Having to deal with drug addiction and mental health problems at the same time makes everything twice as complicated. Mickaël tried many times to get a handle on his life, but to no avail.

Suffering From Drug Addiction and Mental Health Problems

“At 17 I was diagnosed as mentally ill. My doctor and his team followed me very closely.” Drug use increased Mickaël’s mental illness, which made things worse. “I went from one supervised apartment to the next and wound up alone. I wouldn’t get up in the morning, I had no motivation, and no one knew how to help me.”

“I ended up living on my own, and had to learn to rely on myself. But I was never at home, I was always hanging out with friends who used.”

At first, coming to Portage wasn’t Mickaël’s decision. It’s his medical team and his family who strongly advocated for it. “They talked about Portage’s program specially geared to substance abusers who have mental health issues. It took me some time to make up my mind, but I finally did. I had nothing to lose.”

“In the weeks leading up to my moving there, I felt very hesitant, I was being a bit of a coward. But the people close to me kept encouraging me. I made my decision and do not regret it.”

Success Happens Through Effective Support

For most of the drug addicts who decide to go to Portage, asking for help is often what’s most difficult. “I had such a hard time talking about my feelings, and I still need to work on it today. But being here brings me hope. I tell myself that I’m not here for nothing, that I’m here for myself, and for my family.”

At Portage, residents are invited to talk about their emotions and to fully explore them. “I’ve learned that sharing my feelings helps me to feel better and to release my anger without dumping it on someone who doesn’t deserve it.”

When we interviewed him, Mickaël was in the fifth month of his program. “We are well supported here. Residents set up their plan of care with their counsellor, according to their needs and what they want to work on.”

Portage’s program aims to successfully teach 21 competencies. “We work tirelessly to bring our clients to acquire all of them. During the first five weeks, we discuss what they want to work on. Then we set up a plan and the client practices all the competencies at the same time, often without realizing it”, says Bianca, Mickaël’s counsellor.

Empowering Oneself

The community is essential in my journey. I use my social skills to build my social network. I also use my peers’ experience to perfect the competencies I don’t fully master yet.”

After several months at Portage, Mickaël can see he’s changed tremendously and he feels much more in control. “Before Portage, I was a really negative person. I had no self-esteem, I didn’t trust myself. I fed on negativity. Today I’ve broken my bad habits thanks to Portage, and I’ve learned to ask for help. I’m proud of myself and I feel confident about the future, because I’ve got the tools I need to succeed.”

A Change in Perspective

With Portage, there is always a before and an after, which most of the residents eagerly wait for. After all the work done, opportunities abound to put their knowledge into practice. “I haven’t finished high school yet, so I would really like to do that. I also wonder a lot about what I want to do later. I enjoy social psychology, and I’m passionate about games. Perhaps I’d like to become a board game designer.”

Once they’ve finished the residential phase of their program, clients may move into one of Portage’s supervised apartments. To be admitted, they must have an occupation: have a job, be enrolled in classes or do volunteer work.

“My path has helped me learn to deal with the symptoms of my mental illness. I’ve come to understand that I’ve got an illness, and that I must accept it. I feel lucky despite it all, because it landed me at Portage, where I’ve learned valuable life lessons.”


Annie-Kim Plante

Blogger for Portage



To read on drug addiction:

The Two Faces of Drug Addiction

Are We All Equal in the Face of Addiction?

The Treacherous Pitfalls of Drugs and Alcohol

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