Addictions Awareness Week: A Community of Caring

By Sonya Pittalwala and Sean Mackey-Simpkin, Wood’s Homes Addictions Specialists.


It’s National Addictions Awareness Week (November 20-26, 2022). This year’s theme, A Community of Caring, is about collaborating as a community to make meaningful changes for and help those with problematic substance use or who have a substance use disorder. 

Being in an active addiction can be lonely and isolating. Many people feel shame and guilt about their addiction, and do not feel comfortable or safe to reach out for help. By creating professional and personal support in a holistic way, it is possible for those who struggle with addictions to feel safe enough to be unapologetically honest and open about what they need and how they feel. 

It can also be just as challenging for loved ones of those who have an active addiction to know how to support. One of the most effective ways to support someone you love who is struggling with addiction is to firstly, listen. Allowing the person to tell you how they are feeling about their addiction is a great way to build trust and show that you are in their corner. 

Secondly, attaching value statements to the person’s recovery, sobriety or lack thereof is often unhelpful. Attaching value statements to the person’s actions can result in further isolation, loneliness and anxiety, which can result in continuation or increase of use. Unhelpful value statements include; “I am disappointed that you failed again” and “Why would you make such a stupid choice”. Instead, try statements like, “Thank you for telling me, let’s try again” or “It’s okay, we can always start again”. 

One question that frequently gets asked is how one can prevent addiction issues from happening in the first place. This is a tough question to answer. However, it is imperative to create an environment of support and safety in order to promote healthy coping strategies. 

Having an open conversation, with lack of judgement and value statements, is key to having your loved one know that you are a consistent modem of support which MAY mitigate use. Additionally, curiosity is not a bad thing! If your loved ones have questions about any substance, having a conversation about their curiosity is going to be crucial. 

If your loved one develops an addiction or returns to use, there are definitely ways in which they can find help. Being familiar with immediate help in your area and community is a great way to begin or continue on the road to treatment for yourself or for your loved one! 

In Calgary, there are a variety of immediate supports that are available for one-on-one counselling, as well as treatment and detox centers: 

Inglewood Opportunity Hub (IOH): IOH offers a variety of services including meeting of basic needs, employment, education and addictions counselling. Phone: 403-510-7468 

Eastside Community Mental Health Services (ECMHS): ECMHS offers immediate, no-cost, mental health support from an integrated, ethnocultural team. It’s a place you can rely on when you have troubles at home or need someone to talk to. Phone: 403-299-9699 

Aventa Center of Excellence for Women: Aventa is an addictions treatment center for women with a variety of programs from short detox to longer 3 month treatment. Phone: 403-245-9050 

Simon House: Simon House is an addictions treatment center for men with a variety of programs from short detox to longer treatment. Phone: 403-247-2050 

In short, be kind, be open, and create safety and choice. It takes an active and involved community to keep each other safe.