A Brandon man who battled a serious methamphetamine addiction now hopes to use his story to help others who want to seek treatment.
Tyler Lalonde, 23, lived with addiction for more than four years. After several attempts at seeking help over the last few years, he has now been in recovery for almost a year.
“It’s all in the past,” he said. “We all make mistakes in what you choose to do. If you want to learn from that mistake or not, that is what really matters.”
But the road to sobriety wasn’t easy. Lalonde first sought treatment out of province — moving into a residential treatment facility in British Columbia in summer of 2019. Last September, he moved back to Manitoba to be closer to home after securing a spot at Morberg House in Winnipeg.
He came home to Brandon in mid-March after completing treatment.
Breaking the cycle
“It was fantastic,” said Lalonde. “You meet a lot of the good people there and the staff are really, really friendly and a good program.”
Lalonde said he knew he had to break the cycle of addiction after seeing other users and people he knew on the streets of Brandon getting arrested and jailed for various crimes.
“It just sucks everything right out of you,” he added. “And for most people, when they end up in jail, they spit right back out into the street and there’s no resources to help you get out. And they just go back into the problem even harder.”
He was motivated to get help after he was arrested last year for break and enter. Lalonde was sentenced to house arrest and promised to seek treatment for his addiction.
“I finally was sober long enough to have a clear mind,” Lalonde said. “I could think straight and realize, like, what am I doing with my life? I really need to get out of this. And just from there, it just worked out.”
‘Our services suck’
Lalonde’s mother, Danielle, has been advocating for increased addiction services and detox beds in the Brandon area — and all of Manitoba — for years as well.
In 2017, she founded a support group, Westman Families of Addicts, hoping to share concerns and ideas with other families and helping them navigate the patchwork quilt of resources available to them.
Within six months, 100 families had joined her plight. Now, she said that number has increased to 350.
“Our services suck,” Danielle said. “I mean, there’s really not much else that you can say.”
“We struggled, struggled, struggled — I know I don’t take credit for Tyler’s recovery at all, but I do know that he probably wouldn’t have ended up where he was had I not advocated on the outside for him to get into a program knowing that that’s what he wanted,” said Danielle.
“He likely would have been sucked up by the system and spit right back out.”
Danielle said she wants to see better cooperation between government, public health and treatment facilities and resources themselves to make people more aware of their options and to make them more accessible to those who need them, when they are ready.
And she said families should not lose hope.
“You don’t have to support the decisions that your loved one might be making, but you still should be in the background hoping and providing support once they are ready and reaching out,” she said.
Her group has compiled a list of available resources they are aware of.
“The need for accessible treatment kind of encompasses absolutely everything,” Danielle said. “I really want to get the message across that this isn’t just affecting some people. It’s affecting every person.”
Tyler is now working as a support worker at the Withdrawal Support Services centre in Brandon — which helps people detox before treatment. He said it’s his way of giving back to the community.
“I lived that life once,” he said. “I want to give back to the community that I once harmed and I find a lot of self help comes from helping others.
“Whenever I see my friends trying to go get help … I’m just real happy for them,” Lalonde said, adding that he doesn’t speak much with people he used drugs with in the past.
“If they want to reach out and talk to somebody, I’ll gladly be there for them.”
Lalonde said he plans to start college in December to eventually work toward a career in addictions counselling.
“You’ve got to change your thoughts because when you can’t change your thoughts, you can’t change your actions,” he said. “And that’s what we’re addicted to, is our thoughts. And once you can get those thoughts out of your head, and I found was easy to get past the drugs.”
Both said they hope Tyler’s recovery inspires other families and gives them hope that recovery is possible.
“For the first time in a really long time, there’s not really, short of COVID of course, any significant stress in our life,” said Danielle. “You know, our family has come together like never before. Just enjoying our time together.”
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