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One in five Canadians, or more than 6 million people, will face problems with addiction at some point in their lives. These aren't just numbers; we can observe these challenges in people we see every day — perhaps someone's dad, sister, wife, or son.
Our first reaction may be one of discomfort when we see them. But there's more to their messy appearance than meets the eye. Often, they have a sad story that brought them to where they are.
This National Addictions Awareness Week (NAAW) let's deepen our understanding of the complexities of addiction and explore how we can truly make a difference for those facing struggles.
Understanding Addiction and Dispelling Judgments
Addiction is not a lifestyle choice, but a disease. It often comes from life’s struggles like losing loved ones, family conflicts, domestic violence, job loss, or homelessness.
When we're in pain, what do we naturally do? We try to find a quick way to ease the pain and feel better.
An important point to note: Our brains react the same way whether we're eating chocolates, drinking alcohol, or using cannabis to find relief. Recent studies from Harvard Health show that some people are more likely to get addicted, no matter what the addiction is. So, if you eat a lot when you're stressed, you express the same addiction pattern as someone using drugs.
Recognizing these similarities may help us realize that nobody is immune to addictions, so it's time to put an end to judging. That was the idea behind the theme 'Change Begins with Me, Stigma Ends with Me', led by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction a few years ago.
Building Supportive Communities for People with Addictions
Addiction doesn’t start as you may think. It starts with one choice at a time, one day at a time, and with those choices something quickly builds up. Think again: just one wrong choice can derail the whole life.
When people new to addiction realize they’ve made a mistake, who do they ask for help? Usually, they turn to a group going through similar struggles. This group is usually friendly, understanding, and might even share a dose for quick relief. But here's the thing we all know: this support doesn't lead to a good outcome.
If we want to truly care about those going through tough times, our mission is to encourage them to reach out to a genuinely caring community when things get tough. We need to make them feel like they're not alone, that they matter to us, and that we want to help them get better. We're not here to judge; we're here as friends, ready to build a trusting relationship and help them every step of the way to recovery, no matter how hard the path.
That's what NAAW in 2022 was all about — surrounding people with addictions with a real Community of Caring.
Actions for National Addictions Awareness Week in 2023
Every year the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) prompts important conversations in its campaigns, providing an opportunity for everyone to learn, reflect, and take action.
The theme in 2023 around Inspiration, Innovation, and Inclusion, continues this tradition. CCSA is sharing valuable resources that cover substance use costs, safeguarding kids from cannabis poisoning, enhancing treatment for young people using opioids, and supporting professionals in the substance use health field.
Wondering how you can actively engage in this Nov 19 – Nov 25 National Addictions Awareness Week? Here is a list of activities you can participate in to support someone dealing with substance abuse or mental health challenges:
- Allocate Resources: Consider contributing time, money, or volunteering to addiction support initiatives. Your involvement not only aids those in need but also helps break down societal stigmas.
- Educate Yourself: Address biases and rethink language by immersing yourself in educational programs that provide a comprehensive understanding of addiction, fostering empathy and reducing judgment.
- Take Part in Volunteer Opportunities: Explore volunteer opportunities within addiction support organizations. This hands-on involvement allows you to make a tangible impact, fostering a deeper understanding of the challenges high-risk populations face.
- Spread Awareness: Use social media platforms to spread messages of support, utilizing hashtags like #NAAW2023 and #InspirationInnovationInclusion. By sharing information, you contribute to reducing stigma and promoting a more compassionate and informed society.
If participating in NAAW activities feels fulfilling, consider taking your desire to help a step further. A career in addictions and mental health might be your calling. Many who have experienced addiction challenges, either personally or with someone close, find purpose in roles like addictions worker, youth care worker, or community outreach advocate - contributing meaningfully to the addiction and community health field.
Sundance College Addictions and Community Health Professional (ACHP) instructor Serena N. highlights the common thread among our ACHP students, saying:
“We hear the story so many times from our students who have been touched or seen firsthand people navigating the system, whether it's detox or rehab, people in active use. A lot of our students are in an act of sobriety, wanting to give back because they've been there; they know what it's like. It's affected their brothers, uncles, sisters, or aunts firsthand. They want to learn about what drives them, the family dynamics, and then give back and work in this field.”
Before stepping into counseling practices, however, you need to equip yourself with proper mental health and substance abuse education. Choosing the right Addictions and Community Health Professional program is key to success. If you enter the field misinformed and unprepared, there is a risk of making inappropriate practices that can harm the client – a result opposite to your genuine intentions.
Spotlight on the Addictions & Community Health Professional Program
If you’re interested in starting a career in addictions counseling, you should know it requires personal readiness and specific traits. Here is what you can expect while enrolling in our Addictions & Community Health Professional (ACHP) program:
1. Personal Readiness: Preparing for Your Journey
The program might bring up personal challenges, like family issues. Before starting classes, we ensure students are personally ready. Serena, our ACHP instructor, explains:
“We tell our students that many of them have been in sobriety for years. We do have clarification and criteria for how long they have to be sober before they go into this program. And we tell students right off the bat that we want to make sure that they have a support network, self-help or support groups, sponsor programs – that they have all these things in place because we know when they're going through this program, they're going to be triggered.”
2. Program Highlights: Learning About Yourself and Others
The ACHP program isn't just about theory. It's your journey to self-discovery. Key highlights include:
- Family Dynamics: Family dynamics exploration will allow you to apply insights to your own life, fostering a deeper understanding of personal relationships.
- Psychology: Exploring psychology will help you better understand the intricacies of the human condition, biological factors, and learning behaviors.
- High-Risk Populations: Understanding high-risk populations will shed light on the shame and stigma they face, particularly the challenges faced by indigenous communities.
- Ethics in Addiction Counseling: This course will teach you about the ethical aspects of counseling, emphasizing maintaining high standards and dealing with personal and witnessed traumas.
Serena, one of our ACHP instructor, also emphasizes hands-on practices of the program:
“Usually, we provide students with a case study or an example of a discussion question, and then ask the students to respond, ‘How would you deal with a client in this type of situation?’, or ‘How would you go about dealing with this crisis?’. Together, we unpack some of the choices that students make, whether it's right or wrong, and what’s the why behind it, so they can move forward and go into the field knowing how to navigate that.”
3. Tips for Success in Addictions Counseling Program from Our Instructor
Spanning 44 weeks (about 10 months) with a 7-week practicum, Sundance College's ACHP program advantages include equipping you with knowledge, skills, and self-awareness essential for making a lasting impact in the addiction counseling field.
To help you successfully earn a diploma in Addictions and Community Health at Sundance College, Serena shares some practical advice:
"To succeed in this program and the field, be ready for challenging conversations. Develop strong time management skills, effective communication, and prioritize self-care. Regularly check in with instructors, think critically, and create a study routine, like mornings and nights, for better information retention during sleep."
Be the Difference: Join Sundance College to Transform Lives
In Canada, addiction issues are real. Events like National Addictions Awareness Week strive to draw the attention of both society and the government, but more is needed.
According to our ACHP instructor Serena who had been working in the addictions and community health field for over 10 years:
“There is a toxic supply, and there is an opioid epidemic. Teens are dying at an alarming rate more than any other issue in all of Canada. We need a lot more support, funding, resources, detox beds, rehabilitation facilities, education, preventative care, and harm reduction programs.”
How can you help? With the Addictions and Community Health diploma from Sundance College, you can actively contribute to addressing this epidemic. Proper industry-specific education will allow you to launch a career in addictions counselling and provide an opportunity to be a catalyst for change, advocating for mental health reforms.
Ready to be part of this transformation? Join Sundance College, where education becomes action. Fill in our contact form, and let's talk about making a real impact together.