Feb. 9, 2024  – One rainy November night, while sitting on the side of the Highway of Tears by herself just outside of Quesnel, Val West heard her mother yelling at her. “My mom, Lillian Squalian, had died of cancer seven years ago by then.” West distinctly heard her mom tell her, “I raised you better than this.

It was those six words that inspired the Williams Lake woman to get sober for her three children.

She was using drugs because she felt emotions about the loss of her mom and was not ready to go through those emotions, she said.

“My mom was my best friend, she was the rock of the family and the backbone. She was somebody I wanted to be. She was the matriarch. I carry her drum today.”

Since embracing sobriety, West has had more than her fair share of challenges.

“I lost my dad, [Richard Duncan Sr.], I lost my brother Sheldon Squalian, I lost my brother Rich who we called Savage,” she said, pointing to the words across her hoodie – Savage Love. “That it why I wore this shirt tonight. I lost my sister Crystal to an overdose. I lost many friends and family along the way to overdoses. That could have been me.”