Hendrika Vantriet knows firsthand what it’s like to have an addiction.
While today she lives a clean and sober life, it wasn’t that way a few years back.
“I was in a relationship that wasn’t going so well. I was totally pushed in a corner and I couldn’t get out. I started to make my life more bearable by drinking,” she says. “That worked for a while. All I cared about was laying on the couch with a bottle beside me.”
One day, with her health deteriorating quickly, Vantriet realized the shape she was in.
“I thought, ‘If I keep this up, I’m going to be dead in three weeks,’” she recalls.
Through detox, stabilization and recovery, Vantriet overcame her substance abuse issues. She’s been sober for two-and-a-half years now.
It was in detox when she was introduced to LifeRing, a support group for people with drug or alcohol addictions.
Unlike the most well known addiction support programs, Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous, LifeRing is a secular organization and doesn’t use a fixed, 12-step structure to overcome addictions.
“The support comes from the group itself. When a meeting starts we check in, and the question is always, ‘How was your week?’” Vantriet says. “We talk about the challenges and the upcoming week, and the conversation goes around what people are struggling from.”
The members of the support group, which is usually about a dozen people in size, discuss each other’s struggles, and offer advice and support to one another.
“It’s very positive. And it’s a comfortable setting,” she says.
Tim Stockwell, director of the Centre for Addictions Research of B.C. at the University of Victoria, says both mutual support groups, like LifeRing, and rigid support programs, like AA or NA, can be beneficial to different people in different ways.
“While AA is perhaps the most successful self-help organization in history … a new addition like LifeRing broadens peoples choices. I recommend people wishing to get support for combating (addiction) consider both organizations and find out which suits them best,” he said.
Dan Reist, also with CARBC, says the recovery process, with or without a support program, requires the individual with an addiction to take responsibility for their life.
“”When the group sets itself up as the authority and seeks to impose a solution on the individual, it risks harming more than it helps,” he says.
LifeRing meetings begin tomorrow (Sept. 6) in Sidney. They will be held once a week, on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., at St. Elizabeth’s Church.
Vantriet will facilitate the Sidney meetings, having previously run meetings in Victoria.
“All (the facilitators) have been through something similar. We all know what addiction is, we have all experienced the cravings and the dreams, so we can talk from our own experiences, and what helped us,” she says.
Vantriet’s message to anyone struggling with an addiction is that first call for help, though difficult, is the most rewarding thing you can do for yourself.
“I learned that I was way stronger than I thought I was. You learn to take care of yourself, and put yourself first, and heal yourself first. You can feel yourself growing stronger, and enjoying life,” she says. “I now live a peaceful existence.”
For more information, visit LifeRingCanada.org.