Regina recovery conference aims to reduce addictions stigma, build supports

Angela Singer was working on writing a song as she traveled her road to recovery, reflecting on what she was feeling.

But she felt she couldn’t write an ending until she was sober.

On Friday, she performed her song for the first time at the Recovery Capital Conference in Regina.

“When I wrote that song, I knew I wanted to put into words the way that I felt while I was going through my addiction,” Singer said.

“That song kind of tells my journey about going through addiction in these last three years.”

Attending an earlier Regina recovery luncheon played a big role in helping start Singer’s road to recovery.

“There was a person, when I was struggling at my lowest point, I watched his presentation and it was like my story came out of his mouth, and I just sat there crying,” she said.

“To feel like you’re not alone in your experiences and to feel no shame attached to the experiences that you’ve had, it’s just a really kind of surreal feeling.”

The Regina stop was part of a nationwide conference tour, including New Westminster, B.C., Calgary, Winnipeg and Halifax.

The conference focuses on building what organizers call “recovery capital.” This is described as a network of external and internal resources that can help initiate and sustain the recovery process.

Giuseppe Ganci, Last Door Recovery Society community development director, is also a recovering addict. He found most services available focus more on direct substance use.

“That’s a big part of addiction, but we didn’t see a lot of professional conferences talking about solutions, recovery and how to get out of the mess of addiction,” Ganci said.

This led to Last Door collaborating with other service providers to launch the conference, which also advocates for increased addictions resources.

When Ganci was diagnosed with diabetes, he said the healthcare red carpet was rolled out. However, this wasn’t the case when he first sought addictions support.

“When I went to my doctor, and I had addiction, that red carpet didn’t open up for me. I got lost in trying to find services, you need to use your credit card instead of your health card, and I think that’s why we’re in an addiction crisis,” he said.

Recently, the Saskatchewan Health Authority issued a tender looking for 50 additional addictions beds across the province. The focus will be on supporting pre and post-treatment patients.

Regina-area addictions counselor Rand Teed has worked with many clients in his long career. He said there is still ground to make up when treating addictions in the province, especially the aftercare process.

“We don’t do a good enough job following up with them; their family care physicians, their social workers need to understand the concept of what they need to do to help facilitate moving them into the thinking changes that are a big part of recovery,” Teed said.

“For lots of people, 28 days (of detox) isn’t enough. Out of province, there are options for 60 day, 90 day, sometimes even six months of treatment. It really depends on how complex the problem is.”

Both Teed and Ganci said they were disappointed Health Minister Jim Reiter was not in attendance to hear these ideas.

Advanced Education Minister Tina Beaudry-Mellor did speak at the conference, and the Ministry of Health said other officials were in attendance.

Struggles with addiction are a nationwide concern, as police and health officials continue to encounter crystal meth and opioids in their daily work.

At the recovery conference, people like Singer will continue to share their stories in the hope of being able to help others on their recovery journey.

“I want to be able to do that for somebody else. I think it’s important to talk about these things because the more you talk about them, it’s a common thing and it takes the shame away from the stigma,” Singer said.

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