Hope after addiction thanks to the David-Chiasson Foundation

“I had been sober for a year and four months, I had my apartment. I burst. I squealed everything there, on the ground, and then I left for the street. Again. »

Like many addicts, therapy didn’t work the first time for Maryse. It was during her second stay in a rehab center that this young woman in her thirties heard about David-Chiasson houses. She and two other women hosted by this foundation agreed to entrust their story to the Dutybut on condition of anonymity, for professional and personal reasons.

These houses offer the possibility for people coming out of a detoxification center to live for some time in shared accommodation with others, who are also in remission, rather than returning to their old life, in an environment and an entourage that could put them at risk. The opportunity for a new start, which first made Maryse dizzy.

“When they offered to come here, I wasn’t sure anymore. I doubted myself, explains the young woman. It’s scary. It’s like embarking on an adventure, we don’t know who we’re going with. »

When she moved in at the beginning of May with Josée into this pretty house in a peaceful neighborhood of Montreal, her doubts disappeared. The two women learned to know each other and to live together, far from their old demons. They started to form new habits. They grow tomatoes and basil in their garden. One makes the other’s coffee in the morning, before the two leave for work.

A new start

Johanne moved into an apartment at the Chiasson Foundation a few months ago, not far from there. She was the one who decorated the house before the arrival of Maryse and Josée. Hanging on the walls are wooden signs bearing inspiring words, such as “Trust is being certain of what you hope for”. Phrases that may seem innocuous, but which take on their full meaning here.

1er August, it will be exactly one year since Johanne stopped using. Before that, she smoked crack. She also overdosed on heroin and GHB. “I’ve done quite a lot,” sums up this woman in her sixties with beautiful green eyes. But now, “I dropped the coffee, I thought I was drinking too much,” she says, smiling.

She also adopted a cat, Baby, who looks like two drops of water to the one she had to give up for adoption when she found herself on the streets in 2020, after losing her job and her home. . “Four-legged love,” she confides.

fall, get up

Johanne went through six therapies and relapses in the space of three years before knocking on the door of the David-Chiasson homes. “I’m just full of gratitude for what’s happened to me since I’ve been here,” she said. Without that, I don’t think I would have recovered. I would have gone back to my old habits and the old world that I know. It’s easier. »

These “old habits” are also the ones that brought Maryse back after her first stay in a detox centre. “I didn’t have so many craving drugs or alcohol, but freedom. Because, cuddly, I experienced it, freedom, in the street, ”she says.

According to the foundation’s statistics, between 60% and 65% of people who leave therapy relapse within a year. This was also the case for Josée. The young woman in a flowered dress says that she had nevertheless found a job and a small “brand new” studio after her stay in a detoxification center, but the environment was not reassuring for her.

“All my roommates were men. The atmosphere was terrible, I didn’t want to go home, it was heavy, she says. I think that’s why I relapsed […]. And as long as I did, I didn’t nearly do it. »

She then chained several stays in therapy, but she was afraid to get out, having nowhere to go. “Yes, I could have gone to my mother’s, but I didn’t want that, to impose myself on my family,” she explains. Then a speaker recommended that he contact the David-Chiasson houses.

A few rules to follow

The flatshares are designed so that there is both a common space, such as the kitchen and the living room, and a bedroom for each person. This organization facilitates exchanges and promotes obtaining support during difficult times, while ensuring that everyone has their own space.

There are also a few simple rules: work or volunteer, pay rent — $600 all-inclusive (except food). And strict prohibition to consume drugs or alcohol.

The director of the foundation, Jean-François Pedneault, comes by every week to talk to the occupants and make sure they don’t miss anything, but without supervising them. “Here, what I like is that we are structured, but by ourselves. It makes you prove to yourself that you can get by, explains Maryse. For me, it’s an opportunity, a test to find out if I’m really fit to live a normal, sober, independent life. »

Other structures offer stricter, more rigid frameworks. But Johanne preferred the flexibility of this one. “I’ve spent my life getting into it, I don’t need that. Me, I need you to take me and rock me, ”she breathes.

The light at the end of the tunnel

Roommates can stay in these houses until they find their bearings, with no set deadline. The David-Chiasson Foundation has four accommodations of this type, with a total of 13 places for men and 6 for women. A new apartment for two women should soon see the light of day.

This gives residents time to relearn how to take care of themselves, to assert themselves, to live together. “The priority, when I was on the street, was to find a place to wash myself every day. Just that, it happened before eating, explains Johanne. Here, I have time to ask myself, to feel that this is my place, that I have the right to be there, that I deserve it. »

The three women seem little by little to resume the course of their lives where it had stopped. Seeing them laughing together and enjoying the sun on their terrace, we could never guess what they were going through a few months ago.

Josée has taken over the kitchen and creates works of art that line the walls of the house. “We are really lucky to be here. If I feel like using, I remember what I have to lose,” says Maryse.

Johanne will soon undergo an operation, after having her teeth redone since her smile had been damaged by drugs. She then plans to participate in volunteer activities in her new neighborhood. “It’s really like ‘I came out of the tunnel’. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it, the light, since I’ve followed it, and here I come to the end. »

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