It is a great honour for me to be welcomed into the Portage family. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to walk the journey to recovery here. Our philosophy states that “I have come here to find myself” and I feel very strongly that I have found my true self here.

I come with over 25 years’ experience supporting youth and families who have been experiencing marginalization including drug addiction and homelessness. In my career before coming to Portage, I worked as the lead social worker and ongoing support manager of an anti-poverty organization. I worked daily with individuals who were street affected and drug addicted. In my position before coming here I had the privilege of walking with people struggling to build their recovery. I learned in this role about the power of community. Sadly, I lost many of these dear people as they died from the tainted drugs that they had desperately come to depend on to cope with the very difficult challenges of living on the street. I gained a deep understanding of the role the social determinants of health play in recovery and I learned that a life well lived is not evidence of recovery, it is recovery!

I knew Portage was a place that could offer hope to youth in need because the opposite of addiction is not sobriety—it is connection. The therapeutic community is key to being able to provide the love and belonging youth need in order to heal. The 21 competencies provide the skills kids need to be able to connect at school, work and in social settings. Concepts taught at Portage for managing feelings and navigating conflict equips youth to form deep, respectful relationships that will enrich their lives.

In my six short months at Portage, I have had the privilege of seeing the Portage Therapeutic Community at work. I have seen the youth support each other, work through challenges and grow and it has been amazing. The power of being vulnerable with people who accept you for who you are and discovering that they struggle too removes all shame and releases unbelievable growth.

As the Family Service Worker, I have had the privilege too of working with families, watching youth teach their loved ones the skills they have learned at Portage and seeing dynamics change. It is magical.

The therapy I offer is trauma informed, based on self-compassion and inspired by my love for nature. Sobriety is more than just not using drugs. Sobriety is a lifestyle of radical honesty. It is choosing to always be honest and true to oneself. It is doing the hard work and having the hard conversations and it is surrendering the outcome. I strive to teach people the self-compassion they need in order to be radically honest with themselves, so that they can build their best life of recovery. A life in which their needs are met, they have wonderful relationships and they spend their time doing things that bring them meaning and purpose– A life of deep, rich and meaningful community. I am proud to be a part of the Portage family.

Mary Crome, Family Service Worker at Elora, Portage’s rehabilitation centre for adolescents in Ontario

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