Stories like Caroline’s are at the core of what we do at Portage. We are proud to share her story and to encourage other residents to share theirs.

*Names are fictional for privacy.

What lead you to start taking drugs and drinking, and why?

I started drugs by wanting to escape my emotions from being sexually abused. I was seriously depressed, anxious, and suicidal. I tried my best to keep my self-harm a secret. I was in and out of abusive relationships, and I was trusting the wrong kind of people. I gave into peer pressure and the burning need to want to feel accepted.

Every time I started feeling anything at all – I would turn to drugs. I was a functioning addict for most of my addiction, meaning that I could still function normally as an everyday person. Eventually, I started using at work, and I was no longer reliable. Things quickly began crashing under my feet when I tried committing suicide, and I decided it was time for me to call Portage.

What lead you to call Portage, or how were you referred?

I was in abusive relationships that led me to use marijuana and other drugs regularly. A few weeks before coming into treatment, I had been having a rough go with my boyfriend at the time. My self-esteem was as rotten as it could get. I was alone a lot and needed help; one night, I tried to commit suicide. When it failed, I spoke to him about what had happened. He said that I needed help, and he couldn’t be the one to give it to me. Afterward, he had broken up with me but told me about Portage and his own experience with the Cassidy Lake program. He came on the tour with me, and once I admitted myself, I never heard from him again.

How were your first days at Portage?

My first days were rough at Portage. It takes a few weeks to adjust to the routine. I had a great mentor who made me feel welcome. The staff love getting to know the residents really well. I was having difficulties with migraines and withdrawal cravings, but the girls and the staff helped me through it. Two days after I arrived, I met my best friend here. Thankfully, she lives in the same area as me, and we planned to continue our friendship outside of the program once we were both done with our treatment. We’ve gotten along great our whole program, and now, as older members, we work as a “dynamic duo” to keep our community running smoothly.

How long have you been at Portage, and what has changed?

I’ve been at Portage for almost five months, and I feel incredible. When I first arrived, I was insecure and a bit of a “negative Nelly.” Today, I can genuinely say I’m proud of myself.  I feel confident enough to take on my goals and ambitions. I practice positive self-talk daily to navigate negative thoughts when they arise. When I was in the thick of my addiction, I would allow myself to be in toxic relationships, which caused me to suffer a lot of emotional and sexual abuse. I have learned to accept the things I cannot change and forgive the things that at first seem unforgivable.

I have learnt how to overcome fears and conflicts. I’ve made new friends who genuinely care about my well-being. I’ve gained a whole new life, one that is fulfilling.

How do you see your future after your program?

When I graduate from this program in March, my first goal is to get a job and buy a new car. My boyfriend and I are planning to make a new life in Ontario in about a year. I’m very passionate about horseback riding, and I want to continue pursuing that passion. When I’m in Ontario, I would like to attend school at an equestrian facility called Equine Guelph. They have programs for barn management, high-performance equine training, and equine care. My hope is to be able to work in the field professionally.

Before coming to Portage, I worked as a professional groomer in Florida, but I let my addiction take over and quit my job. After my program, my goal is to work my way back up and create a fulfilling career for myself in that industry.

Finally, where do you think you’d be without Portage?

I strongly believe that I would still be falling back into abusive relationships and getting into an even deeper hole with my addiction. Before coming into treatment, I was self-harming and attempting suicide regularly. I also believe that I had not come to Portage, I would’ve ended up dying because I would not have ever gotten the proper help. My depression and anxiety were already unbearable, and I imagine that they would have gotten even worse.

Without Portage, I wouldn’t have healthy relationships with loved ones the way I have now. I was worried about myself coming into treatment, and I was in a dangerous state of living. If it weren’t for Portage, I wouldn’t be able to work hard for my dreams and make a life for myself.

Click on the links to learn more about Portage’s youth programs in Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick. Addiction does not take a break, and neither do we. Our admissions offices remain open. Call today.

If you or a loved one struggles with self-harm, please call Canada’s Suicide Prevention Service today. Talk to a counsellor by calling 1-833-456-4566. If you are a resident of Quebec, the number to call is 1-866-277-3553.

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