Village of Hope Stories – Xavier


“I really hope people know that the praise I have to give is genuine and it’s one of the places that I will constantly look back on to tell people about and share my experience with anybody that is not only struggling, but is curious. That place changed my life. I can’t even put into words how meaningful it is to me.”

The main reason I ended up going happened when I was 16 right after COVID shut down all the schools. For a while since middle school I had been on and off experimenting with this and that and the environment and circle I was around was not the most beneficial. But eventually as high school went on I started to develop a lot more mental health issues. I was diagnosed with ADHD at the Centre, but I always knew it was a problem from the beginning since I was a little kid, but I was never medicated. Being unmedicated led to a lot of different things including having no motivation, different personal issues, and I dealt with a lot of anxiety and depression for a while.

I found my release or coping mechanism and escape from whatever was going on personally at school or at home through using a variety of anything I could get my hands on. And that developed into a pretty extreme addiction. I didn’t realize how dangerous using a combination of drugs was at the time. That can stop your heart flat out. The reason I didn’t realize it was so dangerous was because in my mind it just fixed everything for me. I didn’t realize that it just puts it off and puts it off, but it doesn’t fix anything, it just delays it. Once I started to get into harder drugs, I was surrounding myself with a lot more people that didnt do anything to drift me away from that. The people that were around me that were there from the beginning were telling me ‘you need to stop, this is getting into a problem here.’ But there was a denial factor too so I had no idea what I was doing. To me, it just solved anything that was going on with my mental health at the time. Because of that it made it harder and harder for me to hide what I was doing. Eventually it took over my life as a whole. Anything I could possibly think of was getting my next fix. It was the only thing I thought of.

I also wasn’t having a lot of connection between me and my parents at the time. I was 16 in the 10th grade. Once I started becoming more careless and only focusing on using, it drove that further apart. Some fights here and there, leaving the house, and a lot of family drama. Eventually it got to the point where I had to come clean. I did some things that I’m not proud of that I know I should not have done. So I came clean about it and told them this is what is going on. I’m using every single day, using too much, and I’m surprised I haven’t OD’d countless times. They were accepting and supporting of that but I didn’t go for help right away, since we didn’t really have experience going to professionals to get therapy or counseling. We thought we would work it out and fix it and get better and heal, it’s just a bump in the road. That’s how we approached it at first. I guess it was kind of ignorant of us to just assume it would be fine because then COVID hit and I was just sitting at home and I had a pretty bad relapse.

My parents noticed those warning signs of getting back into use. The agitation, I was always upset and angry, and I was always going out for long periods of time. They noticed those warning signs really early, which I was upset about at first because I was still in denial, but now I am very grateful that they did. They confronted me about it and I had to come clean again. I ended up getting to the point where I was so upset, not even just with myself for slipping, but also the way my life had turned out. Because there was a really big switch between who I was as a child and who I was as a teenager. I ended up getting to the point where I asked them to send me somewhere. Because nothing is going to change if I keep doing this cycle. That upset them to see me get to that point where I didn’t care where I was going and who I was and what was to come. They were sad that that is what it had come to.

We ended up driving to CHEO and we spoke to one of the nurses there who looped in the mental health workers in the unit to help me. It just so happened that the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre (DSYTC) was just reopening their availability for beds after COVID and luckily they were doing intakes. They had just reopened the waitless and it couldn’t have been a better coincidence for me to have a crisis at that point. My parents had heard about it before, but when it’s an inpatient treatment facility it can be scary to look into it. There is a stigma to it. We ended up deciding to just fill in the forms right away to see where it went and I was super hopeful for it. I knew if I could get into in-patient treatment then it would help. I could also have a break from being around the negative influences I was surrounding myself with. Luckily it was a lot more than that.

I genuinely don’t know if i would be alive if I didn’t go there to put it into perspective. Within 2-3 days I was contacted by the centre to start the intake screening to get me admitted onto the waitlist. Then within 2 weeks I was packed and ready to go. I told all my friends and family this is what I had to do and I’ll be back in three months. I had tried to do it on my own, but I needed to go somewhere where I had people around me that were in a similar situation and people to support me both emotionally, mentally and professionally. I can’t do anything else on my own. I went and did 70 days (at the time 45 days was completion and anything else was extra. It is now 90). I think being in the house changed who I was in a better way.

I consider myself lucky to have even gotten in. I think it was by chance that it happened to be at a good time. I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t go. Realistically it wouldn’t have been in a place that was good or I might not even be alive.

At that point, I started to realize I had no idea what I wanted to do when I got out. What I wanted to do with school. I was barely in the 12th grade, but this was taking all my focus right now. So that shifted my focus as to who I was. I had different skills from all the groups. I was able to get credits for high school and find where I wanted to go in my last year of high school. I ended up finding that being in that environment was where I wanted to be forever. So I took my 12th grade to get as many psychology or social work based classes as I could. Did a co-op at a wellness centre because after I got out I wanted to go back even just to talk to the staff again. I loved being there. I found a second home there in a way. Being able to have people and adults around me who took the time to understand what I was upset about, even if it was the smallest thing, and to genuinely want to sit down and talk about what was going on was a really meaningful experience for me.

Finishing up grade 12, I knew where I was going and kept in touch with the different counselors to have some extra support on the side. My counselor at the time helped me find out how I could go back. I told her how that place has a special meaning to me and it’s very important to me. I want to go back but the only thing I could think of that I’m good at is this. So, what if I switch the roles and I work from the other side of the table and give the same thing that I got.

Right now I’m in my last few weeks of the Social Service Worker program at Algonquin College. I’m doing my year-long placement at Rideauwood to go back and work in the addictions and mental health field. It’s ironic because my main goal is to go back and be a staff at the Dave Smith centre. That’s my main goal and I don’t think that’s too far from coming true.

Looking back at my experience, we had people all over the province coming. I’m from Ottawa not too far from the centre, but being able to see people come from all over the province just to come to this place is an incredible thing for me to see. Not only does it impact so many people per year but it also is one of the only places that has that kind of program in the city as well as the province. It also allows anybody in any situation financially, social class, anything to be able to access help they need. I never had an experience there where I felt the staff didn’t know what they were doing. I never felt I was being treated like a number instead of a person. I always felt they saw me for who I am and they wanted to help. I was never just another client. I have nothing bad to say about the centre, that place changed my life. I can’t even put into words how meaningful it is to me.

I think the new Centre will also be a positive thing. In terms of impact on the community and people who will be using services at the new site, I think it is beneficial that it’s bigger, more centralized and it will allow for that intake number to go up and for more people to be able to get access in the long run. Being able to see the development of having the smaller services and having this success and being able to combine it into a bigger centre and create something on a larger scale.

I really hope people know that the praise I have to give is genuine and it’s one of the places that I will constantly look back on to tell people about and share my experience with anybody that is not only struggling, but is curious. When I was accessing services there it made me be able to have this acceptance of what issues I was facing. Everybody, including all the staff and the counselors, were very adamant about ensuring that people knew this doesn’t define them. It’s something they’ve been through, but it’s not who they are. It’s something they have. Which is one of the reasons I’m so open with everybody because I know now it’s not who I am. My addiction isn’t who I am, it’s just something that I’ve had. And that’s one of the things I really had to get into my head and a lot of the staff really helped me to realize that. They’re great there and that’s all I can say.

I hope that I can at least do something for somebody – at least one person.

Xavier is a former client of the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre.


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