Addictions awareness sparks quest for sobriety, good living

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Change is possible, say the organizers of an annual event aimed at raising awareness about the negative effects of addictions on individuals and society.

Always held during the third week in November, National Addictions Awareness Week runs from tomorrow until next Saturday. Locally, the Poundmaker’s Lodge is hosting its usual Sober Walk.

Don Langford, chair of the board for the facility and an addictions counsellor, says that over the course of his 40 years in the field, the nature of addictions has changed.

“Back when we first started in it, our biggest concern was alcohol, with just a touch of drugs, maybe some pot and a little LSD and whatnot. Now, it’s totally changed. There’s just an awful lot of drugs out there.”

He said that there’s still a lot of alcohol abuse, but many of those addicts also abuse other substances. What concerns him most, however, is what’s going on with today’s youth.

“I find that amongst the younger crowd, it is drugs and the choice of drug in this city is crack cocaine.”

There is still, however, a lot of crystal meth and heroin going around. “The full gamut” is how he puts it.

What’s being used depends on certain social circles and each supplier’s network, not to mention the time of year. When winter starts to set in, some pushers head off to Vancouver.

With drug abuse, however, the physiological effects compound or magnify other problems already in existence.

“The other thing that we find now is that we have a lot of concurring disorders. People come in and they do have some mental illnesses and you have to treat both at the same time.”

That hasn’t changed the programming much at the centre. Poundmaker’s Lodge runs a program based on the aboriginal medicine wheel, with a lot of basic methodology from 12-step programs built in. Through traditional sweat lodge ceremonies, pipe ceremonies, and sweetgrass ceremonies, the treatment concentrates on the individual’s emotional, mental, psychological and spiritual well-being while exploring the root causes of the addiction to find the right path to freedom, health and happiness.

“What we’re trying to do is just give you the tools to work on your health issues. That’s all we can do, and give you support while you’re there. The rest is up to you.”

Further information

The goal of National Addictions Awareness Week is to educate the public and promote awareness of substance and gambling addictions. It encourages everybody – individuals, families, friends, workplaces and communities – to fight the problems together. It is also a time to celebrate the joy of being free of addictions.

The Sober Walk normally extends from the Alberta legislature to Edmonton City Hall, but for the first time it’s being held in St. Albert.

“Our home is in St. Albert,” Langford said. “Poundmaker’s Lodge has been there for years and years and years. I think we were such a deep secret to everybody in St. Albert.”

The walk will take place on Nov. 16, leaving from Red Willow Park at 9:30 a.m. and ending at the Arden Theatre. It will feature an opening prayer by elder Arsene Arcand, plus a drum group from Alexander First Nation, powwow dancers and jiggers. Mayor Crouse and Langford will say a few words once the procession arrives at the Arden.

The annual round dance will take place next Saturday at the lodge, from 4 p.m. to midnight, and the alcohol and drug free event is open to everyone.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Poundmaker’s Lodge or its expanding roster of programs can call 780-458-1884 or visit www.poundmakerlodge.ca. It’s located on Poundmaker Road north of Campbell Business Park.

Information and help for all kinds of addictions (including alcohol, tobacco, drugs and gambling) can be obtained from Alberta Health Services. Call the agency’s HEALTHLink phone number at 1-866-408-5465 or visit www.albertahealthservices.ca.

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Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.