafficking.

Although Bland hasn’t been at Amethyst in over 10 years, she has a daily reminder of it with her. The logo of her foundation has two colours, one of which is amethyst. She says this was a conscious decisions because, “I loved what it stood for and what it meant to me.”

“What I want to say about Amethyst is that, you know, Amethyst saved my life. And I will – I can say that,” says Bland.

Voice Found is a survivor-led national charity committed to the prevention of child sex abuse and commercial sexual exploitation. Through The Hope Found project we support persons who have been sex trafficked. In early 2018 we will be opening Canada’s first health clinic for those 13 years of age and older who are at risk of, who are experiencing or who have experienced human trafficking.



2018 Open House – You are invited!!

Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre

Invites you to attend our

2018 Open House

Please join us to learn about our services and support our cause!

Saturday June 23rd from 10am to 5pm

488 Wilbrod St, Ottawa, ON K1N 6M8

No admission cost and no RSVP required

For questions regarding this event please contact
613-413-0200 or


Le Centre Amethyst pour femmes Toxicomanes

Vous invite à sa

Journée porte ouverte 2018

Joignez-vous à nous

Pour connaître et supporter notre cause

Samedi, le 23 juin 2018 de 10h à 17h

488 rue Wilbrod , Ottawa, ON K1N 6M8

Pas de frais d’admission ou de réservation nécessaire

Pour toute question concernant cette évènement veuillez contacter :
613-413-0200 ou


Who we are

Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre was founded in 1979 in Ottawa-Carleton to provide alternative addiction services to women.

Over the intervening years, thousands of women have come through our doors for assistance in freeing themselves of substance use problems.

Working from a feminist perspective, Amethyst makes direct links between the unequal position of women in society, the forms of violence against women and their substance use. Our aim is to support women, individually and together, in taking charge of their lives by making changes that enhance women’s strengths, freedom and choices.

As a feminist organization, Amethyst aspires to equality and just for all women. This means that as well as providing services for addicted women, we develop prevention programs in the community, and work towards changing social structures that place women at risk of addiction. We also work with other services and organizations in the women<s community to address issues of common concern.

Substance Use – many factors contribute to why women develop addictions.

For many women in the community, substance use is not problematic. However, for others, due to a variety of complex factors, substance use can result in significant harm. Substance use though cannot be understood only in terms of use; many factors contribute to why women develop addictions. For example, the majority of women who access our services have experienced violence in childhood or adulthood. And research consistently demonstrates the strong correlation between addiction, violence, and mental health issues.

Further, familial histories of addiction and unhealthy family of origin dynamics also may play a role in women’s substance abuse. As a result, Amethyst works from the philosophy that we cannot “treat” a woman’s addiction in isolation; we must understand the context in which she has developed her relationship to substance use.

Women who use our bilingual services come from diverse backgrounds in terms of culture, sexual orientation, gender identity, socio-economic status, age, and ability. While many people tend to think of “addicts” in very stereotypical terms, it is critical to recognize that addiction is not discriminatory; it can happen to anyone. Because of women’s unequal access to power in our society, alongside multiple and intersecting identities that also marginalize women, women often experience harsher judgement and consequence as a result of their use. Issues of unstable finances, housing, and employment, as well as lack of access to affordable childcare and transportation all impact women’s experience of substance use/abuse and recovery.

While women use many substances, the most commonly reported problematic substance among our clients is alcohol. Other substances that women report as problematic are cigarettes, marijuana, crack, prescription medications including pain medication and tranquilizers, cocaine, heroin and other opiates, and “club drugs” like ecstasy.

For more information about women and substance abuse, or to discuss the possibility of professional workshops, please contact


What’s in a name

When a small committee of women put together a list of possible names for a new treatment centre, there was no shortage of ideas. A number of well-known women associated with addiction treatment were listed, as well as a variety of words representing transformation, discovery, rebirth, inner growth and so on.

One word stood out as a symbol for all of these meanings. Amethyst – a clear purple gem stone mined throughout the world, and significantly in Ontario – derives its name from a Greek word meaning “without intoxification”.

The powers attributed to the Amethyst are as ancient as history itself. As well as being seen as a talisman against drunkenness, the Amethyst was thought to have healing properties, which stimulate intuition and spiritual awakening, while calming passion, emotional violence and anger.

Amethyst, rich in symbolism and beautiful in colour, has come to represent a special place where women find warmth and support and new beginnings.

The word Amethyst is derived the Greek “ametusthos”  meaning “not intoxicated”. The stone is highly esteemed for its stunning beauty and legendary powers to stimulate and soothe the mind and emotions. We give it to our graduates as a symbol of their journey with Amethyst and it can serve as a touchstone in difficult times.

Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre and Shoppers Drug Mart raise more than $7,000 for Ottawa-area women’s health initiatives through the ‘Growing Women’s Health Campaign’



Ottawa — November 23, 2017 – Earlier this fall, the community joined together with local Shoppers Drug Mart and its store team for one of the most successful fundraising efforts to support women’s health initiatives here in Ottawa. Donations to the SHOPPERS LOVE. YOU. 2017 Growing Women’s Health Campaign in the amount of 7,273.00 will support Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre’s mission of supporting women to take control of factors affecting their health and well-being.

The 16th annual campaign is national in scope, yet locally based, with patients, customers and employees donating directly to charitable organizations in their community to ensure that resources and programming are available to meet the needs of women across the country.

“We are really pleased to be a part of the Growing Women’s Health Campaign again this year,” said Carol Wu, Coordinator of Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre. “The donations from the 2017 campaign will really make a difference to the women of Amethyst and will be used to meet a funding shortfall for our popular Health Promotion Program. That program provides free educational presentations in the community in an effort to prevent substance use and problem gambling by encouraging women to engage in healthy living,” added Wu.

“We’re thrilled with the success of the 2017 Growing Women’s Health Campaign,” said Mohamed Ali, Shoppers Drug Mart Pharmacist Owner. “Each year, our customers and staff demonstrate their generosity and their commitment to supporting women in our community, and we couldn’t be more proud of everyone’s contribution,” he added. “Amethyst plays an important role in our community and the proceeds from this year’s campaign will go a long way to helping them further that work.”

 Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre is a community-based organization which provides alternative addiction services to women in the Ottawa Region. A central task at Amethyst is to help women take charge of our lives by ending substance use and problem gambling.

Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre provides direct health services in both prevention and treatment. The Health Promotion Program, in particular, recognizes that not all women who use substances or who gamble need treatment services, but may still benefit from prevention services in an attempt to decrease their risk of developing problematic or addictive behaviours.

The SHOPPERS LOVE. YOU. Growing Women’s Health campaign is a four-week program held across Canada each fall. In support of leading women’s health organizations, customers, staff and Associate-Owners at over 1,315 Shoppers Drug Mart / Phamaprix locations raise funds through the purchase of the Growing Women’s Health paper icons. Since 2002, the Growing Women’s Health campaign has raised more than $32 million for Canadian health charities. In 2017, over 500 Women’s Health charities across Canada will benefit from the campaign’s proceeds with 100 per cent of funds staying in the community where they are raised.


For more information please contact: Mohamed Ali, Pharmacist Owner, Shoppers Drug Mart,

Carol Wu, Coordinator, Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre,



About Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre

Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre is a day treatment centre for women 18 years and over which offers free individual and group counselling for substance use and problem gambling. Amethyst believes that women’s experiences with alcohol, drugs and gambling cannot be separated from their status and experience as women. That is why Amethyst provides addiction services geared toward empowering women to take control of their lives and end substance use and problem gambling. Addiction can touch the lives of our daughters, mothers, sisters, and friends, but there is help.To learn more about how Amethyst is helping women build healthier lives please visit Follow Amethyst on Facebook for events and news


About SHOPPERS LOVE. YOU.–SHOPPERS LOVE. YOU. represents the organization’s commitment to improving the health of all Canadian women in body, mind and spirit. Brought to life through eight partnership programs, created with leading experts and institutions in women’s health, this national initiative connects women to health information and resources that help ensure their health only gets stronger. More information can be found at

About Shoppers Drug Mart Corporation-Shoppers Drug Mart Corporation is one of the most recognized and trusted names in Canadian retailing. The Company is the licensor of full-service retail drug stores operating under the name Shoppers Drug Mart (Pharmaprix in Québec).  With 1,284 Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmaprix stores operating in prime locations in each province and two territories, the Company is one of the most convenient retailers in Canada.  The Company also licenses or owns 49 medical clinic pharmacies operating under the name Shoppers Simply Pharmacy (Pharmaprix Simplement Santé in Québec) and six luxury beauty destinations operating as Murale.  As well, the Company owns and operates 49 Shoppers Home Health Care stores, making it the largest Canadian retailer of home health care products and services.  In addition to its retail store network, the Company owns Shoppers Drug Mart Specialty Health Network Inc., a provider of specialty drug distribution, pharmacy and comprehensive patient support services, and MediSystem Technologies Inc., a provider of pharmaceutical products and services to long-term care facilities. For more information, visit