A SE­COND CHANCE

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Jas­mine Clark­son walked down the stairs, wrapped a cord around her neck and forced her­self not to think about what she was about to do.She was an ad­dict in the throws of an emo­tional tail­spin that left her feel­ing as if she had noth­ing and no one.Perched on a speaker with the cord on her neck, she was one step away from dy­ing.Clark­son thought, “I’m a crappy mom and I’m an ad­dict and my fam­ily doesn’t care about me and my boyfriend doesn’t care about me. What’s the point?”Then she took what she thought was her fi­nal step.“I in­stantly blacked out and went straight to a dream,” said Clark­son.“I was stand­ing in a room and all these peo­ple were talk­ing and they all stopped and looked at me and screamed, ‘Wake up!’ “She woke gasp­ing for air, the cord around her neck, her hair tan­gled in the cord and her boyfriend Josh hold­ing her by her legs scream­ing for her to wake up.“If it hadn’t been for Josh com­ing down­stairs, get­ting that feel­ing like some­thing was wrong ... I wouldn’t be here,” she said.In and out of treat­ment since 2014, it took her near-death ex­pe­ri­ence for Clark­son to de­cide she wanted a new life.She found her way to Crys­tal Clear, a new sup­port group for crys­tal meth ad­dicts held ev­ery Wed­nes­day night at the Ma­mawey­ati­tan Cen­tre in Regina.“I’m tired of be­ing high and I’m tired of my fam­ily look­ing at me like I’m the drug ad­dict,” she said, now 25 years old. “I want to get clean.”At the time she spoke to the Leader-post in mid-de­cem­ber, Clark­son had been clean for about three months.Four years ear­lier, she had cho­sen a dif­fer­ent path, when she found crys­tal meth, a highly ad­dic­tive drug that po­lice say is driv­ing crime across the prov­ince.Clark­son was 21 when she snorted her first line.Af­ter get­ting into a se­ri­ous car crash when she was preg­nant with her son, sep­a­rat­ing from her son’s fa­ther and strug­gling with anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion, Clark­son hit her limit.Not able to han­dle ev­ery­thing af­ter her son was born, she gave him to her mother to look af­ter for a while.“It started out with just par­ty­ing and then one day my friends were just like, ‘Hey, do you want to try it?’ and I was all for it,” Clark­son said. “I got into it and I got into it pretty heavy.”Soon she was do­ing it ev­ery day, whether it was smok­ing or do­ing hot rails (in­hal­ing va­por­ized crys­tal meth).She lost ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing her apart­ment, af­ter spend­ing her rent money on drugs and her boyfriend be­came abu­sive.“I was start­ing to feel like ev­ery­one was push­ing me away,” said Clark­son.The group has be­come a place she can go and talk about her ex­pe­ri­ences without fear of judg­ment, some­thing she feels she can’t do with her fam­ily.“It helps a bunch,” said Clark­son. “I’m not alone try­ing to be sober. I have peo­ple who are lis­ten­ing (and) un­der­stand.”Fill­ing what they saw as a gap in sup­ports and ser­vices for peo­ple ad­dicted to crys­tal meth, the York­ton Tribal Coun­cil’s (YTC) Child and Fam­ily Ser­vices (CFS) in Regina cre­ated the Crys­tal Clear sup­port group.Launched in Septem­ber af­ter months of re­search and plan­ning, the group fol­lows a process sim­i­lar to the 12 steps of the Al­co­holics Anony­mous (AA) pro­gram.“This is giv­ing them a safe place to come and meet other peo­ple who are in re­cov­ery,” said Rae Shin­goose, pro­gram man­ager for Mem­ber Na­tions Ser­vices of YTC CFS in Regina.“A per­son can’t get off crys­tal meth on their own,” she said. “They need the sup­port.”Garry Sev­eright, a child and fam­ily sup­port worker for YTC CFS in Regina, leads the group ev­ery Wed­nes­day.Be­fore start­ing up Crys­tal Clear, or­ga­niz­ers said they did a lot of re­search into crys­tal meth and the ef­fects it has on the body and the brain.Clients who had tried sup­ports like Nar­cotics Anony­mous or AA said they didn’t quite work for peo­ple ad­dicted to crys­tal meth be­cause the ex­pe­ri­ences are so dif­fer­ent, said Sev­eright.Ex­pe­ri­ence with his own sis­ter’s crys­tal meth ad­dic­tion helps him re­late and cre­ate a space of mu­tual un­der­stand­ing for those who come to the group to share their sto­ries.“It’s just such an aw­ful drug. It trau­ma­tized her chil­dren, her be­hav­iour — div­ing be­hind couches and ex­treme para­noia,” he said. “It trau­ma­tized them see­ing their mother ... like that.”Para­noia is one of the many side-ef­fects of crys­tal meth and even though she’s been clean for over 12 years, Tif­fany Newby can re­call those mo­ments like they were yes­ter­day.“I would hear voices and stuff like that out­side my house, think peo­ple were say­ing my name. I would see shadow peo­ple. I would have feel­ings that some­body was in my back seat when I was driv­ing,” she said.Newby also at­tends the weekly group, but in more of a men­tor­ship role. She said help­ing oth­ers hold on to hope is her way of mak­ing up for the harm she caused while ad­dicted.“I used. I drank. I kind of screwed my fam­ily over and ev­ery­body that was around me,” she said.She be­gan us­ing crys­tal meth around age 15. She did ev­ery­thing from smok­ing and snort­ing it to eat­ing it.She said be­ing on crys­tal meth made it feel like her body was ag­ing or de­te­ri­o­rat­ing rapidly. Her body ached, she was cov­ered in open sores, she had chest pains and lost an ex­treme amount of weight.It took a year or two for her body to start feel­ing nor­mal again af­ter get­ting clean.“A per­son can’t get off crys­tal meth on their own. They need the sup­port.Now 32 years old, she re­flects on the mo­ment that made her turn her life around.Around the same time she had been ar­rested for an armed rob­bery and was sen­tenced to house ar­rest, Newby learned her mother had ter­mi­nal can­cer.“I re­al­ized I hit rock bot­tom and my mom was go­ing to go and I didn’t want her re­mem­ber­ing me that way,” she said.“I didn’t want me as a drug ad­dict to be the legacy that my mom left be­hind be­cause her whole goal in life was to be a good mom,” she con­tin­ued.Never re­ally get­ting the chance to “re­deem her­self” be­fore her mother died, she said it’s hard to lis­ten to the par­ents who come to the sup­port group to talk through the pain and worry of hav­ing a child with a crys­tal meth ad­dic­tion.“I’m try­ing to go through the process of for­giv­ing my­self for all that stuff,” said Newby.Her mes­sage to­day is “just don’t do it.”“It will ruin your whole en­tire life,” she said. “It wrecks you in ev­ery way.”The side ef­fects of crys­tal meth range from mood and behavioural to phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal.Eupho­ria, de­pres­sion, so­cial iso­la­tion, im­pul­sive­ness vi­o­lence, open sores and hal­lu­ci­na­tions are just a few in a long list of symp­toms.Clark­son has ex­pe­ri­enced many of them.Day 1 of a crys­tal meth binge in­duced a feel­ing like she could do any­thing, but Day 3 or 4 brought on hal­lu­ci­na­tions of shad­ows and peo­ple walk­ing and talk­ing that weren’t there.She would of­ten hear whis­per­ing.“There’s even times where I’ve been so high I ac­tu­ally flipped out on peo­ple be­cause I thought they were whis­per­ing about me,” she said.“It’s reached the point where ev­ery time I get high I’m com­pletely sick the en­tire time I’m high,” said Clark­son.“I just can’t han­dle it no more. It makes my body ache. I’m sick for days on end. I can’t eat.”She was more than ready to get clean and happy to start go­ing to a sup­port group where she can share her sto­ries and hear from oth­ers about how they got through their dark times.“It’s a sort of com­fort just be­cause I feel like I can’t go to my fam­ily or any­thing like that,” said Clark­son.“They can’t see past the drug ad­dict per­sona.”But at the sup­port group, there’s no judg­ment and she’s be­gin­ning to work through all the is­sues that led her to drugs in the first place.Since it be­gan, Shin­goose said the pop­u­lar­ity of the group has grown — in­creas­ing from four at the first meet­ing in Septem­ber, to a max­i­mum ca­pac­ity of 15 by early De­cem­ber.Both Shin­goose and Sev­eright said the group is im­por­tant for peo­ple who need more im­me­di­ate sup­port while they wait to get into detox or a treat­ment cen­tre.As pro­gram man­ager, Shin­goose has as­pi­ra­tions to grow the pro­gram to reach more peo­ple in need. They are look­ing to add a se­cond sup­port group on Satur­day nights, some­thing they’ve asked Newby if she’d like to lead.One day, they hope to of­fer a group ev­ery night of the week to help make it ac­ces­si­ble for ev­ery­one re­gard­less of their sched­ule.Shin­goose said they are also look­ing for spon­sors to help guide mem­bers through the 12-step pro­gram and are ask­ing any­one in long-term re­cov­ery to con­tact them if they are in­ter­ested in get­ting in­volved.The launch of a sup­port group called Stand Up specif­i­cally for fam­i­lies of ad­dicts is also in the works.“It’s to let fam­i­lies know you’re not alone out there,” she said, adding they must re­mem­ber three im­por­tant things when try­ing to help a loved one ad­dicted to crys­tal meth.“You can’t con­trol it. You can’t change it and you can’t cure it,” said Shin­goose. “What you can do is sup­port them, in­crease your knowl­edge, in­crease your aware­ness and be there for them when they’re ready.”In ad­di­tion to sup­port­ing ad­dicts in re­cov­ery, the pro­gram aims to spread ed­u­ca­tion and aware­ness about crys­tal meth, its ef­fects and the re­cov­ery process.“It re­quires a unique re­cov­ery process than other drugs,” said Sev­eright.“It’s more in­tense. It has to be more con­sis­tent and more sup­port­ive.”They also hope to part­ner with the Regina Pub­lic School Di­vi­sion and Regina Catholic School Di­vi­sion to do a mass aware­ness cam­paign for the city’s youth.“These in­di­vid­u­als who are in re­cov­ery that we’ve spo­ken to, they said, ‘If only some­one told me how bad crys­tal meth was ... I would have said, ‘Hell no!’ ” said Shin­goose.YTC CFS would also like to part­ner with provin­cial ad­dic­tion and men­tal health ser­vices to help im­prove ser­vices for peo­ple ad­dicted and af­flicted by crys­tal meth.For Newby, the new life she’s built for her­self is what keeps her on the straight and nar­row. She’s cur­rently work­ing part time at KFC and part time as her grand­fa­ther’s care­giver.In Jan­uary she starts a new chap­ter in her life — nurs­ing school.Clark­son is just be­gin­ning her jour­ney.Al­though legally still in her cus­tody, Clark­son’s son Jeremiah — who is now five years old — is still liv­ing with her mother.She says it’s hard to be apart, but it’s for the best for now.“I think it’s only the bet­ter choice that he is with a sta­ble per­son be­cause I am clearly not fully sta­ble yet. It’s not right yet for him to be with me,” she said. “It has put lots of strain on our re­la­tion­ship, but I make sure ev­ery day he knows I love him.”She hopes to one day have her son back with her full time and re­build trust with her fam­ily. Un­til then, she’s work­ing on get­ting a job and get­ting her life to­gether — liv­ing life for her­self and no one else.By talk­ing openly about her story, she hopes she can help oth­ers learn from her mis­takes.“It’s not just like weed where you can pick it up and then not do it again for how­ever long,” said Clark­son.“It grabs you and it grabs you hard.”The Crys­tal Clear sup­port group is anony­mous and takes place at the Ma­mawey­ati­tan Cen­tre (3365 6th Av­enue) from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. ev­ery Wed­nes­day night.It is part of the Crys­tal Clear Sup­port Pro­gram, which of­fers one-on-one ad­dic­tion sup­port, ad­dic­tion aware­ness fa­cil­i­ta­tion, out­reach/spon­sor­ship and group sup­port.For more in­for­ma­tion call YTC Child & Fam­ily Ser­vices Inc. at 306-337-1200.You can’t con­trol it. You can’t change it and you can’t cure it. What you can do is sup­port them ... and be there for them when they’re ready.

Jas­mine Clark­son, a re­cov­er­ing crys­tal meth ad­dict, has been clean for a few months af­ter a sui­cide at­tempt.

When she was us­ing crys­tal meth, Tif­fany Newby said she heard voices out­side her house. She has been clean for a dozen years and now helps oth­ers fight the drug, in part to atone for the pain she knows she caused years ago.

Tif­fany Newby, Jas­mine Clark­son and other Crys­tal Clear sup­port group mem­bers meet ev­ery Wed­nes­day night at the Ma­mawey­ati­tan Cen­tre on 6th Av­enue.

Garry Sev­eright, Rae Shin­goose and Can­dace Ke­shane are em­ploy­ees of the York­ton Tribal Coun­cil work­ing to con­front the rav­ages of crys­tal meth and help ad­dicts go clean.

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