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Heading in the right direction: A story of a recovering addict

Jaymin Proulx | Interrobang | Lifestyles | October 17th, 2011

On the surface, A appeared as though she had it all together. Outgoing and quick-witted, she had many friends and lived in a middle- to upper-class neighbourhood with her family and two older sisters. She was involved with many sports and pastimes growing up, attended high school close to her home and briefly attended Fanshawe for a year.

But when she disclosed about her dependency on cocaine, a different and more vulnerable side came forward.

"I was raised primarily by babysitters. My mom and dad were both very busy and I participated in a lot of sports, and Brownies and Girl Guides. I also danced, figure-skated and played volleyball and basketball."

"Back then, my family wasn't very open with regards to communicating. They let me do whatever I wanted."

In grade eight, A tried marijuana for the first time. She felt pressured to try it because of her peers and because she wanted to impress a guy she liked.

It took numerous attempts before A actually got high from marijuana. She said she became addicted in grade nine and this soon became a gateway to more powerful substances.

She later tried cocaine, also because of a guy, and this drug would become her drug of choice for many years later.

"Cocaine suppressed my appetite and made me feel like ... a valuable person. It made me feel like I had a lot of confidence and I felt great about myself. It also helped me lose weight."

Marijuana is the dried leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant. THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main ingredient in marijuana that causes people who use it to experience a calm euphoria. Regardless, pot changes the brain messages that dictate sensory perception and coordination. When you smoke marijuana, it can cause you to see, hear and feel differently and slow your reflexes.

Cocaine, otherwise known as crack, is a stimulant. It speeds up the activity in the brain and spinal cord. As a result, it can cause the heart to beat faster and blood pressure and metabolism to increase. Stimulants often influence a person to be more talkative and anxious and to experience feelings of exhilaration.

It wasn't until A was hit by a car and needed to see a psychiatrist that she received help. It took a full year for her parents to find a psychiatrist, and by this time, she had been using cocaine for a decade. The psychiatrist refused to help A until she went to rehab at Homewood Health Centre in Guelph, Ontario.

"Rehab was a life-changing experience. I would wish anyone that is a suffering addict to go. They restricted my time at the gym to 20 minutes, but they discharged me after 30 days because I would stay longer in the gym and wouldn't listen to them."

"That's when I realized the professionals at Homewood knew what they were talking about."

After leaving Homewood, A began the 12 steps of Narcotics Anonymous. "It's a program that uses the key-tag system. It's entirely based on a higher power, but not a religious one. You are encouraged to only spend time with the people in the program, develop a support system and trust your sponsor."

"What helps me now is trusting in my higher power and my own intuition. I took the advice of the people at Homewood and realized that I needed to spend less time exercising and take it easy."

A is not clean, but still tries to manage her addiction with support of family and friends. She finds that staying honest with herself and in relationships helps her stay clean and away from cocaine.

She also loves music. She is a big fan of Justin Bieber and Josh Groban and uses her passion for music as a creative outlet, rather than abusing her body with drugs or over-exercising. She also has plans to return to school to study nursing. She loves hanging out with her friends and giving support to those in need and has big plans for the future. It is apparent she has come a long way since her insecure years in high school, succumbing to other people's influence and putting her health in jeopardy.

She ended the interview with a quote she loves to this day: "If you put one foot in yesterday and one foot on tomorrow, you are messing up today." She laughed and gave a big smile.
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