HIGHLANDER INVESTIGATES

‘Anne’ began her lifelong addiction to opioids when she was 15. She was living in York Region when her parents unexpectedly divorced. The devastated teen stayed with her dad and one day found some pills in a kitchen cupboard. She doesn’t know what they were. It could have been painkillers. She took one and it “numbed” all the angst she was feeling at the time.

Anne, a pseudonym, moved to the Norland area 26 years ago and now resides in Minden Hills. She is a 51-year-old mother and grandmother. She sees a local family doctor and takes a medicallyprescribed substitute drug to treat her dependency.

She recently shared her story with The Highlander.

Following that first painkiller, Anne said she “dabbled,” taking one or two pills out of the bottles she found around the house so no one would notice. She recalled one of the prescriptions was valium. Then she started going to doctors to get prescriptions.

“One thing led to another. I was on a really slippery slope. Had I have known the road I was going to go down; I never would have.”

She discovered alcohol and noted that when she was drinking, she wanted to take pills. She was raiding the cupboards at home and getting pills from friends. She said all of this happened between the ages of about 15 and 19. Then she got pregnant. She says she didn’t tell anybody but arranged to have the baby adopted.

Realizing she had a problem, she said she pulled back. “I tried not to use anything. I had been in bad shape for many years.”

She went on to have a son and two daughters and was able to stop for a while “because I was happy and everything was coming together.” Falls apart Then it began to unravel. The person she was involved with ended up going to jail a couple of times.

“It really put me back,” Anne said.

She began to use again, describing herself as a functioning addict. She said she was able to get up and do things and “nobody was the wiser.”

She said the other difficult thing is she was now “stuck on a back road in the middle of nowhere with three small children and had to go on welfare.”

She knew she needed help and reached out to a doctor in Lindsay who prescribed methadone. She described that experience as “horrible, worse than the stuff I was taking.” She said she fell asleep at the wheel after one trip to the clinic and wrote off her truck.

She tried to find alternatives more than 10 years ago and said it was by pure luck she came upon the mental health and addictions program at Humber River Hospital.

She said she could not find any local resources or what was on offer she could not access due to a lack of transportation, not wanting to discuss her issues remotely over the phone, or fears about small-town gossip. She said Humber had four beds for addicts and the rest were for mental health patients. She said the experience was a “nightmare” but she came out clean.

However, that didn’t last either.

“I would go and get it to take that feeling away. I don’t know how to describe it. It was like every morning felt like Groundhog Day.”

She said she got pills from doctors but started turning to dealers in the Haliburton area.

“Those places … they still exist to this day, unfortunately. They’ve been around this area for 20-plus years. They don’t do anything to clean the place up.”

The second rehab was at CAMH Toronto. Before entering, she said she was on “an absurd number of prescriptions,” 150mg four times a day.

Since then, she said she has done quite well, the odd slip-up here and there but feels she has found a very good family doctor in Minden – who does not judge her and takes the time to really listen. She has her replacement drug therapy and regular check-ins.

What’s needed?

Asked what the County needs to do to help people such as her – and she said she can name 100 people who have similar problems – Anne said, “we don’t need a heated arena.

“We need a facility people can access easily and freely without prejudice. We need to get rid of the people selling the stuff. We need more and closer resources. And we need things for people who live on backroads. There are lots of women, and single mothers, who are struggling. I just wish that we had more help.”

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