Mapping out the Road to Recovery

A meth recovery program helped Todd find himself again.

A meth recovery program helped Todd find himself again - United Way Winnipeg

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You think you don’t need to eat. Or sleep. But then it all catches up to you, and you crash. You wake up three days later. Your teeth are rotting; your skin is peeling. But you don’t care about that right now. You’re exhausted, but you’ve got to get up. You need to get more meth. You find it. You give in again. And the cycle repeats. This is the life of a meth user.

“The first thing meth gives you is the chemical euphoria,” said Todd, a former Winnipeg meth user now in recovery. “But then it took me for a ride, dragging me through the gutter, and kicking me while I was down.”

Todd was 23 when he was first introduced to meth. He’d been struggling with anxiety and depression for years.

“To be honest, I didn’t even know it was meth the first time; I thought it was Ecstasy,” said Todd. “That first time I snorted coke and crystal (meth) was after an eight-hour warehouse shift and a Star Wars movie. I spent the next eight hours hallucinating, crying, fighting, and wandering in the snow after midnight, and the next three days wondering why I wasn’t sleeping or eating.”

The second time Todd tried meth, he knew what it was, but he didn’t think he’d get addicted.

“I was going through a lot at the time. I’d lost my job, my apartment, and I was in a deep depression. I just wanted to give in,” said Todd.

But Todd did get addicted and paid a very heavy price.

“Meth has so many side effects that you won’t notice at the time, and the cost is so much more than time and money,” he said. “It’s relationships, reputation, opportunities, and way too many wasted sunsets. It’s never going to be enough, and all you’re left with is rotting teeth and peeling skin.”

Todd lost friends, family, and any sense of identity. And he stayed like this for three years.

“Even when it became really intense, I’d look at other meth users and think, well, at least I’m not them,” said Todd. “But then when I became as bad as them, I just didn’t seem to care.”

Then one day, he was lying in bed and had a moment of clarity. He realized he was in rough shape and that things were only going to get worse.

“I knew I needed to make a dramatic change,” Todd said. “I also knew I needed help.”

A meth recovery program helped Todd find himself again - United Way Winnipeg

Todd, body mapping at Mood Disorders

Todd had attended a peer support group at Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba, a United Way Winnipeg donor-supported agency partner. While was he was there, he saw a flyer for Mood Disorder’s Leading Change meth recovery program.

“I thought, this is great; it’s just what I need,” said Todd.

One of the techniques that worked well for Todd is called body mapping, where art is used as part of the journey of discovery and recovery.

“I put myself on a big piece of paper and tried to dissect who I was. It’s like I was one of those CSI guys, trying to figure out what was wrong and what caused my addiction,” said Todd. “It helped me get back in touch with parts of myself I’d forgotten about. And I realized I was using my addiction to help cope with my depression and anxiety.”

Today, Todd has been clean from meth use for over six months. He also quit smoking cigarettes two weeks into his recovery and is now helping lead the Leading Change program.

Todd said there is a real stigma and fear surrounding meth use, as well as a lot of skepticism that meth users will stick with their recovery, and because of that, it’s even harder for people to get the help they need.

“I understand that people want to put their money in the right place, and they’re wondering when there will be a success story,” he said. “I can tell these people first-hand that the Leading Change program is changing lives. It’s trying to fill in the gaps that others haven’t thought of and figure out what’s needed. And it’s got incredible potential.”

Todd also believes he has insight that only someone who has experienced meth addiction would understand.

“I hate to say it, but there are things you can only learn about meth from actually experiencing it, and there are so many things I wish I didn’t know,” said Todd.

Todd is continuing to use his experience and knowledge to help others who are using meth.

“I understand the hell they’re going through; I’ve been in the trenches. But I also know there’s a way out.”

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