‘Ad­dic­tion led me to los­ing ev­ery­thing’

Simcoe Reformer - - FRONT PAGE - JA­COB ROBIN­SON

Tom Poolton de­scribes him­self as an “11-year-old in a 23-year-old body”.

As a young­ster grow­ing up in Dun­nville, Poolton was pre­scribed opi­oids to deal with the pain of an an­kle in­jury, and he be­came ad­dicted.

For 10 years Poolton, who now lives in Sim­coe, strug­gled with his habit. He spent years us­ing and bounc­ing in and out of jail. He over­dosed once and had a heart at­tack at the age of 20. Even­tu­ally, Poolton reached out for help and af­ter a 21-day de­tox fell off the wagon, but he re­turned to Holmes House, an ad­dic­tion fa­cil­ity in Sim­coe, and is now clean and sober.

Poolton was one of three re­cov­er­ing ad­dicts to share their story as part of a Let’s Talk About Opi­oids com­mu­nity in­for­ma­tion event hosted by the Harm Re­duc­tion Ac­tion Team, a group of lo­cal part­ners at Delhi District Sec­ondary School on Tuesday night.

“Ad­dic­tion led me to los­ing ev­ery­thing,” Poolton said. “At the age of 20 I was home­less and that lasted for about seven months. I was liv­ing out on the streets, I lost my fam­ily, my friends, my self-re­spect, ev­ery­thing. That fi­nally broke me and I reached out and asked for help.”

Poolton said the staff at Holmes House treated him as a real per­son as op­posed to sim­ply an ad­dict. They’ve al­lowed him to re-pri­or­i­tize as he tries to live a bet­ter life.

“I was born into a fam­ily of ad­dic­tion and al­co­holism so my view on life was that drugs and al­co­hol were a nor­mal way to live,” Poolton said. “That was my cop­ing mech­a­nism, my so­lu­tion to prob­lems, ev­ery­thing. I still strug­gle, grow­ing up in a fam­ily and a house­hold in that en­vi­ron­ment, it’s re­ally hard to get out of that way of think­ing and that mind­set.”

By us­ing through­out his teens, Poolton said he missed out on many learn­ing and devel­op­ment ex­pe­ri­ences that most adults take as sec­ond na­ture. Slowly but surely he’s learn­ing and grow­ing.

“It’s al­most like I’m a lit­tle child again but I’m 23-years-old,” he added.

In ad­di­tion to some per­sonal sto­ries, the fo­rum in­cluded speak­ers rep­re­sent­ing the On­tario Provin­cial Po­lice, a phar­ma­cist ex­plain­ing ex­actly what ad­dic­tion is and how it af­fects the brain, and a mem­ber of the Haldimand-Nor­folk Health Unit.

In 2015, Haldimand-Nor­folk recorded the high­est per­cent­age of in­di­vid­u­als tak­ing high strength opi­oids when com­pared to all other On­tario mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. Over­all drug rates here are higher in both males and fe­males ver­sus the provin­cial av­er­age.

The gather­ing stressed the num­ber of lo­cal op­tions avail­able for any­one seek­ing help.

“It’s def­i­nitely in our com­mu­nity just like it is any­where else across the country,” said Ta­mara Robb, a pub­lic health nurse with the health unit. “The most re­cent sta­tis­tics in­di­cated that out of the 36 health units (in On­tario), Haldimand-Nor­folk ranked sec­ond for opi­oid-re­lated deaths. It def­i­nitely is in our com­mu­nity which is why we’re hav­ing th­ese events to raise that aware­ness and get peo­ple talk­ing about it.”

Another pub­lic meet­ing will take place at Lake­wood Ele­men­tary School Nov. 15 from 6-8:30 p.m.

For Poolton, who re­cently be­gan study­ing to get his high school di­ploma, be­ing able to tell his story is about help­ing oth­ers as well as him­self.

“It’s amaz­ing,” he said. “It’s one of the big­gest things that helps me and gives me some pride back and takes away the worth­less feel­ing. It gives me some self-worth and a pur­pose to give some­thing back and hope­fully help some­body that is in the same po­si­tion I’m in.”

JA­COB ROBIN­SON/ SIM­COE RE­FORMER

Sim­coe res­i­dent Tom Poolton tells his story of drug use and re­cov­ery at a Let's Talk About Opi­oids pub­lic in­for­ma­tion event at Delhi District Sec­ondary School Tuesday. The gather­ing fea­tured a num­ber of speak­ers rep­re­sent­ing the Harm Re­duc­tion Ac­tion Team, a group of lo­cal part­ners in­clud­ing ­— among oth­ers — the Haldimand-Nor­folk Health Unit, Nor­folk OPP and Cana­dian Men­tal Health As­so­ci­a­tion Brant-Haldimand-Nor­folk.

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