“Honestly, when I got to the Dave Smith Centre, I felt so much weight fall off of me – it was like the pressures of everything around me were gone.”
When I was a teenager, I had been having some issues around a lot of things – my family, my peers. I was also playing competitive basketball at a very high level. The other side of my life, when I wasn’t playing, was getting involved in substance use and other unhealthy behaviours and interactions with people.
I switched schools to try and solve the problem on my own, but ended up just going back to it. I started using multiple substances on a daily basis. In hindsight, after reflecting on it for more than a decade, I think I was feeling a lot of pressure. My brothers were both competitive athletes. One brother went to Med school. My parents were amazing, but in the community I grew up in and in my family, there was definitely a need to achieve and I felt like a bit of an imposter. I didn’t know who I was yet.
I was also curious about things. I grew up in suburbia, but I would often take the bus downtown just to see what was going on. I wanted to branch out. But I ended up going in an unhealthy direction and didn’t have the tools to manage it. I started following my peers and just doing what they were doing. After experimenting with substances, they became a crutch for me. I’ve struggled with anxiety since I was very young, and when I wasn’t intensely playing basketball and I needed to feel calm, substances became a quick and easy fix.
My story is unique because my two best friends and I ended up being referred to Dave Smith around the same time. I ended up telling my parents my substance use was getting out of hand. I think they thought I was just smoking weed, partying and drinking, which was pretty typical at my high school, especially among the sports teams. That’s how we celebrated. It wasn’t really affecting my performance at first, but I don’t know how, physically, I was able to do the things I did. But I’ve had family members who were addicts, and I knew that something needed to change or it was going to end very badly. Using substances didn’t feel right, but it also felt good, so it was a huge back and forth all the time.
When one friend was referred to Dave Smith, my parents decided I should go too. We weren’t allowed to go together, but because my friend went first, I had time to sit with that. Honestly, when I got there, I felt so much weight fall off of me – it was like the pressures of everything around me were gone. I’m not saying it was all butterflies and wonderful, because there were breakdowns, wanting to leave and breaking rules and getting in trouble and stuff like that. But the Centre helped me take down all the walls I had been building up – and then I could start building myself back up into who I wanted to be.
Being at Dave Smith was an amazing experience that taught me so much self-awareness. It made me aware of things about myself that I didn’t know, like what my triggers were. I also learned that it was OK to ask for help and that I didn’t have to handle everything on my own. Dave Smith taught me resiliency and gave me a sense of independence, and with every win in treatment, my self-esteem improved. It also allowed me to be kid again in a safe space.
The staff were also unbelievable. Now that I’m working in the field I look back and I can’t believe they were able to give so much at work when they had their own lives to live too. They also inspired me. Because of my own experience, I had a strong desire to help others, so I completed the Child and Youth Worker program at Algonquin College, and now work in municipal social services.
If I hadn’t had that experience at the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre when I was younger, I honestly don’t know where I would be. When I close my eyes and meditate, sometimes one of the pictures I meditate on is a spot in Dave Smith because I remember sitting there and feeling completely at peace when I was a kid. It is so meaningful for me. I am so grateful to Dave Smith, and everyone who works there.
Haley is a graduate of the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre.
There’s been a lot of progress made on the new build!
112 Willowlea Road,
Carp, Ontario K0A 1L0
Charitable Registration # 88992 6242 RR0001