December 23, 2016  |  

Giving life another chance

How Alex learned to manage addiction

When it happened, Alex* had just made the decision to find help. She booked an appointment to meet with a substance use counsellor and headed to her first meeting. During their talk, Alex suffered an overdose — she was struggling with drinking, as well as heroin and Benzodiazepine use. Thankfully, she was in a safe environment where she had access to the care she needed.

The YMCA Youth Substance Abuse Program (YSAP) is a free self-referral program for youth aged 14 to 24. Our counsellors offer non-judgmental one-on-one sessions to youth with substance use issues and offer options to make healthier choices and use safely.

The Harm Reduction Approach

The YMCA’s approach is about empowering individuals to make safe choices. It is about meeting people where they’re at by providing safer alternatives and education on substances and substance use.

“At YSAP, there were no expectations,” explains Alex. “That cleared the way for me to decide this is what I want — I want to make decisions for myself.”

Alex had been overdosing frequently because she didn’t know how to inject properly. YSAP connected her to safe injection resources and offered support throughout her methadone treatment. To Alex, this approach to substance use is vital; “it’s the difference between someone living or dying.”

A Supportive Network

Participating in YSAP was a turning point for Alex.

“I realized people weren’t giving up on me, even though I had been giving up on myself,” she says. “It really changed my life…it saved my life.”

Once a week, she would meet with her counsellor to talk about her addictions and coping mechanisms, as well as to check in on her personal goals and progress. The support she received was personalized, practical, and hands-on. The program has allowed Alex to go beyond treating her dependency; now she looks forward to the future. She has gone back to school, grown close to her family, and has not used for more than a year.

“YSAP taught me how to live. I learned how to have goals, how to have a stable life, and how to live independently,” says Alex. “YSAP gave me the tools to get to this place.”

Soon, Alex will begin volunteering for the YMCA’s Newcomer Youth Leadership Development program.

“I want to give back because the Y has given me so much and I’m really grateful. I never thought I would be where I am today. I never thought I would be alive right now.”

*Name has been changed to protect their identity.




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