Today marks International Overdose Awareness Day, a day to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of drug-related death.
In BC alone, there have been 780 illicit drug overdose deaths from January-June 2017. That is a 61 per cent increase from June 2016, with nearly four illicit drug-related deaths per day. This continued rise in drug-related deaths demonstrates the need to continue to raise awareness, provide support and resources and spread the message that overdose is preventable.
One client from Ashnola at The Crossing, a program dedicated to supporting youth and young adults who need residential treatment for substance use concerns, is sharing his story of addiction, overdose and recovery to inspire others who may be dealing with substance use issues.
Ronnie, 20, has been in treatment for two months at Ashnola, after years of struggling with an addiction to heroin, fentanyl and various other substances. Like many who have an addiction, he was using because of unresolved trauma from his past. “I didn’t have the strength to deal with my past,” he said.
While struggling with an addiction, Ronnie overdosed 11 times resulting in many hospital visits and doses of Naloxone that saved his life. Most of the overdoses were accidental, and occurred because he was using drugs that were more powerful than he anticipated.
“My addiction had beaten me down to the point that in the days before I came to treatment, I had tried a few times to intentionally overdose.”
His decision to seek treatment came when he realized the pain he was causing himself and his family. At one time he felt the drugs were actually helping him, but he eventually realized he needed to make a change before things got worse.
“The drugs were slowing me down and putting me on the road of being dead, in jail or homeless and mentally ill.”
He began his treatment and path to recovery in June when he was admitted to the Ashnola program. Since then, he has embraced every aspect of the program and is on his way to turning his life around. Ronnie shared a few of the highlights of treatment at Ashnola.
“The group therapy is a big one for me. They teach me lots of life skills. We learn about mindfulness, values, respect, leadership skills, relationships, attachment, guilt and shame,” shared Ronnie. “I really love the outings we do on the weekends; we go out and do all kinds of fun activities.”
Ronnie has also cultivated goals that he would like to achieve once he is stable, and ready to move back to his home community. He’s exploring different career paths, one of which is to become a social worker helping at-risk youth.
His pathway to recovery is ongoing, but he wants to motivate and inspire other who may be struggling and unsure of how to take the first step.
“It’s never too late to turn your life around. If you decide to come into a treatment program, come in with the mindset where you’re ready to [go to a] group and improve yourself. Every single person on this planet has this undiscovered potential inside of them, the potential to do absolutely anything in this world. As soon as you start cleaning your act up and the fog from the drugs or alcohol is out of your mind, you’ll start realizing what’s in you.”
Ashnola at The Crossing, located outside of Keremeos, is a program to support youth and young adults aged 17-24 who need residential programming for substance use concerns. Programming includes group, individual and family therapy, therapeutic recreational activities, life-skills training, high school completion, psycho-social education and aftercare planning and support.
The program is operated by the Pacific Community Resources Society and funded by BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA). Central City Foundation, which built and owns the facility, is providing The Crossing facilities and the 58-acre rural site to PHSA rent- free.