Abstinence goal reached with Community Withdrawal Program’s support

Recovering substance abuser excited for ‘a life that I know was intended for me’

The difference in how John (not his real name) says he feels about himself and his life now, compared to six months ago, is like “night and day.” He says he now looks forward to “having a life that I know was intended for me.”

“This would be hard if I was just sitting at home in isolation, drinking to forget all my feelings. This is bringing everything out where it should be — talked about and discussed,” John says.

He is among more than 200 Scarborough residents who participated in the inaugural year of a community withdrawal program for substance use.

Launched by Lakeridge Health’s Pinewood Centre, The Scarborough Hospital (TSH) and Rouge Valley Health System (RVHS) with Central East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) funding to grow addiction service and capacity in Scarborough, the program offers an outpatient service that responds to users’ acute needs and interests in withdrawing safely from a broad range of substances.

Clients are referred from different services including community partners and The Scarborough Hospital and RVHS, where addictions and mental health specialists are working with staff to deepen recognition and understanding of addiction issues so substance users are effectively screened and referred to treatment.

John learned about the program from his doctor after John felt he needed more help addressing his addiction to alcohol. He says his alcohol use went hand in hand with depression, which began many years ago after a heart attack and for which John was receiving treatment.

Feelings of being alone and isolated fuelled his alcohol use. “That’s why I drank. I was trying to drink myself to death, to tell you the truth. I wasn’t afraid to die,” says John, who also has generalized anxiety disorder.

His recovery has included utilizing a number of supports such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), counseling and other programs. “Anything and everything I can do to help in my recovery I’m going to do,” John says. He cites one thing about the community withdrawal treatment program that made it work for him.

“You’re with other people who are the same as you,” John says. “Other people are going through similar things as you, and that’s really where you can feel people sharing and that you’re no longer alone and your feelings aren’t unique.”

“You’re with other people with the same afflictions and addictions. That was the biggest thing for me.”

He also found acupuncture — utilized by Pinewood Centre for seven years as part of its innovative and renowned care for substance use — to be effective.

John’s goal was abstinence, which he achieved through the program and continues to uphold with the help of other supports, such as AA and counseling facilitated through his employer.

He credits the community withdrawal program, which he says is easily reached by subway, with helping him to return to work part time.

“It is instrumental to me being where I am today,” John says. “There’s nothing else like it in Scarborough . . . (and) it’s really accessible to anybody and everybody.”

The Central East LHIN is currently implementing its third Integrated Health Service Plan (IHSP), setting out a shared goal for the local health care system to help Central East LHIN residents spend more time in their homes and their communities.

Mental health and/or substance abuse issues can be very disruptive to individual and family lives.

Together with Lakeridge Health’s Pinewood Centre and Mental Health Program, the Rouge Valley Health System, The Scarborough Hospital and many other dedicated and innovative health service providers, clinicians and people with lived experience from across Scarborough, Durham Region and the North East, the LHIN is actively working on the “Community First – Mental Health and Addictions Aim”.

For more information on these and other mental health programs, please visit the Central East Health Line at www.centraleasthealthline.ca, Rouge Valley http://www.rougevalley.ca/mental-health, The Scarborough Hospital http://www.tsh.to/areas-of-care/mental-health/or Lakeridge Health http://www.lakeridgehealth.on.ca/en/ourservices/Mental-Health---Pinewood-Centre.asp

Submitted by Lisa Bailey, Axiom News. To contact Lisa, please e-mail lisa@axiomnews.com.