The residential phase of Portage’s drug addiction rehabilitation program is a time of intense work and profound learning, as residents build their self-esteem and acquire skills to help them in their long-term struggle for sobriety. Once back out in the real world, Portage Ontario’s Aftercare Program provides them with support and encouragement to maintain the positive lifestyle they adopted while in treatment.
Although in many cases the surroundings are familiar, the person has changed, and blending memories with current goals is difficult for most. Portage’s two-year Aftercare Program helps make the transition a little less stressful.
Aftercare groups are currently being offered, with support from private funding, in Toronto and Guelph. Youth have the opportunity to meet up with other graduates and with Portage’s Aftercare Counsellors on a bi-weekly basis to talk about how they are doing and to discuss any issues that have come up.
“I really like attending Portage Aftercare Groups because I’m surrounded by kids that went to Portage and want the same thing I do… to stay clean and change our lives in a positive way,” says Mitchell. “I like the fact that we organise our own fun activities and I like hearing what other Portage graduates are doing on the outside that is healthy. It motivates me.” The youth feel a sense of pride taking responsibility for brainstorming ideas of activities to do as a group and for leading the support groups, just as they learned to do in residential treatment.
Activities organised thus far include skating and tobogganing, and plans are in the works for indoor rock climbing, a movie night, music appreciation, yoga, bowling, a baseball tournament, among other activities. Each of these group outings are followed by a peer-led discussion between the youth, with Aftercare Counsellors there to facilitate.
“I find it encouraging that the graduates are really committed to attend Aftercare groups and open up amongst their peers,” states James Kirby, one of Portage’s Aftercare Counsellors. “Most of them were at Portage at the same time so they can really relate to each other’s struggles and progress. They also know and understand the Portage tools of therapy they learned together in residence. Although we encourage graduates to attend other support groups in their home community, we know that many of the youth find AA/NA/CA meetings intimidating and there’s a stigma that they are for older addicts and alcoholics. With the Portage Aftercare groups, there seems to be a real cool factor happening.”
In 2014, Portage Ontario’s Aftercare Program is hoping to expand in order to offer aftercare groups in other regions of the province including Kitchener/Waterloo and Ottawa.