‘It stole a life from me,’ says former methamphetamine addict
Kevin Bralovich was in Halifax for only a couple of weeks before he headed back across Canada, leaving his wife and daughter for the drug crystal meth.
“We moved to Nova Scotia to get away from it and I lost it,” recalled the former methamphetamine addict, who is now clean for 16 years.
“It stole a life from me,” he said. “There was no promise I could keep. There was no person who could help me stay away.”
Nineteen years ago, Bralovich tried crystal meth for the first time a week before his wedding.
“I had never done any hard drugs. You know, I had tried some before but never anything crazy,” said the 40-year-old in a phone interview.
Bralovich was working night shifts and with his family in town for the wedding, “it just seemed like it made sense” to be awake as much as possible.
“It seemed convenient at the time, but little did I know I was instantly hooked on meth,” he said.
From there, the British Columbia native went in and out of rehab, but it never stuck.
“You start picking at your face, you start getting scabs, you pick at those,” said Bralovich. “It’s like your mind is taken control by something else.”
In a four-month span, Bralovich racked up 42 charges, such as theft, in British Columbia, where he was sentenced to serve jail time.
“I had a business, I had a house, I had a vehicle, I had everything going for me,” he said, “but it was all taken away from me.”
After one month in jail, Bralovich attended a court-ordered rehabilitation program at Hope Farm Society in Stewiacke.
“It was massive, staying in a place where you have accountability ... counselling and learning to do something,” said Bralovich.
Shortly after Bralovich finished his one-year treatment at Hope Farm in 2004, it closed.
Maureen Wheller, Nova Scotia Health Authority’s addictions spokeswoman, said adults over the age of 19 may be placed in programs after being assessed by a clinician.
A client may be admitted to the inpatient withdrawal management, a medical withdrawal and group program where one can stay up to 21 days, or community-based services, such as recovery houses and shelters.
“These decisions are based on the information the client discloses,” said Wheller.
The NSHA doesn’t frequently see methamphetamine use, said the health authority spokeswoman, but when it does, the client is often using other substances.
Suspected increase in meth use
While the health authority doesn’t see many methamphetamine addicts, police officers are seeing the opposite on the streets.
Cpl. Jennifer Clarke, RCMP spokeswoman, said while she can only speak anecdotally based on what RCMP are seeing on duty, they suspect there is an increase in methamphetamine use, especially outside of the Halifax region.
Over the past five years, Halifax Regional Police had 17 seizures of methamphetamine, totalling 300 grams.
“What we see most often is the tablet form of methamphetamine, which is also known as ice pills, but we have also started seeing it in other forms including crystal meth,” said Clarke.
Methamphetamine is a cheaper alternative to cocaine and is easily obtained and manufactured, said the RCMP spokeswoman.
“If there was a sudden, rapid and dramatic increase in any one type of drug use with increased personal and public harms there would be a provincial health response to increase services to meet an emerging need,” said Wheller.
Dr. Sheri Fandrey, knowledge exchange lead at the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, saw the influx of methamphetamines in Manitoba in 2003 and again in 2015.
‘One of the most addictive substances’
“It is quite possibly one of the most addictive substances that we have,” said Fandrey.
The prairie province’s addictions foundation had adapted its resources to the previous fentanyl influx, which has similar treatment methods, so the appropriate resources were easy to access.
“The biggest difference for people using methamphetamine is the need for a period of time during withdrawal,” said the doctor.
Withdrawal symptoms, such as reduced cognitive function, can last for up to two-to-three weeks and effect treatment as a lot of methods rely on cognitive behaviour therapy, she said.
“For people who have serious problems with meth, that inpatient, in-house treatment is probably the most effective,” said Fandrey.
Although Manitoba has been dealing with the flood of methamphetamines into the province over the years, Fandrey ranked her province as a four out of 10 for having it under control.
“It’s as low as it is because we don’t have the capacity around trauma services,” said the knowledge exchange lead. “For people who have had serious problems with methamphetamines, it’s almost a guarantee there is prior trauma.
Trauma often a factor
“For the small minority that aren’t using large amounts of meth because of trauma, once they start using meth that way, they experience trauma.”
Fandrey said the need for long-term support after treatment is needed across Canada.
“The potential vulnerability for an extended period of time — a year to two years — is not unusual,” she said.
The year Bralovich spent at Hope Farm is one of the reasons why he’s been clean for 16 years.
“You have to actually go through the seasons of life,” said the former addict.
“You think everything is peachy keen, life is so good and then months later, you start to realize, hey, I have to go back to life one day, so you need that support,” he said.
Bralovich, his wife and two daughters are to move to Halifax in June, as the couple plans to open a community farm for addiction.
Kevin and Dawn Bralovich are pictured outside the former Hope Farm Society in Stewiacke earlier this year. Kevin spent a year recovering from his crystal meth addiction at the farm 16 years ago. Now he’s interested in helping others battling addiction.