Alternatives to addiction

Look around. Have you driven or walked through the downtown or North Shore streets of Kamloops lately? Have you noticed the people — human beings with limitless value and untapped potential living on our streets?

The increasing number of individuals standing at the traffic light meridians, looking for their next meal — or next high. Sitting on roadways, and cold cement sidewalks, clutching their choice of poison or sharing with another street companion. How do we help?

They have been living — strike-that — surviving among us. Sleeping in alleyways, under doorways, near garbage bins, and under tarp-wrapped shopping carts. They line the river shore with makeshift tents, and blankets draped precariously on top of whatever material they can find.

What can we do, that we have not yet tried? In Kamloops, we have more shelters than the average city in British Columbia. This past winter, we filled a curling rink, an elementary school, Memorial Arena, hotels, and other transitory buildings at a rapid pace.

We also have temporary and permanent housing, sea cans stacked one on top of the other. However, the buildings we have for shelter are full. And so, we see, day after day, night after night, our marginalized neighbours — still, without a home.

There is a myriad of reasons for homelessness. For some, it is an unspoken tragedy, a house fire, an accident, a death of a spouse or other family, a divorce, the system’s failure in healthcare, or a lack of institutional support. There are so many reasons that foundations crumble, and those without support or resources find themselves in this precarious state.

For many, the tragedies and trauma are relived, and their escape is found in their substance of choice. The overdose crisis has surpassed the health-related death numbers in every city in Canada. We listen, yet nothing changes. We hear the news, and we live on. We have places to be, lives to lead, things to enjoy, and a house to go home to. But those on the street do not have those options.

Though there are some pathways they can choose to live with their drug dependence, here at The Mustard Seed, we believe that wholeness and individual well-being are best realized through recovery from substance use.

The Mustard Seed takes a comprehensive approach to recovery, believing that everyone requires support in all aspects of their well-being: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Creating a place where they can realize the parts of a whole, awarding them an opportunity to make a complete life transformation.

We do this by offering a community of recovery. The continuing care we have in place at the Men’s Recovery Centre makes it possible for each man to encounter support from those walking the same journey. The recovery program provides the resources, tools, and the experience of others (now recovered) to open that door to freedom — should they stay the course. The process of recovery, for all of us, is first to recognize that we have a problem.

The 12-Step program, which is still widely accepted by our society as the best course and literature that supports self-change, is an established institution. The 12-steps provide a guided process for those living in addiction to follow with the hope that they will find sobriety in the end, either from alcohol or their substance of choice.

What does recovery look like? And why is the journey to recovery the better option, not just for the individual but for society as a whole?

After many conversations with those who have recovered from drug dependence, and conversations with those still struggling, they all know this. You give up one thing, for everything, or you give up everything for that one thing. The truth of that is apparent to them all.

In the light of recovery, one of the things you must do is replace the drug with something good. What is something good to replace addiction? Often, it depends on the motivation and the individual. Though the stories are all different, they have a common theme. One gave up his drugs for his 18-month-old son. Another gave up his dependence on narcotics for a new life and stable employment. Yet another gave up his drug dependence to reunite with family again.

Through the process of uncovering the root of addiction, we uncover the person. Like us, they long for love, belonging, affirmation, community, and connection. The challenge is to overcome the fear of the unknown and present the alternative; a new life that can be sustained through friendship, accountability, support, and commitment to hard work.

“Hang on and let go” is another saying that those in recovery use; it helps them to remember that they are letting go, still bargaining for the escape, but knowing that the escape they take, only leaves them more trapped in the end. Though healing is an uphill battle, freedom is possible. At The Mustard Seed, we can offer this hope.

What we must understand about addiction is that any type of cessation is a significant achievement, creating a path to breakthrough for the individual doing the daily work. This is no small thing; this is a great feat indeed.

At The Mustard Seed, we partner with those committed to a life change. If you would like to support the work at the Men’s Supportive Recovery Centre, please consider donating.

A total of 78 people have been lost to a drug overdose this past year in our community.

If you or someone you know and love is struggling with addiction and looking for a way to freedom and life, please contact The Mustard Seed, Jeff Arlitt, the recovery manager at [email protected] or call, toll-free, to1.833.GIV.HOPE (448·4673)

Leanna Wereley, The Mustard Seed, Kamloops

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