When has a casual drink with friends veered into alcohol dependance, and when does an occasional habit become an addiction?
Kahnawà:ke Shakotiia’takehnhas Community Services (KSCS) is running a new four-week intensive outpatient program to help community members better answer these questions and to help people make the changes they may want to make around their alcohol or drug use.
The program will take place from January 17 to February 16 at the United Church Hall from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
“What we’ve noticed is that there’s lots of people requesting help for addiction and recovery,” said Nancy Worth, clinical supervisor for Addiction Services at KSCS.
“Sometimes people are misusing or just want to work on achieving a better or healthier lifestyle. Other times we’re dealing with severe substance dependency.”
With many people looking for ways to address their substance use, the addiction services team has been working on initiatives to serve community needs for some time.
Typically, addiction counseling at KSCS runs on a 1-1 basis, but counselors have seen an interest in the benefits of group programs, which are run less often. An intensive outpatient program like this one is something that KSCS hasn’t done before, and Worth hopes it can help people find others who are struggling.
“We hired a consultant, and he came and did some work with us, and then we created the program,” explained Worth. “We’ll talk about early recovery skills, relationships and family, community and emotion regulation, there’s so many topics we’ll cover.”
The program can accommodate 10 individuals, and though spots are filling up, individuals can still claim a spot by calling Worth.
“It’s a really good opportunity for people to try something like this out. A block or barrier to coming to more group activities can be that people are afraid that confidentiality won’t be respected, or they’re still experiencing shame from their substance use,” she said.
“We’re trying to encourage folks to take that leap of faith, to trust. We’re encouraging you to get out of isolation, to connect with other community members, and to see how many people are also struggling with the same issues.”
Hazel Mayo has worked as an addictions specialist at KSCS for over 25 years, and she believes that this program will give community members a new way to address their substance use.
“We’ll have group in the morning, we’ll do the meditation, to make sure everyone is of one mind, and not all coming from that place of fear, just kind of settling everyone’s mind,” she explained. “And then we’ll do a lecture, or an educational workshop, and then they’ll have cultural and traditional teachings.”
Mayo explained that the intensive nature of the program will allow participants to spend more time addressing the root causes of their substance use.
“We get to spend more time with them, so we can kind of go deeper, looking at what areas in your life you feel are depleted, and how can any of the parts of the program fill that either emotional, spiritual, mental, or physical part of yourself,” she said. “It’s to help you have that love and honesty for yourself.”
Recovery can be difficult, but hurdles are an essential part of the journey, Mayo said.
“People, places, and things are going to be put in your path to help you see things about yourself that you’re not comfortable with,” she explained. “But this is a journey, right? This is your journey, and there’s a reason why it happens the way it does.”
Worth said that anyone hesitating to sign up can call her to determine if the program would be the right fit.
“We can do a brief assessment to see if it’s a good match for them, and they can try it out, absolutely,” she said. “We didn’t want to make the program too long, because the commitment is big, so definitely reach out and we can have a conversation about it.”
This iteration of the program is a pilot project, but in the future, Worth hopes that KSCS can offer this service two or three times a year.
“There’s a lot of strength in running group programs like this, and now we’ve created it. It’s just a matter of implementation and delivery,” she said. “Who knows where it could go? We’ll for sure get the feedback of participants, and we will definitely do surveys and all of that, because we’ve never done something like this before, and we want to keep offering this kind of program.”
To register for the intensive outpatient program, individuals can contact Worth at 450-632-6880. Spots are filling fast, so potential participants are urged to make contact as soon as possible.
Eve is a reporter with the Eastern Door, and was previously an Editor at the McGill Daily. She has also reported on harm reduction and Indigenous issues for the Montreal Gazette, the Hoser, the Rover, and more.