From a very young age I was looking for a way out, I felt trapped, but I always remained hopeful that there would be a way out, I just needed to get older. For a long time, that was all that was on my mind so all I was trying to do was get by. I started using substances when I was 12 and I thought I had it under control.

Towards the end of high school, I was starting to fall apart, I was now older, and things were not changing so I was making irrational decisions. I was 17 when I took my mom’s old car and decided I was going to take off and live in the car. It was fine for a little but my addiction was growing fast. Bouncing around different places meeting different people. After a while, my addiction left me jobless, homeless, and alone.

The crazy thing is, I didn't see a problem then. I was living with my girlfriend, obtaining drugs and food by stealing, hanging with likeminded folks. I had shelter, I had money and I had friends ( so I thought). Things were becoming unmanageable, and I needed to move again and that's when I wound up at Portage not knowing what I was signing up for.

First time around I was in disbelief, I was now sober and all my problems I was avoiding for years all came back and I lost hope. I was overwhelmed and I acted on that by leaving the program. The next day, after I experienced those feelings, I recognized I left the one place I've really felt safe enough to address those problems and I really needed to go back to work through them. For the next month, I was back to just getting by. I had finally seen my way out of feeling trapped, so I was determined to get back into Portage.

Once I did get back, my problems didn’t just magically go away. With the support of staff and my peers at Portage, I put in the work to open up and heal from the past. The staff especially, when I would make a mistake, never gave up on me. They were constantly by my side helping me see the bigger picture. Towards the end of the program, I was able to really look at what I wanted for my future and how I was going to achieve that.

After the program, I moved back in with my parents. I was able to rebuild my relationship with them while I was at Portage. I was open with them about how I felt growing up and some of the things I was going to need from them to allow our relationship to heal. It's now been almost 2 months since graduation from the residential program. I currently work at the Portage outreach office, helping other youth through their journey. During the weekdays, I keep busy with work and the gym, and on the weekends, I spend time with the people who matter most to me. I’ve been able to create a healthy balance of all my needs and wants. What I most look forward to is buying a farm and building a massive family. I still have hard days where I sometimes think about going back to my old habits but then I remember the tools I learnt at Portage and what I want in the future and often that's all I need to work past difficult times.


Sivahar Thiyagarajah, youth program, Elora, 2023

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