RECOVERY DAY - Organizer Krista Black is 10 years clean and sober and hopes to help others in the community who are wanting to quit. Todd Colin Vaughan/Red Deer Express

Recovery Day helps reduce stigma around addiction

Local woman organizing day in Red Deer this fall

Organizer of Recovery Day Krista Black wasn’t sure that a 12-step recovery program would help her quit using drugs.

“I thought I had no will power and had tried to quit on my own, but then I thought what is it going to hurt?” she said. “I went and heard stories from people who went through the same thing I did. I found a sliver of hope and I went back.”

After overcoming her initial hesitation, Black began to see the results of her choice to seek help in her community.

“I gained strength from the people around me and I went back again,” she said. “I set myself a date to quit, I didn’t make it that time. I set another date and I quit. Through the support of other people, I received an unknown entity of strength and support. I made it a whole day without using, and then I made it a week.”

Following that week, Black was able to continue to not use drugs and had a group of people that supported her through every milestone in her process.

“By gaining support from other people, I stayed clean,” she said. “The first year is very crucial to celebrate every milestone – we celebrate first day, 30 days, 60 days, 90 days and then six months. It is big to make it. You get proud of yourself and people saw value in me that I didn’t see in myself. Over time, I really became passionate in helping others get the same thing I got. I was able to heal my life and I was able to be a member of my family.”

To help others who are going through addiction, Black decided to help organize Recovery Day in Red Deer, which is a series of events throughout the year – with the next dates being Sept. 8th and 9th.

“Recovery Day advocates, supports and educates people about recovery from addictions,” Black said. “It started in 2012 in Vancouver. A guy named Greg Williams made a documentary film on addiction recovery in the States. Two women in Vancouver saw it and got really passionate and we said decided to stand up and say we are in recovery. They started, with only a couple weeks’ preparation, this giant celebration in 2012.

“From there it grew really fast to having cities all across Canada celebrate it. There are now 30 cities celebrating recovering from addictions.”

It is important for Black to provide community and resources for users and those in recovery.

“In Red Deer, we have booths from all the organizations who provide community resources for addiction recovery,” Black explained. “We have speakers who come in and discuss addiction – their personal experiences or professionals who have worked with addictions. This year we have the author Jodee Prouse. She is a great advocate and a good speaker.”

Prouse will be speaking on Sept. 8th at Red Deer College and on Sept. 9th, a number of community organizations will be made available.

“If you a person needing help and support with recovery from addictions there are a number of resources in our community to help you. These services, organizations and programs will be presented all in one place at Recovery Day on September 9th in City Hall Park from 11 a.m. – 2 pm.,” Black said.

A main focus of Recovery Day is to help eliminate the stigma around drug users and former drug users.

“We are wanting to educate our community and we want to get the message out that people do recover and people that recover have value,” Black said. “Addicts aren’t a write off, we can recover and become valuable members of society. It is important we stand up and talk about it; 92.8 per cent who achieve and maintain their recovery do so through mutual support and 12-step programs. That is proving that community support is crucial to maintaining recovery.”

Black noted community support and funding is essential to helping people stay clean and sober.

“Our government and the programs available are falling short in helping people,” she said. “This is why Recovery Day is really important because addicts are ignored and swept under the rug. Society has a stigma against people who have used drugs or are addicts – they tend to be disregarded as unimportant. Unfortunately, they won’t stand up for themselves because they don’t have a voice. Those of us who have recovered can be that voice and can advocate for those who are still suffering.”

Issues that drug users face are plenty, however Black explained quick access to treatment centres would be a really important step.

“I see people struggling with their treatments and extreme wait times,” she said. “If somebody needs help; they need help now or they are going to die. For example, I met a girl who had found a treatment centre that would take her. They told her on the phone, ‘We will do an on the phone interview at the end of August and you might get in by October’. She is at risk of overdosing everyday.

“Treatment centres have been screaming for more funding so they can have more beds available so they can help people. I really would like to see some changes. I would like to see less wait times and I would like to see treatment centres getting the funding they need so there are more beds available.”

Black also said a different approach to acute care would help users who are frequenting emergency rooms.

She reinforced building a strong and supportive community is essential to helping those who are wanting to quit and that people in recovery are valuable members of society.

“Community is the biggest solution and the word community can be used in all aspects of this,” she said. “We are destroying our community when we are addicts and are using – we aren’t just destroying ourselves. When we are in recovery, it is a ripple affect. We are making everything around us better – our families are healing and we are safer in the workplace.

“It shouldn’t be a shameful thing to say you are in recovery. It should be something you are proud of. It should be something that is celebrated and it would be nice to see a workplace stop and celebrate someone who has been clean and sober for five years.”

Black said the support of her 12-step program and the community was key to her own success.

“Today I am 10 years clean and sober,” she said. “I can be a mother to my children, a daughter to my parents, I can be a valuable employee and I can help heal my community. It is a ripple affect and I am grateful to myself for being open to trying to get help.”

She added, “If you’re in recovery or you support recovery, speak up. Talk about it. Advocate for those still suffering without a voice. Be a part of reducing the stigma. Let society know there is a solution, we do recover and our families and communities heal with us when we do.”

todd.vaughan@reddeerexpress.com