With any luck, Heidi Smith will be rubbing shoulders with some A-list celebrities this weekend as she heads down to Hollywood for the 88th Academy Awards.
The North Shore-raised designer is the creative force behind Addictive Designs and she'll be handing out tank tops and T-shirts from her apparel line at an Oscar gifting suite the day before the big event. Common during the lead up to glitzy red carpet affairs, gifting suites give companies the chance to distribute their products to celebrities, snap photos of the stars sporting their swag, and then use the endorsements to build brand recognition.
"All of the celebrities walk through and it's kind of a big party event," Smith explains. "I will be gifting each one of them."
With a background in graphic design and fashion, Smith launched Addictive Designs in August, inspired by her own history with drug and alcohol addiction. Today, she is proudly five years sober and her collection celebrates recovery. The simple black, white and grey shirts and tanks feature words like "courage," "faith" and "freedom" paired with brief, original messages of Smith's creation. The words are meant to inspire all those who are in recovery, or who know someone in recovery, whether it's from substance abuse, an eating disorder, the loss of a loved one, mental health issues, or something else.
"What I'm trying to do is identify that we are not alone.
We're just all in this together," Smith says. "My main message is that to recover is to regain what has been lost or stolen temporarily."
Wearing words of encouragement loud and proud is a departure from the notion that being in recovery is something to hide. Smith thinks recovering addicts should be open about their stories.
"This new movement that I strongly believe in with recovery is that we have to stand up and be seen and have no shame," she says. "I had shame for so many years of my life."
Smith isn't shy to talk about her 25 years of active addiction.
"I started very young. I don't know why. I came from a solid family background," she says.
But she had pain in her life, and drugs and alcohol numbed that pain. Several years ago, though, she hit rock bottom.
"Eventually, when I came to the end of the line, I was 90 pounds soaking wet, I wasn't really able to take care of my son so the Ministry of Children (and Family Development) got involved in my life," she says.
Add to that a couple of near-death experiences that pushed her to make a change.
"Eventually a little bit of something in me said 'enough was enough' and I decided to start listening to other people. I was very resilient, I was very opinionated and thought I could do it my way, and eventually I realized I could no longer do it my way."
Smith opened up about her situation with a couple of trusted people and soon realized she wasn't alone in her struggle.
"Addiction makes you think you're very alone; that's part of the disease."
Smith has been in recovery on and off for the past 10 years, and has been successful the last five. Her son, now nine years old, is back in her care.
"Recovery isn't anything that I can do alone, I have a whole support group of women," she says.
Working on Addictive Designs has helped keep her going through tough times and reminded her that support is close at hand.
"I get a lot of messages from people who buy these shirts across North America who feel the need to open up and tell me a little bit about their story and why one specific message relates to them," she says.
Printed locally, the shirts and tanks are made of a tri-blend fabric and designed to have a looser fit with the body-conscious woman in mind.
"I've dressed them up and I've dressed them down. They're good for the gym, they're good for leather pants and heels," Smith says.
She also has a smaller line of men's shirts.
When Smith gets to Hollywood, she has no idea who will come by her gifting booth, but says she would love to see her apparel worn by celebrities who are openly in recovery, such as Demi Lovato, Steven Tyler, and others, like herself, who have beat the odds.
"I work on my recovery every single day," she says. "It was not easy, but it was definitely worth it and it's still worth it."
Visit addictivedesigns.ca for more information or to shop online.