I am moving out of HPCII in Griffintown in 3 weeks. I have come a long way in the last five years. Prior to 2015, I would have never dreamed that I would be where I am today. I never thought it would be possible to untangle all of my problems and find solutions.
I started using drugs when I was 21 years old in 1997. I told myself that it would never go further than cannabis. Holy sh#t! Was I wrong! I floated along with life for another 17 years. In 2014, I started to hit a downward spiral that lasted over a year. I started experimenting with substances that I had never tried before; stimulants, depressors, hallucinogens. My new drug of choice became methamphetamine (crystal meth). In less than ten months, I lost everything I had and was homeless. I belonged nowhere and to no one!
I went to Lac Echo on April 27th, 2015. I was terrified. I told myself that if I didn’t see huge changes after 14 days of therapy that I was leaving. Within those 2 weeks, I wanted to leave every day, but I really had nowhere to go except back to the streets. I thought that all the staff at Portage were INSANE! It was very difficult for me to accept the feedback I received from the staff and my community. After about 30 days at Portage and 30 days of abstinence for the first time in 18 years, my perceptions started to change. I bought into what Portage was selling. That change made it easier to change. Acquiring and learning how to use the therapeutic tools makes coping with everyday life so much simpler/ I do remember a staff member asking me how I would rate myself on the use and misunderstanding of the 21 competencies. I said as most of us do: “all 21 are great!”. All 21 competencies were practically non-existent to me. I lived at Lac Echo for seven months and six days until my bye-bye on December 3rd, 2015.
I thought I had an excellent exit plan. I did not. I did attend aftercare meetings weekly for over six months after therapy. I moved in with another resident that I met at Lac Echo, HUGE MISTAKE!!! That led me to rent a room in a house in Montreal, where most of my neighbours consumed drugs. I isolated in that room for almost six months. I knew I was in trouble, I stopped going to aftercare, I stopped communicating with Portage, and I stopped asking for HELP! I was depressed, I was suicidal, and I thought that sobriety was worse than being an active addict.
One day, in July 2016, I got a visit from Anthony Maturo, who is a director at Portage and whom I have known
personally for almost 25 years. He gave me a big wake up call and strongly recommended that I contact my aftercare staff and apply to live at HPCII. I did exactly what he said. I started feeling better because I started taking care of myself again. I moved into HCPII on October 11th, 2016. My life was still stuck in neutral, but I did feel safe. The no financial pressure environment at HCPII let me deal with important relapse triggers like physical and mental health issues that I didn’t deal with while in the residential program. Using the therapeutic tools helped me find long-term permanent solutions to a digestive disorder that I was living with for 12 years. I was also diagnosed with severe clinical depression and general anxiety disorder.
Living with these disorders made me absolutely miserable. Taking care of my health sparked a huge realization that when I take care of myself, I feel happy, confident, and motivated! So, I continued. I participated in weekly aftercare meetings (I still do so, five years later), I started going to other support meetings and even animated a group meeting for over 5 months. I had never felt more stable in my whole life. I had not worked in over four years, and I wanted to go back to work, and I wanted a job that I LOVED! Being unhappy with your professional life is a huge trigger to relapse! I knew it.
I applied to the University of Sherbrooke and was accepted into their substance abuse program. I got a job as a taxi driver and worked 40 hours a week, and went to school 35 hours a week for ten months. It was challenging but extremely satisfying. I succeeded because I laid a rock-solid foundation of recovery by asking for help and getting support. At one point, I met a Portage staff member at Vendome Metro, and I shared everything happening in my life with her. She proceeded to ask me: “So? Did the miracle happen yet?”. I didn’t really understand. It took about a week of introspection to figure it out. The miracle was that I was sober! Not just abstinent, I had achieved real balance in all spheres of my life and that that is the difference between abstinence and sobriety.
Today, I have a university education and work full time for the CIUSSS Centre-Ouest de Montreal as a psychological counsellor for people that are both homeless and suffering from substance abuse issues. I earn more than enough money to live the lifestyle I choose to live. I have reconnected with my family, I have positive friends and a support group, and most importantly, I am truly happy, and life is absolutely beautiful!
I wanted to write this letter to express my gratitude, as I am leaving HCPII. During this public health crisis and all of the obstacles it presents, I can confidently say that I am rehabilitated. This is something I felt that I wanted to share with the entire Portage community.
A very special thank you to Antonio Maturo, David Babin, Hakim Massoum, Mike Nickadimo, Sylvain Montpetit, George Starvonopolous, Cathy Deslauriers, Brian Douris, Jean Lamoureux, Jacques Beaudoin, Enzo Spagnolo, Denise Lalonde, Stéphanie Leduc, Pasqualoe Marano, and Christine Nichilo.
Best regards to all,