Portage welcomes and supports all those who make the life-changing decision to leave their surroundings and put an end to their addiction. Philippe came to Portage with the unconscious desire to become once again who he used to be. At 21 years-old, he was entering a part of life usually marked by important transformations, new responsibilities, and greater awareness.
“I was an athlete. I played baseball for 15 years, and it made me travel a lot. I worked hard to be successful. I was getting ready to become a professional. ”Philippe’s American dream suddenly ended the day he injured his arm. “My problem was that I didn’t know my limits. I pushed way past them, and, in a way, I lost my arm.”
For 15 years, he had invested everything in baseball to make his dream—and perhaps his father’s dream—happen. “My father’s 65 years-old, which is really special. He used to do a lot of drugs. I thought for the longest time that that was why he left us so quickly; to do drugs with his friends. Turns out, I discovered not long ago that he left because he was depressed and suicidal. He left us to avoid killing himself.”
A series of bad knocks pushed Philippe to gradually close up, until he found himself completely alone, spending all his time at the far end of his basement, with drugs being his only companion.
“I did a lot of things in my life, but for the last four years, all I’ve done is isole myself. I spent four years in a basement doing drugs. I didn’t see anything anymore. I was in another world, my own little world. I was in denial.”
Things turned around when he realized what he and his father had become. “When I saw that my true self was buried under the dark man I had become, I understood I had only one choice left… It was Portage, or the street.”
His First Steps
Making the decision to change is a good first step. Going all the way requires more. “I came to Portage on my own. For sure, in the beginning, I was doing it for my family. My dad was a psychoeducator, my mom a social worker, and my 19 year-old sister is studying delinquency among drug abusers. My family is wonderful, but unfortunately, I disconnected from their values, and went in another direction.” “I spent one day in another centre. I didn’t know myself, and I was afraid of being judged, so I came back home, to hide in my basement again.”
Philippe set foot at Portage five months ago. And he stayed. “Here we can work on our judgments and perceptions. That’s what I discovered when I first came here.” His case manager says: “What’s amazing is that when we work seriously on the 21 competencies (getting organized, structuring one’s life, identifying and taking care of one’s feelings, etc.), progress comes naturally. Philippe has advanced very well, and he’s finally able to be honest with himself.”
The Portage program for adults at Lac Echo allows residents to develop and improve the 21 competencies and to learn how to use them to get their personal freedom back. Hard work always pays off. Philippe can vouch for it. “I expected a lot from myself. But instead of facing my problems and finding solutions, I turned inward. Even when I was happy and playing baseball, I would focus on the problems, not the solutions, which I’ve learned not to do anymore, thanks to Portage.” Having responsibilities helps drug addicts move forward. His case manager explains: “Philip really worked on trusting himself and building his self-esteem. He doesn’t need to hide anymore. He faces his difficulties head-on. He’s learned that running away isn’t the way to go, that the only thing he can really do is to face things and find a solution.”
The 6th step of the program focuses on transitioning towards reentry into regular society. Not all residents get there. It depends on their personal plans, on their academic and professional projects. “I’m pretty happy with what I’ve managed to build for myself. For about two months now, I’ve started making my own enquiries. My family supports me. I plan to move in with my two cousins, who’ll support me well. And I’m going back to school to study 3D animation.” When Philippe arrived at Portage, he felt like his life had been destroyed. He had lost the will to carry on. But today he can say, along with his case manager, that Portage was the solution he needed.
“Portage gives me the ability to dream again, to hope and to believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve managed to set boundaries. I now know that when I break them and move away from my values, I can easily fall back into addiction. In short, now I know who I am.”
“Portage gave me confidence. I know I’m there for myself. It feels good to see people, case managers or other residents, trust you again. When you lose the trust of the people you love, it’s difficult to believe that others can still trust you.”
Some competencies turn out to be more impactful than others to regain control of one’s life. In Philippe’s case, developing empathy was key. “It’s what brought me the most. Before coming here, I had none. I couldn’t feel what other people felt, I couldn’t put myself in their shoes. But just this morning, I helped someone, and he hugged me. It’s not just him I helped; I helped myself as well.”
“Portage gave me confidence. I know I’m there for myself. It feels good to see people, case managers or other residents, trust you again. When you lose the trust of the people you love, it’s difficult to believe that others can still trust you.” “To be honest, up until the 4th step of the program, I couldn’t remember the last time I cried. But when I got news from my dad, I lost it. I’m not afraid to be honest anymore and to show who I am. Residents, case managers, and everybody else … they are all equals in my eyes. We’re all human. We all have feelings, emotions and thoughts.”
Without realizing it, the residents start learning valuable life competencies the minute they call Portage, and ask for help.
Blogger for Portage
Lan Vi Pham
Editor and Translator
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