In recent years the number of families losing loved ones to overdosing has grown exponentially. According to the Saskatchewan Coroners Service found on the website www.saskoverdose.ca, Saskatchewan is experiencing a crisis.
In 2017, Saskatchewan had well over a hundred overdoses and by 2020 there was a 182% jump with 336 people succumbing to overdose. While the tragedy of overdose is affecting more and more Saskatchewan families, the stigma surrounding addiction is prevalent, leaving many feeling ashamed which ultimately prevents them from seeking support.
In late 2022, a group of Weyburn women who have either lost a loved one to addiction or currently have a loved one in addiction, joined forces to create a new support group. Denise Kennedy and Janelle Kincaid are two of the women who are spearheading the new group, Community in Action Against Addiction. They shared with us why they found it necessary to create these community connections.
“We don't want anybody to go through what we've gone through. We want to get education out there, we want to help end stigma,” said Kincaid.
“To let people know that there is no shame. I mean it. It is a disease, you know, it affects the entire family, even extended family. So, you're not alone. We've been there, we went through the same things,” shared Kennedy.
To help end the stigma, the women share their experiences. For Kincaid her experience was with her husband, who she tragically lost to addiction.
“It was a roller coaster for me. Damon started working for Souris Valley back in 2001. When we moved here shortly after starting, there was an injury moving a patient. He finally got surgery in 2016. His addiction started in about 2004. 2011 he went for rehab and was clean for four years until he went for his back surgery,” shared Kincaid.
Kennedy’s experience is in regard to her daughter, the root of the trauma has only recently been revealed.
“There was a traumatic experience for her when she was young and it really affected her, and that is the reason why she is using, to try to block that trauma. But now, now that she's revealed it, she can talk about it, she can get it out, off her shoulders, and hopefully, it'll help her with her addiction,” said Kennedy.
Often the instinct surrounding addiction is to keep quiet and not to talk about it, and to keep it hidden in the shadows, but as the old saying goes, shining a light on the problem through communication, is how you begin to defeat the obstacle.
“The more we talk about it, the more it's outed and if you talk about something, it actually helps you to know people. Their families would become more aware, more informed, and more educated on the issue. And they could learn how to help their addict versus hinder,” explained Kennedy.
Kincaid shared, “Making sure that your addict knows that they're loved, that they're not just another junkie, nobody wakes up and wants to be an addict, right? Addiction is born from some sort of mental trauma, physical trauma, childhood trauma, right, it all bases on that. Could be a physical injury, like in Damon's case, it was a physical injury that brought it on, the physical pain, getting addicted to the pain meds and stuff. And just getting more awareness, and to let folks know that they are not alone is our number one focus”
To help prevent overdoses, both Kennedy and Kincaid provide FREE naloxone kits; however, they both stressed they are willing to provide greater support.
“You can contact me at (306)861-9800, 24 hours a day, if you just need to talk, I'm there for that. You can contact me on Facebook, any way that you'd like to contact me, I'm fine with,” shared Kennedy.
“You can reach me at 891-9263 and on Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, whatever form of communication they want, we can also be reached through Community in Action our Facebook page. So if somebody needs information, I have some files built up with that information. We're ready so that I can e-mail them. Back, you know, this is where you can go to detox. This is where you can get help and stuff like that,” said Kincaid.
Both Kincaid and Kennedy want to stress a very important point.
“Don't be ashamed. We've all become a society that's you know, we're proud, we're boastful, but when we're hurting is when we become reclusive and ashamed. We don't talk and talking is huge. It's huge. You need to, you know, share your story, right? And that's what we're here for. We'll share our stories. Listen to, we'll give advice, we'll just be the shoulder that you need to cry on,” said Kincaid.
The next Community in Action Against Addiction meeting is at 7 pm, Wednesday, March 15 at the Weyburn Public Library. Those who are not able to attend the meeting can join through a Zoom conference call, ID: 89631106311 and the passcode is: CIAAD23. To follow the group on its Facebook page you can go here.