The trail to overcoming addiction is rarely straight or even. We shouldn’t expect it to be an easy climb.
But with the right support, our neighbours in need can rediscover their hope and their passions and imagine a future that’s worth fighting for.
With the help of the Vancouver Island Therapeutic Community Supportive Recovery Housing (VITC) – run by the Nanaimo Region John Howard Society and funded by United Way British Columbia through the Government of Canada’s Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy – Chris is almost ready to take on the world again.
“I’m believing this now: it’s going to be worth it,” he says. “It’s just a journey and we are on this road together.”
Chris (not his real name) deals with alcoholism. Born in Nanaimo, he left his community to try and get sober. Though, at first, he says he wasn’t convinced he had a problem.
“When I was (at the treatment centre) the first time, I really thought I didn’t need help,” says Chris. “I thought I wasn’t addicted. I knew I had a problem with alcohol, but I thought I could control it.”
Chris says he wasn’t happy, but was using alcohol to chase a sense of euphoria while having no purpose or meaning.
“I went back out drinking,” he says, “and I found out pretty quickly that I can’t do it. I need to change my life. I can’t drink anymore.”
Armed with that knowledge, Chris chose to return to treatment.
“I really put a lot of effort into it,” he says. “I utilized my time, and I really got down to some of the things that were the root causes.”
In treatment for almost half a year, Chris chose to return to his home community of Nanaimo. But he knew he wasn’t ready to take on the world alone. Thankfully, he learned about the VITC.
A supportive, sober housing community for men, the VITC uses a combination of peer support, personal responsibility and community living to help men address their addiction.
For Chris, it is also a way to begin re-integrating into his family and extended community while having the support he needs.
“My grandparents are growing older, and they pretty much raised me,” he says, sharing that, while growing up, his mom was dealing with mental illness, and his dad was in active addiction. “It was good for me to come back here and learn to be in my community and not just avoid it and run away from it but deal with things … stress factors.”
Chris says one of the most important parts of living at the VITC for him is the camaraderie and support offered by his peers.
“If I’m struggling, I can talk to one of the guys here, and we can just chat. Or if another guy is struggling, we can have a discussion. Just helping one-another out,” he says.
“I’m going to carry that with me when I leave … Staying connected with people h
re and continuing with the support network.”
“These feelings, what I have is not going to way. It’s just I learn to deal with it … I learn to get stronger.”
Part of gaining that strength is re-discovering passions and realizing that you can incorporate those into your life.
Chris says he’s hoping to focus on his passion for hockey, and, along with various workout goals, plans to move into an apartment with a peer from VITC and gain more part-time work, he wants to look into coaching.
“Now I’m almost a year sober, and it’s like … I’m finding … I can challenge myself a little more,” he says. “I can try things out that are different, new experiences, and overcome that social anxiety that I was riddled with for years.”
While Chris has been able to find the help he needs, he feels that more is needed to deal with the long waitlists for places like the VITC so that more who want help can get it. He also asked that we all try to interact with each other with more compassion and take opportunities to listen to those of us who are struggling.
For those struggling, he said he’d encourage them to reach out. “There are people out there who will help.”