Sobriety ‘tricky’ amid temptations

The Chronicle-Journal

Fort William First Nation, Ont. — Fort William First Nation is trying to help recovering addicts deal with what is likely the biggest challenge of their lives: staying sober.

“There’s a lot of achievement in someone who has managed to reach sobriety,” Ashley Harju, a band addiction and wellness worker, said Friday.

To mark and celebrate that milestone, and keep it rolling forward, Fort William will host its first Recovery Day on Sept. 21.

The event coincides with a national initiative held throughout September to “represent the healing process-journey, recovery and maintenance, and the ability to achieve long-term sobriety from drug, alcohol, and behavioural addictions,” an event backgrounder said.

The theme is “creating a pathway to recovery.”

In addition to providing support for recovering addicts, the Fort William First Nation Recovery Day may attract those who remain in the throes of addiction, but are thinking of trying to break free, Harju said.

One of the hardest parts of staying sober often occurs soon after one completes a treatment program, which usually lasts a month.

“That’s the tricky part,” Harju said. “There’s a lot of temptations out there.”

It hasn’t helped that in the last 10 years or so Thunder Bay has become a destination for Toronto-based drug dealers, who have introduced the city to dangerous substances such as fentanyl and, more recently, xylazine.

Xylazine, a tranquilizer used by veterinarians when treating animals, can cause fainting and breathing problems.

Another obstacle is a shortage of so-called “sober-living” facilities, where addicts can learn to manage withdrawal symptoms without turning back to drugs or alcohol.

Thunder Bay has three such facilities, but there is often a waiting list, Harju said.

Those who attend Fort William First Nation’s Recovery Day will be asked to write messages of encouragement to friends and family members who have managed to stay off booze or drugs.

Supportive agencies, such as treatment programs and mental-health services, have been invited.

“We hope to provide enough resources and information on organizations and agencies in Thunder Bay and (Fort William First Nation) to help individuals navigate the pathways to recovery,” the backgrounder said.