KAMLOOPS — During National Addictions Awareness Week, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction is addressing the stigma associated with substance use disorders.
People struggling with addictions often face judgement and criticism based on the things they crave.
The Mustard Seed New Life Community is attempting to break down the barriers to recovery by providing a safe, judgement free space in its Men's Recovery Program.
Joshua Higgins has been struggling with addiction for 27 years, but over the last five years or so he's been working towards recovery.
"It's just time to change," he said. "I'm 40 years old, I'm better than this."
Higgins recently left a treatment centre in Kelowna. Unable to find affordable housing, he moved to Kamloops to continue his recovery.
Earlier this month he entered the Men's Recovery Program at the Mustard Seed New Life Community.
"It's allowing me to go back to school, finish that," Higgins said.
"(It's) providing a safe place so that I don't have to be around drugs. I don't have to be around the streets. I don't have to be staying out on the streets, and the cold, which makes it very difficult, obviously, especially for someone trying to be in recovery and staying clean."
One of the reasons Higgins decided to get treatment was to become a better role model for his son.
"I'm trying to look at having my son back in my life and stuff like that," he said. "He does not need to see daddy dead or anything like this and know anything about this addiction per se."
The Men's Recovery Program provides a safe, drug- and alcohol-free living environment for its participants.
It is a self-directed program that opens up a variety of opportunities for men wishing to escape addiction.
"Street school, with SD73, they come and do programming here, so guys at whatever level they want to start at they can finish up their GED," said Diane Down, managing director of the Mustard Seed New Life Community.
"We also have some chaplaincy work here, we also have some employment options, connecting with other agencies, Open Door (Group). We can help connect guys, as they get to a point that they're ready to start looking at those kinds of goals, then they can start doing that."
The men are given the freedom to choose their own paths.
Higgins would like to one day help people who, like him, are challenged by addictions.
"It's not getting any easier out there," Higgins said, "but at the same time it can become a little easier with understanding and people helping out, showing a little more empathy for compassion towards people that are ... homeless or whatever situation that they're in."
The length of the recovery program varies depending on where the men are at in their individual journeys, but through it all the Mustard Seed New Life Community hopes to provide a sense of community.
"Addiction is a very isolating kind of behaviour," Down said, "and so if you want to live a full and thriving life you need to find community and that's one of the very important things that guys can find here."
The men are also given the freedom to be themselves as they recover, knowing they are not defined by their addictions.
"Maybe someday we can change National Addictions Week to just National Human Week and we can just love people," Down said.
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