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B.C. residents share stories of overcoming addiction in 'Living Library'

'When I was a little girl I didn't dream of being a drug addict'

"When I was a little girl, I didn't dream of being a drug addict," says Terry, a well-known businesswoman in Port Alberni. "I did dream of being a good mom."

That's how Terry starts her story about drug addiction. Terry was one of a half-dozen people who shared their stories of living in addiction during a "Living Library" event hosted recently by the town's Community Action Team. People could "check out" a person to hear their story and ask questions.

Terry was a young mother married to her second husband when she learned how to make crack cocaine; she started using it, even while working in a daycare. Her wake-up call came courtesy of her 13-year-old, when social services threatened to put all the kids in foster care.

"My daughter said, 'Mom, what are you doing?'

"To be able to come out the other side and be OK, that's the main thing," she says now. "I'm fortunate, I had resources. I had an education to start with, I had family (to support her)." She also had a counsellor who recognized the underlying trauma Terry was dealing with and referred her for treatment. Now, Terry counsels other people and uses herself as an example.

"I think it's important to share my story...for people to understand that not every drug addict is going to stay a drug addict."

Rita was born and raised in Port Alberni by her grandparents. She was 12 when she started drinking, and had her first child when she was 14. "For 22 years I was in addiction," she says. A member of Tseshaht First Nation, Rita has four children, grandchildren and has fostered children. Now sober for 10 years, she has family members in addiction and checks in on them to remind them they are loved.

Cris was 12 when she first went to counselling while living in Nova Scotia. She says she lived with "multiple" addictions; "I was a mainline meth addict" and she spent time in jail.

Now 77 and living close to family members in Port Alberni, Cris says she is paying it forward by sharing her story. "It's been a whole frigging lot of work to get here, and I'm grateful," she says. "It's not that my life is all OK. I'm OK with all of my life."

Community Action Team coordinator Angeline Street said the Living Library offered an opportunity to educate people about the toxic drug crisis, and bring a face to the people affected. The event was "to broaden the picture. To really bring home that these two concepts (homelessness and drug addiction) are...linked, but they are two totally different problems."

Street would like to hold another Living Library event in the future. She already has a tentative list of people willing to share their stories.

For a list of resources or more videos about addiction, harm reduction and stigma, visit the Community Action Team's website at

Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I have been the Alberni Valley News editor since August 2006.
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