Skye delivered the following address at the Portage Ontario Recognition Ceremony 2016.
I’d like to start by thanking Portage for the opportunity to express my gratitude to so many of my fellow peers, my counsellors, and most importantly my family.
In order for everyone to understand the impact this program has had on my life, I need to first give you an insight of what my life was like before. Like most other children, addiction wasn’t at the forefront of my concerns. Around the age of eight my life took a drastic turn when all of sudden addiction was a common phrase being thrown around in a number of conversations regarding my mother. It was during this time that I learned that my grandparents had gained custody of me and I was permanently relocated to their home. I cannot express enough appreciation for the home that they provided me during this time. Despite this, I believe that my family knew as well as I did, that something was missing.
Around Grade 8, I started hanging out with bad influences which led to my first use of marijuana. From there it was a rapid decline into what I believed was my inevitable fate. Using drugs was my way of self-medicating and filling that void inside me. Not four years passed from the first time I used to my admission into Portage. Yet walking through those doors I felt as though I had aged 100 years. I was no longer carefree and I had lost my innocence and naiveté. I felt as though there was no going back for me. I felt as though I belonged nowhere and to no one.
My entire life I had watched what laid ahead of me because of addiction – I watched my mom and many others live in that shadow. Walking into Portage on that first day, there was no doubt in my mind that I was a bad person. For those of you who didn’t see me during those first few weeks, it is hard for me to even begin to describe the difference in me now. I was lonely, guilty, and so afraid to be in my own thoughts. Drugs were my best friends. I scoffed the ideals of the program, I thought unburdening’s were a joke, and that the phase team were just jerks. I tried to no avail, to shorten my program to four months assuring anyone who would listen that I fine and I was ready to leave. For those who don’t know; I never left at my four months. Funnily enough, I actually extended my program to eight months and then again to nine months.
See treatment was nothing more than a teardrop of time in the ocean of my life. That small drop was the difference between murky water ahead or clear blue waves. Portage became the only place I had ever called home. I felt more safe and comfortable there than anywhere else. That ideal hasn’t changed for me. For those of you in the program now I want you to take a moment and truly appreciate the incredible opportunity you’ve been given.
Preparing to leave Portage left me unsure, but it was hard to deny the confidence that I was radiating. I was no longer caught up in achieving perfection. I learned how to be assertive and I was able to learn and practice so many important morals and values. Portage became a safe place for me to learn how to forgive myself and let go of the person I was. Portage changed my life. Without this program I wouldn’t be able to stand here before you here today to tell you that it gets better. That’s not to say it’s easy but Portage is the tool you use to build your life back together.
Exiting Portage proved to be more difficult than I had anticipated, yet the Aftercare team was there for me every step of the way. I still call Portage to this day whenever I feel uneasy or need reassurance in my everyday life. They don’t allow me to believe in a reality where my success doesn’t exist.
The things I accomplished at Portage are stepping stones to the life in recovery on the outside. During my program I worked on a number of things including; my co-dependency, my obsessive tendencies, healthy and unhealthy relationships, and most importantly, my self-worth. Portage gave me an environment in which I was able to thrive and to begin regaining old passions and build new ones. To build a new Skye who was determined and unwilling to leave any reservation for failure. All of my core issues boiled down to working on each and every one of my competencies. These competencies are my core values and each one is interpreted in a different way each day. Throughout my program I accomplished the ability to leave negative people behind, set boundaries with those close to me, and respect myself and others.
The true testament of this program is not what I achieved inside Portage, but the life I have been able to build for myself because of it. As of now I’m living on my own, managing a restaurant, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Without the work ethic Portage instilled in me I wouldn’t have strived to create the incredible future I now have ahead of me. I am just one of the Portage alumni here today who can attest to the remarkable things Portage has to offer. The place Portage has in my heart, and the experience I had, will be with me for the rest of my life. I don’t want to stand here today and let anyone believe that you’ve chosen an easy path, but the bumps in the road are so worth it to make a truly outstanding road trip of life. From here I go forth whole once more, self-aware, confident, and assured never to live in the shadows again.
Photo: The Honourable Liz Sandals, President of the Treasury Board and MPP for Guelph with youth speaker, Skye, at the Portage Ontario Recognition Ceremony 2016.