Breaking the stigma was the theme of the fifth annual Recovery Day event held on Saturday at City Hall Park in downtown Red Deer.
Instead of shaming people, the event coordinator said, we should be advocating, educating, celebrating and supporting peoples’ recoveries from all varieties of addiction.
"This is so that when people who are struggling with addictions go into the hospital, they aren’t treated so poorly, or so that when somebody sees someone downtown who is down on their luck and struggling to get by in life, they don’t step over them,” said Krista Black. “We want people to be more respected and given a chance for recovery.”
Black said the looking down upon of people is at the root of the stigma.
“It’s a huge big picture problem that’s been going on for years starting with prohibition, drug laws, criminalizing drugs and drug activity,” she said. “A lot of the problem is our society will segregate those people instead of helping them.”
The event on Saturday also featured a proclamation from deputy mayor Buck Buchanan who announced himself to the crowd as an alcoholic.
Buchanan was 23 and living in Hay River in 1980 when he took his last drink following attendance at AA meetings and other treatment.
“Recovery is probably the toughest thing I ever did in my life and still on a day-to-day basis I’m an arm’s length from my next drunk, if you will,” Buchanan said. “I was at the AGM for Safe Harbour earlier this week and their executive director Kath (Hoffman) said that right now in Red Deer, crystal meth is number one, alcohol is number two and opioids are number three. We’re seeing folks die.”
Buchanan explained that when one goes to AA, their are typically three paths you can go down: ending up in a hospital or jail, becoming sober, or dying.
“Back in my time, I didn’t really think I’d make it past age 30, but because of being sober and in AA, I’ve now doubled that,” he added.
Today, one option for those experiencing addiction – be it substance abuse or gambling – is the Shunda Creek adventure-based wilderness treatment program located near Rocky Mountain House.
Red Deer resident Beau-Ray Gauthier is a graduate of the program, which is funded by Alberta Health Services and operated by Calgary-based Enviros.
At the Red Deer Recovery Day event, Gauthier told rdnewsNOW he attended the camp in 2017 and is now eight months sober after struggling with various substances, primarily stimulants like methamphetamines, cocaine and crack, for close to three years.
“A lot of it has to do with me wanting to get clean. Addiction is a really hard thing to deal with but if you want it bad enough, you can succeed,” he said.
“There’s definitely a stigma around addiction, but we’re all people. Yeah, we make bad choices, but who hasn’t? Everyone has an opinion but that’s why we’re here; we’re trying to break that stigma. We’re trying to make people aware that it’s not just bad people doing bad things. It’s a disease.”
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