On June 27, our team had the opportunity to take part in the “Youth and Drug Awareness for Summer Harm Reduction Event” held at the Henry Grube Centre. It was a very informative evening, providing safety tools, education and resources for anyone concerned with the fentanyl crisis that is ravaging our province. This event was open to the public, and the intent of the evening was to provide parents and youth with guidance and available supports around drug use, harm reduction, and safety. At this event, Mary was invited to speak from the perspective of grief and loss and how that impacts addiction/substance use. Below are the thoughts she shared on this topic.
“My name is Mary Widmer and I have a private Social Work practice that specializes in trauma therapy and grief & loss counselling. Sadly, I am the person that people see after someone in their life has died of an overdose.
Several years ago, when I first began practicing as a social worker, I had the opportunity to be taught the basics of fire extinguishing. Something the Fire Marshall who taught us said, has stuck with me. He said that the greatest risk to people is to think that a fire can never happen to them. I think that the same could be said in relation to drug consumption. You, or the people you love, are at your highest risk if you believe that an overdose could never happen to you. That belief numbs you to the possibility that the person you have bought from might not be as trustworthy as you believed, or that they might have unknowingly picked up a bad batch. I don’t know all the most recent statistics, but I do know that in April this year 19 people thought that this could never happen to them. But it did. And they died. I have had to officiate at too many funeral services in the past year for people who thought it couldn’t happen to them. And I’ve had to try to comfort parents, partners, and friends of people who had no intention of ending their lives. But they did because they believed that they were safe. So to be truly honest with you today, I hope none of you here ever have to seek out my help for that reason.
Having said that, as a trauma therapist I have learned that grief and loss is one of the contributing factors in addictions of all kinds. The pain of loss is intense and we live in a world that encourages us to numb pain often as a preference to finding out how to deal with the cause. So while I would not like to see you because you have lost a loved one to an overdose, I would like to see you if you want to choose counselling as a way of dealing with whatever loss you’ve experienced rather than choosing to numb the pain. And I am not speaking exclusively about loss due to death. People who are abused, bullied, abandoned, ridiculed or any number of other hurtful experiences suffer grief. They grieve the loss of relationships, of their innocence, of their identity or their sense of worth. All of those losses are painful and can lead you to be tempted to numb out or avoid or dissociate from the pain. Seeking help is not shameful, it takes courage and strength. Kamloops has good resources to help you deal with your emotional pain and keep yourself safe.
My practice is called C&C Resources for Life. And if you feel like I’m too old to understand the pain of your generation, I am glad to introduce my colleagues to you – Tennille Phipps, who has over 10 years of experience in addictions counselling; Shane Wiebe, who is a Life Coach and would be excited to support you as you seek out a new path for your life; and Sarah Widmer who specializes in grief and loss counselling both for individuals and in groups.”
If you have any questions regarding substance use, addiction, or how grief and loss can affect these issues, please feel free to contact us.
Thank you to the attendees that came out and participated in this evening. We can help keep each other safe by being proactive and continuing to raise awareness and support these events within our community.