Canada is in the midst of an opioid crisis. Those desperate for treatment are faced with chronic bed shortages and long wait lists. Parents are left struggling to find ways to get their addicted children clean and sober.
One Calgary mom brought her daughter back from the brink and is helping other youth in recovery.
Vanisha Breault fought for her teenage daughter every day. Eden Lal, 19, was homeless and addicted but her mom never gave up hope.
“If they’re above ground, there’s hope.” Breault recalled.
“There were times I buried Eden and had done the funeral in my head. It’s hard not to go there as a parent,” Breault said. “It’s a miracle she’s alive to see where she’s come.”
“I had no idea where I lost myself and I didn’t know who I was,” Lal said. “My plan was just to use until I overdosed.”
But she didn’t. She went into recovery and has been clean for seven months.
Now, the two are seeing what’s possible, pushing limits and living to extremes in new ways. The pair is preparing for the ultimate test of endurance. Getting clean and sober and training for a triathlon.
“Yeah it’s gruelling and it will take everything you have,” Breault said. “It’s gonna hurt and you’re not gonna wanna do it and that’s like addiction.”
Lal endured her first triathlon on Sunday. Her mom was cheerleading from the sidelines. She crossed the finish line exhausted and in tears.
“It’s surreal,” Lal said. “I kept reminding myself where I was.”
She ran into her mom’s open arms. They embraced after a very long journey.
“I’m really proud and grateful and it’s very overwhelming,” Breault said. “She’s like the greatest love story, the best fairy tale.”
Inspired by her own daughter’s transformation, Breault is persevering for other youth in recovery too. She created Tri Terminator, an organization helping addicted youth train for marathons, Ironmans and triathlons. She helped train 24-year-old Sam Towns.
Towns was an alcoholic for over a decade.
“I was a slave to my own cravings and my own mind,” Towns said. “I went from being a college kid with good grades to burned out.”
But these youth in recovery are training together and learning what they’re capable of.
“When I’m running up a hill it’s one step at a time. My legs are giving out and I’m exhausted,” Towns said. “But I have to take another step and in recovery, it’s one day at a time.”
Being a witness to seeing these youth overcome addiction and conquer new goals has been humbling for Vanisha Breault.
“That’s what Terminator is about. It doesn’t matter what recovery looks like, today you’re alive and you’re here so we have a chance,” Breault said. “Once they get there they’re like, ‘Holy crap, I fricking did this. The loser addict, the no-good-for-nothing junkie, the person hundreds walked by while I was pan handling,’ that person just crossed the finish line.”