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Lethbridge addictions treatment staff, patients talk recovery during COVID-19 pandemic

Click to play video 'Lethbridge addictions treatment facility talks about recovery during ongoing COVID-19 pandemic' Lethbridge addictions treatment facility talks about recovery during ongoing COVID-19 pandemic
WATCH: The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the daily lives of a lot of people, including those fighting addictions of all different kinds. Taz Dhaliwal speaks to a Lethbridge treatment centre to find out how it has been coping with some unique circumstances.

Carrying on with life-changing goals during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic can be difficult and it certainly hasn’t been easy for those battling an addiction.

The Southern Alcare Manor is a recovery treatment facility in Lethbridge for people dealing with addiction. On Tuesday, it shared how it has been impacted by the pandemic, which has affected regular operations.

The facility is for both men and women willing to abstain from alcohol, drugs or gambling. A team of addictions professionals provide education and counsel on the healing process during recovery as residents participate in a 90-day program.

Read more: Expert says punitive measures may not help fight addiction in Lethbridge

Ron Fromm, the executive director of the Southern Alcare Manor, says the pandemic has changed everything for the facility, especially since it offers live-in services and needs to be extra vigilant.

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“We’ve had to change the way we provide our meals, the way we deal with cutlery, the way we deal with our coffee service, to the resident refrigerator, we’ve changed just about everything,” Fromm explained.

Fromm says the centre has heightened its cleaning protocols and tests all incoming patients for COVID-19, all while implementing other physical-distancing and face-covering regulations.

Fromm says these health rules may be an inconvenience but they’re certainly keeping residents safe. He’s glad the group hasn’t experienced an outbreak.

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The Southern Alcare Manor is usually a 25-bed residential treatment centre but Fromm says it cut its intake capacity in half, which has hurt revenue.

“We’ve paired it down to where everyone has their own room, so, you know we don’t have people sleeping head to head,” Fromm said.

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“The rooms are not very big, so we’ve just made sure that we’re social distancing.”

Fromm says the centre would normally take 25 residents in, but now a cap is set at 13.

He says one of the silver linings is that since residents have their own room, they also enjoy more privacy and space to relax or even meditate.

Read more: Calgary addiction recovery centre links COVID-19 to spike in waiting list: ‘Nobody is immune’

Although, Fromm adds the isolation and stress from the pandemic is simply yet another temptation clients face on their road to recovery.

“Payday, Friday, the weekend or celebrations, triggers or any little thing, can be a reason to go out and use when you’re addicted to a substance, so COVID is just another reason.”

Read more: Alberta announces $10M for addiction recovery communities in Lethbridge County, Blood Tribe First Nation

Residents suffering from substance abuse say regular group therapy sessions are helping significantly, along with the consistent and genuine support they receive from staff members.

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Some residents even shared some of the worries they have as they undergo treatment.

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“I also lost a family member to the virus back in April, so that really brought things home, you know isolating, especially having depression and not being able to go see friends and things like that,” said Kalvin Baspien, one of the newest residents of the clinic.

“Just being home, I found a boredom and that led me to drinking more. There was nothing else really to do,” Baspien said.

Baspien said he has a big family and they’re one of his biggest motivations when it comes to recovering from his addiction to alcohol.

He has several young nieces and nephews and he says he’d like to be there to witness them they grow up. Baspien adds he worries about them as they go back to school and hearing about the COVID-19 outbreaks at schools has been concerning for him.

Read more: Calgary addiction treatment centres opt for more virtual meetings during COVID-19 pandemic

Another resident says he feels lucky to have been able to secure a spot at the facility, considering a hold on taking in new clients was in place a couple of weeks ago.

“I’m just glad I’m here and I’ve got to focus on me.

“I forget the rest of the things that are going on in the world,” said Don Gilbertson, a resident who is recovering from his decade-long addiction to fentanyl and then carfentanil.

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Gilbertson says a family friend helped him enroll in the program and he’s grateful for the support his loved ones have shown him as he’s committed to bettering himself.

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Tristan Wolfe, another resident, says being separated from his family during the pandemic is tough, however his daughter is a big source of inspiration for him.

“I just want to keep going and do what I’ve got to do to stay sober, go to school and just… be a better person and try to be a better role model for my daughter,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe is currently fighting both drug and alcohol addiction, but he says he’ll keep trying until he succeeds.

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One resident even shared some wise words of hope he and his peers often try to keep in mind.

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“No matter what, there’s always going to be obstacles that you have to face in order to get there, no matter how hard it is, whether or not it’s a pandemic or your own personal issues,” Joshua Aabak said.

“If you take that step, there is going to be these people here that are going to help you out.”

Aaeak has been battling an addiction to heroin and fentanyl for several years, however he says he finally feels like he’s in a good place to continue on with his road to recovery and stability.