Michelle Johnston is excited about her future for the first time in her life, thanks to Revolution Recovery

Michelle Johnston at Revolution RecoveryFOCUS: Feet on the ground of addiction treatment weigh in on Surrey recovery homes

While there are some recovery homes changing lives in Surrey, it’s estimated 65 per cent of them are exploiting a vulnerable population. Recognizing this, Surrey may use business licensing to take control of the issue.

– See more at: http://www.thenownewspaper.com/focus-feet-on-the-ground-of-addiction-treatment-weigh-in-on-surrey-recovery-homes-1.1660514

SURREY — By the age of 10, Michelle Johnston had smoked her first joint and had her first drink.

She was in Grade 8 when she snorted her first line of cocaine. By her mid-teens, Johnston was into even harder drugs, having developed a heroin habit.

To her, it all seemed normal. After all, she had addicts for parents.

“My parents weren’t around, I didn’t have anyone telling me what to do, where to go, that I should be going to school,” Johnston recalled. “I come from such a small town and I was so lost. Everyone else was using.”

As she shared her story, she sat nervously on a couch in her home in Newton, where she was going through rehab, run by Revolution Recovery.

“My life became so unmanageable,” she said, her arms hugging her legs tightly to her chest.

When Johnston was 12, her parents sent her from her hometown of Castlegar to Prince George to live with her aunt.

“They just really didn’t want to deal with me anymore because I’d gotten so bad into drugs. ” She soon moved back to Castlegar on her own and that’s when things went from bad to worse.

“I met a guy. He worked on the pipelines, and I would travel with him, and he introduced me to heroin. And it escalated from there. It went so fast, I had no one to help. No one wanted to be around me. All I was doing was using.”

She said she couldn’t live with herself.

“I never worked, I never did any of those things. The things I would do to get drugs,” she said as her gaze fell to the floor. “I’d sell myself, I’d do anything.”

There were times Johnston tried to end it all, and said on more than one occasion, she’s surprised she survived.

“There were close calls.”

recovery home double truck

One day, a friend overdosed on heroin. That was the day she found Revolution Recovery. It would be her second time through a rehab program.

“I want to have a life for myself,” she said. “Ever since I’ve been here, I feel a sense of home for once. I’ve never had that before.”

It’s been three months since she arrived, and Johnston said she plans to stay until May.

She celebrated her 25th birthday there – the first birthday she actually remembers.

As Johnston started talking about the turning point in her story – coming to the Surrey recovery home – her body language changed. She let go of her legs. Sitting crosslegged, hands in her lap, she began to beam.

“Being here, they’ve taught me how to deal with obstacles that happen in my life. I just used to numb them,” she said.

“My life has purpose now.”

She never completed high school but she intends to get her GED at an adult learning centre and then go to school to be a dental assistant through Douglas College.

At the Newton recovery home, Johnston said she’s learned how to be responsible for herself, to respect people and has taken part in a variety of programming to help her through her recovery.

Johnston said if she hadn’t hopped on a bus from Edmonton to come to the Surrey recovery home, she’d be homeless.

“Or I’d be dead. It doesn’t take very long.”

Johnston said she’s thankful to be in one of Revolution Recovery’s homes, adding the first one she was supposed to go to was “just a crack shack.” There, she saw they didn’t provide programming or adequate food, and people were able to use openly in the house.

“It’s exciting to be able to think I can have a future and not just use every day.”

Johnston’s story is just one of 10 in the Newton recovery home, and one of 39 in all of Revolution Recovery’s four homes in the city.

Olivier Moreau, executive director of the group, is a former addict himself. He said the keys to success are being respectful of the neighbourhood, having a zero tolerance drug policy, keeping people fed and creating structure.

“If you don’t give someone who’s in addiction some structure and something to do during the day, you can only imagine what that person is going to go through. There’s so much pain in that person that all they want to do is numb themselves. Here, we don’t do that. We make sure that they are getting what they need and that is a program. We have a curriculum,” Moreau said.

But Surrey’s recovery homes are not all run this way. “I have heard some pretty bad horror stories. I picked up a guy once and he told me that their food intake was a loaf of bread and bologna. Once it’s gone, it’s gone,” Moreau said.

“The mistake I see is people trying to pack people in houses, and all the sudden you neglect the fact that people need to eat, people are suffering… There are some really, really bad places and it’s confusing to me that they’re still standing.”

Moreau said there’s become an “underground circuit” amongst addicts. They know which facilities will allow them to use and which won’t.

“For the people who are actually do the right thing, it gives us a bad name,” he said.

Coun. Mike Starchuk said Revolution Recovery is “one of the good ones.”

– See more at: http://www.thenownewspaper.com/focus-feet-on-the-ground-of-addiction-treatment-weigh-in-on-surrey-recovery-homes-1.1660514#sthash.vwcuPwSv.dpuf


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