Travis Veilleux is more than two months sober. He’s recovering from addictions that escalated from marijuana to methamphetamine over a two-decade-long period.
He attended his first Recovery Day event on Saturday at The Forks in Winnipeg — there to show it can be done.
“Don’t give up. There’s always hope,” Veilleux said.
Manitoba organizations advocating for mental health and addictions resources hosted their first in-person Recovery Day since the pandemic began. They’re hoping to build awareness and challenge the stigma that prevents some people from seeking help.
Performers shared music and stories from a stage overlooking activities for children and a tent jam-packed with an information fair.
Part of Veilleux’s rehabilitation has meant understanding the anxiety and low self-esteem underlying his addictions, he told Global News on Saturday.
“The first step was to admit complete defeat and get over the paranoia and walk through the doors of Main Street Project,” Veilleux said.
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From there, Veilleux was able to connect with Bruce Oake Recovery Centre.
Ian Rabb, one of the event’s founding members, says many others face long waitlists.
“We still don’t have a system that has a full continuum of care. People can’t access the services they need when they need them,” Rabb said.
Rabb and other organizers say there’s much work ahead to make sure funding and programs meet the growing need that’s been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“For our recovery community and for those who’ve struggled with addiction and mental illness, the isolation and the social distancing that has had to happen has created a distancing from getting the support and help that you need. So, for a lot of people, their addiction struggles have gotten worse,” Marion Cooper, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s branch in Manitoba and Winnipeg, told Global News.
Rabb said Saturday’s event was one step in providing information to those experiencing addictions and their family and friends.
“We want people to be able to come here and also have the ability to help with their family and friends that might need help and ultimately reach out,” Rabb said.
Meanwhile, Veilleux is taking comfort in the many familiar faces at the event and support he didn’t know about until he went to Bruce Oake.
“It’s great to walk around a place like this without my head down and not feeling shame or guilt and being paranoid, so that’s a success right there.”