Stigma Summer 2017

Page 1


The End of the Prohibition Era

How will the Legalization of Marijuana Change Canada? STIGMA MAGAZINE | 1

CONTENTS magazine

SUMMER 2017 Stigma Magazine is one of Canada’s premier magazines addressing the needs of the 1 in 5 people who experience a mental illness or substance use problem in their lifetime. Stigma presents informative and inspiring articles that show readers not just how to deal with their mental health and addiction, but how to enjoy a healthy life style. Publisher: Jay McNeil Creative Director: Marie Engel Editor: Kate Lautens Creative Design: Julia Breese Account Executive: Robert Doak

Contact: 778-746-7799 Published by:

3 6 10 14 18 21 28 32 38 42 45

From the Team at Stigma

Food for Thought Feeding our bodies real food feeds our mental health, too Find a Deeper State of Happiness through meditation, not medication

The End of the Prohibition Era How will the Legalization of Marijuana Change Canada? Healing in the Wild The Power of Wilderness Therapy

Mental Health Mythology Do we have to hit rock bottom before we can recover? Staying Sober in the Summer

A Short Illustrated History of the Opiate Crisis

I am Okay(?)

From Vices to Savasana Combating Addictions with Yoga

Stigma Stomper Sanity over Vanity



From the team at Stigma H


every part of our community. We have a regular column

of Stigma Magazine! Usually when there’s a big

from nationally acclaimed advocate Andrea ‘the Bipolar

change in aesthetic like ours the publisher or cre-

Babe’ Paquette returning for its second run, articles from

ative director would take a moment here to assure you

longtime practitioners and instructors on the power of

that the internal contents, the guts if you will, remain the

Transcendental Meditation, a six page illustrated history

same as ever. I’m not going to do this, however, because I

of the opiate crisis and apiece on how diet can influence

truly believe that Stigma is changing in all ways and at all

mental health from a trained nutritionist and small busi-

levels, in big and overwhelmingly positive ways. Our little

ness owner working in the field. The cultural shift taking

magazine began as a passion project just a couple years

place as ourgovernment pursues their campaign prom-

ago. There was just one employee, it was funded out of

ise to legalize marijuana for recreational use is exam-

his pocket, and printed just 5,000 issues a quarter to be

ined in our cover story, we will lay out the facts of what

distributed on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. This

marijuana prohibition looks like as it is now and what

issue, in all it’s glossy glory, will print 20,000 issues and

this new system will look like in the future. We here at

be distributed at sites across BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan,

Stigma believe that change is good. With issues as com-

Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick as well as

plex and everevolving as drug policy, addiction science

at any and all interested Recovery Day events being held

and social politics playing a more direct role than ever in

this September. The content will support and inform as

the day-to-day lives of Canadians we hope that Stigma

it always has, but it will push boundaries and strive to

continues to be a useful tool for our readers to turn to

stay on the cutting edge of what’s happening with men-

when they have questions, and a platform for others to

tal health and drug policy in Canada. And our staff now

reach out and share their stories and voices. Stigma has

includes our new publisher Jay McNeil who comes with

changed in many ways, but one thing remains eternal:

over 30 years experience in advertising, marketing and

we are here for our readers. We are here to give them a

publishing, our dedicated creative director Marie Engel

platform to tell their stories, a place for them to make

to seek out new perspectives and information, our won-

their voices heard and a tool for them to stay informed.

derful editor Kate Lautens, our boundlessly talented de-

We are here for you.

signer Julia Breese, our hard working account executive

Thank you,

Robert Doak and a host of voices and perspectives from

The Stigma Magazine Team



Food for Thought

Feeding our bodies real food feeds our mental health, too by Marie Engel

Reduce sugar. Eat leafy greens. Reduce caffeine. Up your B vitamins. It might just sound like a recipe for weight loss and clean living, but for Kristin Price and her clients, it’s so much more. As a certified nutritional practitioner, more commonly known as a holistic nutritionist, Price educates her clients about how what we put in our stomachs can have deep and lasting effects on the function of our brains. It’s a connection that she understands intimately. “I had an awful time,” Price says, recalling her experience in university. “I remember just sitting in my room at one point, trying to do schoolwork, but so consumed with anxiety that I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I had a really difficult time concentrating. There was a period of time that I went on antidepressants. I talked to my doctor. I looked into therapy. I stopped drinking for a long time. I kind of experimented with a few things, but I mostly just suffered.” When she first started to use food and natural supple-

mentation, Price says that she slept through the night and didn’t wake up until her alarm went off at 7 a.m. “I couldn’t tell you the amount of relief I had. Getting a full night’s sleep when you’re struggling with anxiety and mental health issues is so critical. And it just allowed me to cope that much better with the day,” she says. “I kept a food journal and I noticed I was a lot more in tune with my body. I was incorporating that into a longterm lifestyle pattern rather than just temporarily trying to treat something and then going back to normal.” While the connection between food and mental health might seem like a fancy, new-age fad diet, it’s actually an idea rooted in centuries of science and philosophy. Going back to the ancient Greeks and supported by modern science that often goes as far as calling our stomach ‘the second brain,’ there are very real and provable connections between what we eat and our mental health.


Starting out small While this body of history and science supports the idea that food and mental health are related, the practice of it can seem daunting and intimidating for the average person who may not know why antioxidants are considered important or what the difference is between vitamin B6 and B12. There seems to be an endless amount of information out there, some of it contradictory, that can make the thought of putting together a supportive diet seem onerous. Luckily, Price’s advice is pretty straightforward. “If you’re starting out, you can just put one thing in your diet—for example, adding more leafy green vegetables—and that’s your only goal for the month,” Price says. “You want to create habits. You start creating recipes that can be your go-to and once you start seeing the effects of that and the benefits, then you’re going to want to eat it more. And once it gets incorporated you can see what’s next—what else do I bring in to support me?” Price understands that food and diet can be complicated. “I think people put a lot of pressure on themselves. They take on a massive shift of changing everything and then it fails because they mess up and they think ‘oh well, it’s all for naught.’ So one of the things I work with people on is implementation—sustainable longterm approach.” Lifestyle changes are an essential part of the practice of supporting mental health through nutrition, but they aren’t the kind of thing that happens overnight. Like anything large and worthwhile, these changes start small and build up over time as people become acclimatized to the changes. Price has a lot of suggestions for people getting started on the path to supporting mental health with nutrition. She stresses the importance of eating more leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, arugula or mixed salad greens; reducing caffeine intake as much as possible; eating more omega-3–rich foods; staying properly hydrated; and maintaining healthy sleeping habits. She


says her most important piece of advice, however, is to reduce the intake of processed sugar. “Sugar is a really inflammatory substance,” she explains, “and research is increasingly looking at the relationship between mood disorders, inflammation and our gut microbiome. If we sprain our ankle, it gets red, it swells, there might be some heat to it, and that’s essentially the same thing that’s happening in our digestive tract, it’s just happening internally.” While it’s difficult to see in our bodies, she says, you may notice bloating, food intolerances or digestive upset. “Not only is sugar inflammatory, it can cause blood sugar dysregulation, increasing feelings of anxiousness, mental fog, and it can lead to that jittery and ‘hangry’ feeling. You know that your blood sugar is out of rhythm when you go from being full to starving in the course of five minutes. It really impacts your whole body.”

Expanding the nutritional learning process Price also recommends keeping a food journal. Unlike a lot of diet plans, her food journals don’t track calories, but instead focus on the kinds of food we eat and the effects we feel throughout the day. “I think that when we’re eating a really healthy, balanced diet, then there is no reason to count calories,” she says. “It’s about tracking what kinds of food you’re eating and what sort of symptoms they cause.” A food journal can help you identify foods that might have high sugar content or preservatives, bad fats, and other problematic symptoms that affect your sleep, anxiety or general wellbeing. The final piece of the puzzle and one of Price’s focuses in her nutritional counselling is food labels and nutritional tables. While all foods in Canada are required to make their nutritional information available to the public, the names, tables and percentages can seem arcane and complicated to decode. Processed sugar, caffeine and bad fats can effectively hide in your food under unfamiliar names and be difficult for the average person to avoid. For example, palm oil, an unhealthy

and unsustainable fatty oil, may be listed under one of 200-plus names in an ingredient list. Likewise, there are over 57 different names for processed sugars, and these sugars are constantly being rebranded to make them seem more innocuous. According to Price, the easiest way to avoid them is to let go of the quick and easy processed foods and focus on getting whole foods into your body instead. “My food philosophy is—I think this is Michael Pollan’s saying—eat whole foods, not too much, and mostly plants,” Price says. When she talks to clients, she says “if they want to eat meat that’s fine, if they want to be vegetarian or vegan that’s fine, but they should really focus on getting whole foods in their bodies, reduce the processed foods and take incremental steps. They don’t have to wipe out all the sugar, but just to start to notice where sugar is in the foods they regularly consume and how much sugar is in there.”


The Be You Healthy Choices Scholarship Program has been

She explains her process is very education-based: “I want to make it so my clients don’t need me anymore.” She teaches clients how to read nutritional labels so they can see how much sugar is in each product, how it can be substituted or removed, and how to make the foods themselves so that they can drastically reduce the amount of sugar that they’re getting.

designed to support

While the process of supporting mental health with nutrition is based in a somewhat complicated physical science, there are some small, easy steps any person can take to get started in their own life.

Greater Victoria

and encourage hardworking and deserving students graduating from high school in the and surrounding areas to further their education at a post-secondary institution. $1,000 scholarships will be awarded.

• Reduce sugar

• Introduce more vegetables

For further information

• Eat leafy greens at least once a day

call (778) 746-7799 or visit

• Focus on whole foods


• Reduce caffeine

• Reduce processed foods • Keep a food journal

You can visit Kristin Price’s website at http://www.

WHERE WILL YOUR CHOICES TAKE YOU? Be You Promise.Org | Suite 703 -1803 Douglas St. Victoria, BC E | P 778.746.7799 | TF 866.238.3077



Find a deeper state of happiness through meditation, not medication Maslow, known for creating a psychological hierarchy of needs, said, “What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.” Meditation provides this basic human need to experience one’s true nature—a transcendent, non-changing, absolute state of one’s own awareness. When we have that connection, we are no longer dependent on outside stimuli, like drugs and alcohol, to effect a euphoria of well-being. We become naturally content—self-satisfied, self-sufficient, and self-motivated from within ourselves. Fortunately, research backs this up. Transcendental Meditation

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ODAY, A CERTAIN BAD BOY of stand-up is one of a long line of celebrities finding a natural high without drugs and alcohol. “I was a devoted drug addict for a long while. I really, really committed to drug addiction,” said the rascally Russell Brand in a talk eight years after he gave up his addictions. Brand, the popular stand-up comedian and actor, has said publicly that his practice of a stress management technique called Transcendental Meditation (commonly called TM) helped him find a “deeper state of happiness.” TM came to the West in the 1950s from India and has millions of participants today. The simple mental technique is easy to learn and generally requires 15–20 minutes of practice twice a day. Brand explained, “I’m quite a neurotic thinker, quite an adrenalized person. But after meditation, I feel this beautiful serenity and selfless connection.” Feeling connected, it turns out, isn’t always easy for people working on rehabilitation and recovery. The longer substance use disorder continues, the more the distance between family and friends may widen, leaving the individual adrift and alone, and fuelling the possibility of anxiety and depression. For someone with an addiction, isolation from loved ones can also make it difficult to reach out for help and may precipitate a downward spiral and disconnect from society. Brand wasn’t just referring to people connections. He was also referring to a feeling of inner connectedness—a connection with his inner self and with the world around him gained from his TM practice. Psychologist Abraham Maslow called this connectedness “self-actualization”—realizing more of one’s inner potential. This experience, this connectedness, anchors a person and saves them from being caught up in the multifarious whirlwinds of addictions that can blow an individual off course and, in fact, sometimes completely sink them.

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A 1991 study published in the International Journal of the Addictions and a 1994 study published in Alcoholism Treatment found that TM reduced tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use more than either prevention programs (such as programs to counteract peer pressure and promote personal development) or standard substance use disorder treatments (including counselling, the 12-step programs, relaxation training, and pharmacological treatments).


Russell Brand - Re Birth by Matt Crockett Photography

The studies showed that the effects of the more traditional programs on total abstinence from tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs typically decreased sharply after about three months, while the effects of TM lasted longer, ranging from about 51–89 per cent effective over an 18–22 month period. In another study, published in Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly in 1995, four treatment types were examined in 108 chronic alcohol use disorder patients: TM, EMG biofeedback, neurotherapy, and regular drug counselling alone. After 18 months, 65 per cent of those randomly assigned to the TM treatment were abstinent, versus 28 per cent of neurotherapy patients. And there are no side effects, only benefits. How bad is the substance misuse problem? According to the World Health Organization, 2.25 million premature deaths around the world annually are caused by alcohol misuse. In Canada, 47,000 deaths every year are linked to substance use disorder. And local numbers are a cause for alarm: the total number of overdose deaths in British Columbia in the first four months of 2017 alone was 488. That’s an average of more than four overdose deaths every day.

THE BRAND NEW RUSSELL BRAND Brand knows he could have been one of those statistics. “Every year’s a landmark for me,” Brand said. “Every December 13, I remember waking up in my flat having been up all night on crack and heroin, missing my train and then fare-dodging and being picked up by the founder of drug and alcohol charity Focus 12, giving me a cuddle and then going into treatment. I have become a better person through Transcendental Meditation, and I want to help bring this gift to others.” One non-governmental organization in Canada is also stepping up to help people in recovery through meditation. has partnered with the Victoria Transcendental Meditation Centre to offer TM to people in recovery who have been nominated by their addictions counsellors. It’s a “brand” new possibility to add to the arsenal of recovery tools. To learn more about Transcendental Meditation, visit





WWW.BEYOUPROMISE.ORG Stigma Magazine is published by Be You Promise.Org







these laws vary depending on amount, personal history,

After the country experienced almost 10 full

intent and the discretion of the court, but can be summa-

years under the Harper administration—which

rized as such:

vehemently supported a prohibition-based drug policy

• There is a maximum prison sentence of five years

and included a prime minister who once said that mar-

attached to possession for amounts over 30 grams

ijuana was “infinitely worse” than tobacco—it seemed

of cannabis or 1 gram of resin in the case of indicta-

almost impossible to consider that such a revolutionary

ble offenses, and a fine of up to $1,000 and/or a six-

change would come to our country so quickly, but Jus-

month prison term for the first offense in the case of

tin Trudeau made it a cornerstone of his campaign. This

a summary conviction offense, with the punishment

spring, Canadians got the news that as early as 2018, we

increasing to a maximum of $2,000 and/or up to a

might see legal marijuana being sold in licensed stores

year in prison for each subsequent offense.

across the country.

• For amounts less than 30 grams of cannabis/1 gram

It seems like such a dramatic step and so far outside

of resin, a $1,000 fine and/or a maximum of six

what our prevailing national attitude has been towards

months in prison is the only punishment.

drugs that it is only natural that there would be conflict-

• In the case of trafficking or possession with intent,

ing opinions and a vague understanding of what legal-

there is a maximum sentence of up to five years. In

ization will mean. The move has been celebrated and

the case of export or possession with intent, there is

condemned, hailed as a landmark decision for individu-

a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. In the

al rights and progressive drug policy, and called a liberal

case of production, there is a maximum sentence of

pipe dream that will flood the country with easily acces-

seven years in prison.

sible drugs. The truth—as is so often the case—is probably

These laws are formulated under what is called a pro-

somewhere in between and plagued by misinformation from both sides of the issue.

hibition-based system, seeking to discourage drug use

Stigma magazine has spent hours combing through

through illegality and the application of harsh penalties.

statistics, media reports, government policy proposals,

The question must be asked: how effective have these pol-

scientific studies and misinformation to assemble what

icies been in discouraging the use of marijuana among

we believe to be an accurate portrait of the current

Canadian citizens?

state of marijuana in Canada, and how that will change

The simple truth is that prohibition is a failed policy for

when legalization comes into full effect. There are and

addressing marijuana use in Canada. The most recent

likely always will be people who oppose the legaliza-

reliable data on national mar-

tion of any drug for moral or personal reasons, and this

ijuana use comes from 2012

article does not intend to challenge these points, but

and reported that almost

instead to help our readers shed misinformation and

half of all Canadians (44

gain a clear understanding of the issue and how it will

per cent) had used mar-

affect them, their families, and all citizens of our nation.

ijuana at least once in their lives, and fully one

THE CURRENT STATE Under current laws, marijuana is classified as a Schedule II Drug, a group that is otherwise composed almost entirely of cough syrups and painkillers containing codeine. It is strictly illegal to possess, sell, grow, process, import and export marijuana and its various derivatives in Canada under current laws. The consequences of breaking

third (33.3 per cent) reported having used it repeatedly throughout their lives. If the intent of a


drug policy is to discourage the widespread use of


marijuana, it is clear that it has not succeeded, and the

olescence—before the brain is finished developing—and

cost of this unsuccessful policy has been astronomical in

when the dosage of active chemicals is high. While there is

both the financial sense and in the legal pressure it puts

some debate on exactly how much marijuana use is sole-

on citizens that choose to use marijuana.

ly responsible for these observed negative consequences

In 2013 alone, the cost of marijuana prohibition was

and how much can be attributed to environment, genet-

estimated at $500 million for enforcement alone—that

ics and family situation, there is substantial evidence that

comprises funds spent on police, lab work, court dates

supports the idea that young people should not use mar-

and attorneys. It leaves out the considerable cost of hous-

ijuana before their brain finishes developing.

ing citizens who received prison sentences related to

That said, Canadian teens have the highest rate of mar-

marijuana, and the significant cost to individuals and so-

ijuana use in the developed world. In 2014 the rate of

ciety associated with severely lowered employment and

marijuana use among Canadian teens was 28 per cent,

earning opportunities resulting from criminal records.

and between five and 10 per cent were using daily. Once

This massive expenditure was centred on 75,000 Cana-

again, prohibition has failed to control or discourage the

dians who were arrested and tried for marijuana-related

use of marijuana.

crimes in that same year. Of that 75,000, almost 59,000 were convicted for possession for personal use.

The Trudeau government has made this pervasive marijuana use among young people a central issue in their

While marijuana has some associated health risks and,

campaign. There are two major facets of its campaign in-

contrary to many claims by advocates for legalization,

tended to address use of marijuana by Canadian youth.

some risks of addiction, it is no more dangerous or addic-

One is the continued criminalization of persons who sell

tive than substances like tobacco and alcohol, which are

marijuana to youth or purchase it on behalf of youth. The

legal to possess and use in Canada. In fact, the only group

second has to do with the way marijuana will be regu-

most people would consider to be at a level of consider-

lated, standardized and packaged once it becomes legal.

able risk for long-term harm from marijuana use in Canada is youth, which in this instance means those under the age of 25. The developing brain is complicated and more vulnerable to long-term harm from chemical interferences. Marijuana use affects multiple areas of the brain, including the hippocampus (responsible for learning and memory), the cerebellum (responsible for balance and coordination), and the frontal cortex (responsible for decision making). It has been observed having negative effects on each of them when used extensively. The negative



been shown to be exacerbated when that excessive use begins in ad-


HOW ARE THINGS CHANGING Legalization could be said to have three major facets: taxation, regulation and standardization. These three facets will address the symptoms of the failing system of prohibition. Taxation of legal marijuana is intended to address the enormous costs associated with criminalization. The $500 million enforcement price tag doesn’t evaporate, as unregulated growing, processing, import, export and sale of marijuana will remain criminal and will need to be investigated by law enforcement and tried in court. Selling or providing marijuana to minors will also remain a criminal offense, as will driving while intoxicated. The drafting and passing of laws, establishing a system to monitor legal stores, and checking that standardized doses are being followed will all suck up time and money when they are brought in. However, on the other side of this equation is the income generated from taxable marijuana. It is difficult to estimate how much money Canada will make from taxing legal marijuana, but figures from

Colorado’s marijuana legalization placed sales at a billion

The second benefit of testing and standardizing mar-

dollars in 2015 and tax revenue at $139 million. Marijuana

ijuana is screening for contaminants and ending the

will not save the economy, as some over-enthusiastic pro-

practice employed by some illegal dealers of lacing mar-

ponents might suggest, but it certainly makes more sense

ijuana with other drugs or substances even more harm-

for the sale of marijuana to contribute funds that could

ful. While debates on the prevalence of this technique

be used to support things like health care, education and

rage on, there have been reported instances of marijuana

addiction recovery than the current system does, where

laced with drugs like cocaine, LSD, heroin, crystal meth,

marijuana is a constant drain on government funds and

PCP and MDMA for a variety of reasons, from making a

contributes to unemployment and low earnings for those

weak batch stronger to a deliberate effort to make the

convicted for simple possession.

experience “more pleasurable” for the user. Marijuana

Regulation is a major facet of the legalization process,

has also been contaminated with substances like broken

and its importance cannot be undervalued. In a prohibi-

glass and powdered laundry detergent to make cheap

tion-based system it is impossible to regulate marijuana,

marijuana appear more powerful, and additives like die-

as the way marijuana is grown, processed, packaged and

sel fuel, perfume, food colouring and mouldy cheese to

sold is irrelevant to its legal status. If it’s just as illegal to

change the smell or appearance to resemble “famous”

grow marijuana with harsh chemical pesticides and keep

strains. Under a legal regulation system with standard-

it in damp, dark places where it grows harmful funguses,

ized testing, these issues, however rare or common they

then there is no incentive for illegal dealers to produce

may be, cease to be a concern.

high-quality material for the people consuming it. In a

While there may be many moral and personal reasons

regulated system, the use of chemicals, storage of prod-

for opposing marijuana legalization, and enthusiastic

uct and processing are all overseen and subject to strict

proponents have oversold many of the benefits while


simultaneously overlooking some of the risks, legaliza-

The government plan for marijuana regulation will also

tion is happening in Canada. The majority of our citizens

require health warnings to be displayed on the packag-

support it and the facts support them. Criminalization is

ing. The instinct of many critics is to dismiss this measure

costly and dehumanizing, and it doesn’t protect citizens

as one that will be ultimately useless. After all, many have

from the harms associated with illegal marijuana or dis-

said, we already print statistics about cancer on cigarettes

courage its use. In the end, it should be the goal of any

and warnings about drunk driving on alcohol, but people

educated, democratic society to make laws that govern

have not stopped smoking or driving while intoxicated.

fairly and are based on supported evidence and science

This is untrue. While smoking has not vanished entirely

rather than personal bias. The use of marijuana will always

and some people still choose to drive while intoxicated,

have risks, but it seems to be a much

the instances of both have reduced dramatically over the

more common-sense approach

past decade alone, particularly for youth. While health

to mitigate those risks to

warnings might not stamp out these high-risk behaviours

the best of our ability

entirely, it has contributed to their decline.

and discourage people

Standardization is the final piece of the legalization

from taking those risks

strategy we will touch on here. There are two major ben-

by empowering them

efits to testing marijuana and standardizing the dose.

with knowledge

One is that people will be better equipped to monitor

and education.

their intake and consume marijuana responsibly, a nearly


impossible undertaking when street marijuana can vary

say prohibition has

from 10 to 30 per cent THC content depending on the

failed to do this. It’s

strain, processing and mode of consumption such as oil

time for something dif-

and extracts.




healing in the


the power of wilderness therapy by Cassie Hooker



HE SUMMER MONTHS SEE ME IN MY glory. Given a choice, I’d rather be outside. Put me on a bike. Put me on a horse. Hand me a backpack with enough food and water, and drive me into the wilderness—it doesn’t particularly matter how or where, as long as I am outside and enjoying what Mother Nature has to offer. When I finally (reluctantly) head home after a month, a week, a day—heck, even an hour—of adventuring, I feel…renewed. I feel better, as if healed by the time I spent among the trees and the salt air of our coastal environment. I believe that something about the smell of the earth and the sound of the birds singing both soothes and invigorates me. Or, perhaps it’s the fact that being out in nature removes me from my stressors; it detaches me from the problem, as it were. Maybe it’s both. I’m not alone in my feelings, as it turns out. Victoria resident Tara Davidson, an avid recreational hiker, says that her regular forays into the wilds around the city help her keep level headed. “Being out in the woods calms me,” she says. “Out there, I’m among the birds and trees. I’m away from my stress, and just breathing in the pleasant smell of the earth and feeling so much healthier.” Outdoorsy people like Davidson and I have long known that being out in nature has a wonderful capacity to heal what ails you. These days there’s a whole branch of therapeutic practice that is devoted to healing by spending time outside, known as wilderness or adventure therapy. In essence, it takes what outdoorsy people have known for ages—that the Great Outdoors can calm the mind and heart—and applies a concrete therapeutic structure to it. The beginnings of wilderness therapy as a set of actual healing techniques are rooted in what Michael G. Conner, director of the Mentor Research Institute in Oregon, calls “outdoor survival programs that placed children in a challenging environment where determination, communication and team efforts were outcomes.” It’s not simply a matter of going out on hikes or other excursions in a one-on-one session with a trained therapist, though that is still an option. More commonly, this type of therapeutic intervention is conducted among groups, often spanning days or even weeks, and including activSTIGMA MAGAZINE | 19

ities like camping, hiking or canoeing. On the surface, wilderness therapy looks a lot like a summer camp. The stimulating environment and fun activities provide the right combination to help make participants feel comfortable enough to enable healing to begin. The difference is, a qualified professional is there to guide the participants through combating their problems. In essence, the point of wilderness therapy is to break down emotional barriers and allow healing to happen by removing its participants from any source of negative influence. Although this type of therapy can be used for almost any problem that may require therapeutic intervention, its most common use is for behavioural modification in troubled youngsters. Since wilderness therapy tends to avoid the contrived activities or games and manipulations that typically come with behavioural modification, healing is allowed to occur more organically, with no force or confrontation. The sole downside of wilderness therapy is that the cost can be prohibitive, especially for those on the lower end of the income scale. It is not covered by provincial or individual medical plans, and can often come with a price tag in the thousands. That being said, this type of therapeutic approach is not limited to any 20 | STIGMA MAGAZINE


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particular kind of person. Its origins may have been children’s survivalist programs, but wilderness therapy can be applied to any group or individual regardless of age, gender or social background. Psychologist Scott Bandoroff, who pioneered the sub-field of wilderness family therapy in 1990, believes that combining a beautiful natural environment with the permission to work on your problems under the guidance of a therapist is a sure win. He firmly believes that the kind of healing and change that can occur when all negative influences are removed, and natural beauty is all around, can be profound. As he puts it, “You get spoiled for life when you see how quickly change can occur.” Personally, I believe every one of Bandoroff’s words. From the moment I first set my hiking stick down off the beaten path, I knew that the forest was where I could heal. When I leave the forest, I do not feel as though I am going home. Rather, I feel like I am leaving home, and simply returning to my base of operations. The forest is where I am most alive. I, like so many others, find healing out in the wilderness. To learn more about wilderness therapy, please visit: monitor/2013/09/therapy-wild.aspx

Mental Health Mythology Do we have to hit rock bottom before we can recover? By Marie Engel


HE TERM ROCK BOTTOM COMES UP in almost any conversation about addiction, intervention and recovery. The theory goes that people in active addiction need to hit their absolute lowest point before they’re

“ready” for recovery, and it’s a belief still openly supported by many people in our society, from the friends and family concerned with their loved one’s health (who have heard it repeated over and over again in the news and in pop culture), to health care workers, therapists, recovery advocates and experts at every level of society. For such a pervasive idea that has so many adherents, there is an increasing amount of evidence pointing to the idea that this mentality actually does far more harm than good. As our understanding of the mental health components that lead to substance abuse disorders change, the idea of rock bottom is rapidly becoming an unsustainable myth of recovery. In our inaugural Mental Health Mythology column, we break down a handful of the most damaging elements of the rock bottom myth and explain why they’re doing so much damage to our friends and loved ones living in active addiction or entering recovery.

Myth 1: Someone has to hit rock bottom to be “ready” for sobriety. First on the list and possibly the most damaging of all myths attached to the rock bottom philosophy, the idea that someone has to hit rock bottom to become sober is actively damaging people’s long-term health and mental wellness. Drug and alcohol addiction progresses with time, like most diseases, and the longer it goes unchecked in an individual the more overall damage it’s going to do to their body and spirit.

Myth 2: We should wait to treat people until they hit rock bottom. The idea of turning a person away because they aren’t sick enough for treatment is one that we would find heinous and counter-productive if we were talking about cancer paSTIGMA MAGAZINE | 21

tients or people with HIV. Shouldn’t

ber or how low they got before they

job that they worked for years to

the goal of our health care system

achieved sobriety, there is always

achieve as their rock bottom, while

and recovery advocates be getting

a risk of relapse. There are plenty

another might consider the break-

people into treatment before they

of accounts from people who lost

down of a marriage or losing visita-

hit rock bottom before they do long-

everything and got sober for years

tion with their children to be their

term damage to their body and

or even decades before they slipped.

personal low. If rock bottom can’t be

mind, before they reach Stage 4 of

Hitting rock bottom will not protect

standardized, it becomes very diffi-

their disease? The science and re-

our friends, family and loved ones

cult to tell if someone is actually at

search coming out in the modern

from this risk.

their rock bottom or not, and there-

world shows that people who enter

fore it becomes irresponsible and,

addiction treatment because they’ve

honestly, impossible to use it as an

ly pressure have the same chance of

Myth 4:

getting sober and staying sober as

Everyone hits rock bottom eventually.

been forced by court order or fami-

anyone else. (Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse)


The term rock bottom is defined as “the lowest possible level” and in the ally refers to the moment someone’s life completely fell apart and they realized real change was needed.

People who have hit rock bottom are less likely to relapse.



whether or not someone is ready for

case of addiction and recovery, it usu-

Myth 3:


Of course, many people have managed to succeed in recovery without

This one is just not true, and repre-

driving their entire life into the gut-

senting it as anything but is irrespon-

ter and losing their family, but aside

sible. There’s a reason most people in

from that, the problem with this con-

recovery are likely to say that they will

cept is that everyone’s lowest point is

always be an addict or an alcoholic:

going to look different. One person

no matter how long they’ve been so-

might consider losing their dream

“I got my life back.”

recovery. The rock bottom myth is so powerful because it convinces people that there is a relatively simple question to an immensely complicated question. When someone will be ready for recovery is based on a huge number of variables, some of which even the experts are probably still not completely aware of. Reducing it to the rock bottom principle makes it easier to understand, but allowing a disease like addiction to progress unchecked until it reaches a crisis point is not helping our loved ones—it’s putting them at more risk. Some people will hit a rock bottom before they are ready for recovery, but not all. The best ways to know if someone is ready for recovery are to listen to them, be ready to help them

Recovery from addiction is possible.

when they are ready to ask for it, and recognize that trying and failing is part of the process.

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r e b o S g n i Stay e h t n i

Summer by Cassie Hoo





party. Have an escape plan. That is, plan a safe activity to

year. There are weddings to attend, beaches to lay

do if you are feeling tempted or uncomfortable and need

on, backyard barbecues to enjoy and camping trips

to leave.

with friends to take. The problem is, most of these events often allow or even encourage drinking. For many people,


Take a Good Look at Your Buddies

the summer can be filled with fun. For those who have

made the choice to remain sober, however, the summer

out, it may be time to consider finding sober friends. After

can be filled with temptation that could easily pull them

all, you are more likely to drink if your friends are. Think

off their path. Some people might choose to be a hermit

about joining a club or a sports team to find people who

over the warm months, staying sober by simply avoiding

will support you in your sobriety. This doesn’t necessarily

temptation altogether.

mean cutting off your old buddies, mind you. It just means

There is good news, though! You don’t have to say “no”

If your buddies like to get drunk when they are

recognizing your triggers and exploring new activities.

to friendly invitations and avoid the people you care about


just to keep sober. There are some tricks that will not only help you stay on your path, but also might help you be-

Set Limits

come healthier in the process.

If you can’t avoid being in an environment where there

Here is what you can do to keep yourself on the right path:

may be heavy drinking, limit the amount of time you spend there. Less time means less temptation.


Keep up the Good Work If you attend sobriety meetings, make sure you


Bring a Friend

keep going through the summer months. If you don’t at-

tend meetings, consider starting. Having a support group,

stay sober, so consider bringing along a supportive friend

along with a regular reminder why you’ve chosen sobriety,

or loved one.

can go a long way toward keeping you alcohol-free.



It is always good to have extra encouragement to

Choose Not to Attend

Plan Ahead

If you are going to a party, don’t be afraid to ask

know there will be drinking, you can choose not to attend.

your host if there will be alcohol. Plan to bring drinks

Looking after your needs is more important than pleasing

that you will be satisfied with for the length of the

If you have been invited to a gathering where you




Get Active While summer may be party time for many people,

it is also the best time of the year to get active! If you keep yourself busy doing healthy activities, such hiking, swimming, team sports, or cycling, you will be less likely to be tempted.


Explore Urban environments offer so much more than bars

core, or visit the parks and historic sites around you. Try new foods and visit museums. If you have the means, try taking yourself to other cities to explore. The key here is to keep yourself busy with a little urban adventure.

Pick up a Hobby The free time you may have during the summer is

the perfect time to learn something new. Perhaps this year you can start a garden, or learn to paint, or even learn another language.

Find a New Hangout Instead of meeting your friends somewhere that

might tempt you, consider arranging to meet at a local café or tea house. This way, you still get to be with your friends, and you still get to try delicious drinks.


and pubs. Explore the shops and cafes in the downtown



Think Success Before you go out, take a moment to imagine

yourself successfully remaining sober. Think of what that will look like. Part of the battle in remaining sober is putting yourself in the right frame of mind for success. Think about how meditation, yoga or other activities that focus on the relationship between the mind and the body could have a positive impact on your ongoing recovery. The summer can be challenging for those who are choosing sobriety. With an abundance of social gatherings that allow drinking or even drug use, temptation is everywhere. By using some of the tricks above, you can keep yourself from straying off the path of sobriety. Have a plan and engage in healthy activities with supportive friends.

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? y a k O I am l

by Hailey McNei


HAVE BEEN PASSIONATE ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY FOR many years, starting with my first 35mm film class

in high school. In the years between that first class and

now, I continued to practise photography, mostly just as a hobby and way of documenting the adventures I find

myself on. I picked up contemporary art photography again as a university student and I would be lying if I said that it wasn’t hard to adjust back into that realm after years of just shooting for myself and the people closest to me. I’ve always been very introverted, which comes with a specific set of challenges when producing art for public consumption. The original spark of an idea for this project came to me one day as I sat in the waiting room of my optometrist. I picked up a magazine and flipped through it. I came across an image of a man taking a drink of beer, with the box that it had been packaged in on his head and lit on fire. The image had no title, but was shot by Dylan Hamm, in Ontario. I quickly took a photo of it so that I could reference it again if need be down the road. I have always been attracted to dark, grainy images with morbid themes. I am Okay(?) is a series in which I have attempted to reproduce this quality of image. When viewed from a distance, the images could almost look normal. The activities captured are typical, everyday activities. I wanted the face of the subject to remain calm and unchanging in order to achieve this. However, when viewed up close, it be-

comes clear that there is something “off” about each image. Over the course of this project and the development of the series I began to explore this idea of high-functioning depression, a reality for many people and something that I personally live with every day. To me, depression means that I don’t know how to feel about a lot of the things that I do; I am numb to them. It doesn’t mean that I am sad all the time, contrary to a lot of people’s definition of depression. It also means that I feel things very deeply, as if I get stuck in them for varying lengths of time, even if I don’t exactly know how to label or express how I feel. If you can imagine the look on the face of a deer that’s just been caught in your headlights one night, that is how I feel about most things. The high-functioning part comes in because on the surface I look completely level-headed, and not like a deer caught in the headlights of life at all. I do the things I need to do in my day-to-day life just like any other healthy person. I go to my shifts at work, I keep my living space clean, I eat as healthy as I can, I try to get a healthy amount of sleep each night, I maintain a healthy and loving relationship as well as a handful of close friendships, and while in university I attended my classes and handed in all of my assignments on time. This is another common misconception about depressed people—that they don’t or can’t do all of those types of things. For some, that is a very real reality, but not for me. It doesn’t mean that those people who can’t are any more depressed than I am, or that I am any less depressed than



they are. We are just different people, and just like there are different people in the world, there are also different kinds of depression. In a lot of ways I am glad that I am a high-functioning depressed person because it allows me to go unnoticed for the most part, but on the other hand, this can also be extremely dangerous because at times when I am really struggling, no one really knows, unless I make a specific point of telling them. I wanted to be able to communicate all of this through my photographs; to show the days where my loved ones, the people I trust enough to share my struggles with, are worried and concerned for my wellbeing and safety, as well as the days when everything I do just seems like an unfortunate joke and all I can do is laugh it off and try again tomorrow.

I exact uneasiness that I feel about myself upon the viewer. and want people to laugh at one image, question the next, h then gasp and feel that uncomfortable pit in their stomac at the next. I want it to be a rollercoaster of depressive emotions, I want people to be as confused as I am about how exactly they are feeling. There is still such a strong stigma surrounding depression; so many people live with it and there isn’t enough support and understanding, especially for those of us that are high-functioning and seem Okay on the sura face. Mental health is so important, and depression isn’t bad word. People need to be talking about it, so if I can get even just a handful of people to feel how I do on a day-to-day basis and spark that conversation, then I will consider this project a success.

Ultimately I wanted to create a series that induces that


a n a s a v a S o t s e c i V Fr om a og Y h it W s on ti ic d d A g n ti a C omb by Cassie Hooker



’LL BE THE FIRST TO ADMIT that I do not suffer from

pretty much pushes intelligent work right out the win-

addiction. That is, I don’t suffer from an addiction to


alcohol or narcotics. My vice is coffee. You scoff, I know.

My problem is, I drink the coffee as much for the taste

It isn’t a “real” addiction, right? It doesn’t have the same

of it as for the caffeine. Tea and hot chocolate are nice, but

capacity to cause lasting damage to one’s life, but it can

they aren’t the same. I tried quitting coffee outright, but

cause a heart attack in large enough doses. (Well, caffeine

it was the worst two hours of my entire life. I tried substi-

can.) The real problem comes when your brain doesn’t

tuting coffee for something else, but nothing seemed to

kick into full gear until you have had at least two cups of

satisfy my taste for it. I tried weaning myself off it, but to

the stuff, and even then it only just begins to cut through

no avail.

the fog. It’s especially a problem when your line of work requires you to appear smart as soon as you get to the office in the morning, and you can’t turn your brain on (without coffee) to save your life.

Then, I remembered something: I used to be extremely fit. I’ve always had a fascination with the psychological effect that certain kinds of exercise can have on a person.

In the past, if given the choice, I would probably have had

Whenever I kept to a regular exercise regimen, which was

at least six cups of coffee a day, if not more. I’d usually try to

usually yoga, I hardly ever drank coffee. I simply no longer

keep it to two, because I know that an excessive amount

wanted it. Why would this be?

of caffeine has an awkward effect on me—that is, it keeps

In yoga, addiction—in whatever form it takes—is symp-

me wide awake, but completely unable to focus, which

tomatic of an imbalance in the individual. It stands to reason that, since yoga is largely focused on unifying the mind and body and restoring and rebuilding the delicate balance between the two, it would be virtually ideal for dealing with addiction. Rolf Gates is a yoga teacher and the author of Medi-

tations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga. He is also a recovering addict with 22 years of sobriety under his belt. Yoga, according to Gates, “directly stimulates the growth of the prefrontal cortex, and this directly relates to our ability to be calm in


10 Ways Yoga Helps Combat Addiction

a crisis, to gain insight into our own mental

The physical benefits of yoga are fairly well known. What are often forgot-

hances your imagination, which allows you

ten are the psychological ways regular yoga practice is beneficial. Here are some of the means through which yoga can help you deal with addiction or even just boost your overall sense of wellbeing.


Relaxation: This is probably the

present. It helps shut up all the extra

single biggest benefit that yoga

noise in your mind.

provides, since it spans both the physical and psychological. It makes you relax your body, slow your breathing and focus on what is go-


processes, and to think something through.” In addition, Gates explains that yoga ento “see how you can get to where you’re going—and to maintain a sense of hope and forward momentum in your life.” At its simplest, yoga creates a calm point from which you can respond to stressors and negative habits with clarity and consid-

Improved Self-Esteem: A big contributor to addiction is low

self-esteem. A negative response to

ered thought. This clarity allows you to see the choices available to you and eventual-

this can lead to drug use, overeating

ly reduce cravings and negative patterns.

or overworking, among other things,

Regular yogic practice can, if you give it a

Better Sleep: As with any reg-

which in turn can lead to poor over-

chance, let you regain control of your life by

ular exercise regime, yoga can

all health. The subtle mental and

giving you back your power over it.

help you sleep better. Quality sleep,

physical changes that yoga tends

in turn, leads to greater clarity and

to encourage inevitably lead to an

an increased sense of wellbeing.

increase in your sense of self-worth.



ing on in the present.


Reduced Stress: Because of the level of concentration needed

Sat Bir Khalsa is the director of the Kundalini Research Institute, as well as one of Harvard Medical School’s assistant profes-

Improved Inner Strength: The

sors. He says addiction is often a reflection

discipline both created in, and

of a need for escapism or a change in con-

fuelled by, regular yogic practice

sciousness—the eternal pursuit of that first

sion has a way of making your trou-

translates to a personal strength

feeling your substance of choice gave you.

bles seem to disappear, no matter

that can be applied in other areas

how big or small they are.

of life. This strength and discipline

“Yoga is an alternative, a positive way to

in the practice of yoga, a good ses-


can help you overcome difficult obA Basis for a Healthy Lifestyle: Regular yoga practice encour-

ages your body to get in motion and helps you eat less or eat healthier. Once you start on the path of yoga,

stacles and correct negative habits.


generate a change in consciousness that, instead of providing an escape, empowers people with the ability to access a peaceful,

Provide Guidance: While yogic

restorative inner state that integrates mind,

practice doesn’t have to take

body, and spirit,” Khalsa says.

place in a class, the class environ-

Smart words, I’d say. A smart course of

you’ll likely notice that the subtle

ment is perhaps the best context

changes it helps you make for your

for people who need yoga to guide

action, perhaps. After remembering how I

body’s sake will encourage you to

them onto a healthier path. Good

make other healthy changes.

teachers do more than assist with

decided to take it up again. Just as I remem-

the postures—they enable you to

bered, after a time my desire for unhealthy

Improved Focus: Yogic practice

confront difficult truths and en-

things was greatly reduced. In the case of

puts your mind firmly in the

hance your personal experience of

my coffee habit, it has gone from a necessi-


ty to a pleasant once-in-a-blue-moon treat.


here and now. When you remove all the clutter from your thoughts, you start to think more clearly and have a greater ability to focus your thoughts.


Aids in Self Transformation: Like standard meditation,

had always felt after regular yogic practice, I

Now, every morning, I start my day with a yogurt smoothie and a bounce in my step.

yoga makes you more aware of

To learn more about how yoga can benefit

yourself and what makes you tick.

addiction recovery, please visit: https://www.

Peace of Mind: As hinted at

This self-awareness makes you look



inward, enabling you to identify


mind because it causes you to have

negative traits and work to change

to focus on what’s going on in the









nity Sanity over Va ing Your The Struggle of Balanc Physical and Mental Health

By Andrea Paquette AKA the Bipolar Babe


HERE IS A POSITIVE CORRELATION between physical and mental health, but it is not always easy to grasp physical wellness whilst aiming to achieve the perfect balance with your mental health. Life is packed with numerous obligations and commitments, and tackling both physical and mental wellness is often perceived as a daunting task. I have personally struggled immensely throughout my entire life with both my physical and mental health, and I doubt that I am alone. The mind and body connection is a complementary system where we aim to achieve greatness, but often end up swimming in guilt and shame because we are unable to meet our often unrealistic expectations. Having a mental illness in itself is a very difficult matter, and physical health often suffers when pharmaceutical medication—which causes many people to puff up like a balloon— is added to the mix. I once gained 30 pounds over a three-month period when administered mental illness medication, and no matter how much I exercised, I continued to become more overweight. Subsequent to being hospitalized for a suicide attempt that nearly spelled my doom upon going off of my medications, my

doctor offered an alternate medication regime that eased these side-effects. However, I have never been that smaller version of myself at 130 pounds ever again. It took many years to come to the realization that I was never going to be that “super slim” 25-year-old girl, which was a difficult reality for me to accept as I once believed that I was nearly chalking up to society’s impossible beauty standards. Over the years, I have realized that I was actually never truly content with my overall health—or my body image, for that matter—before the administration of medications anyway. Pharmaceuticals are not necessarily for everyone, but they are a blessing for me as they have brought welcomed stability, and I choose to be on medication for the rest of my life. Why try to fix something that is not broken, right? I do what I can to stay physically fit and I also accept that I will often struggle with

weight gain due to these medications. Over the many years since my bipolar disorder diagnosis, I have embraced my own mantra of empowerment: I choose sanity over vanity. I would much rather be sane and a little larger around the waistline than have less fat and be in the constant midst of a psychotic break. People often tell me to get out and exercise when I am feeling the brunt of my depression, and I cannot help but scoff at times because these people have obviously never been depressed. However, since I am still capable of moving my body when I am in the depths of darkness, there are times that I do muster up the energy to take a 20-minute walk. Even one brisk jaunt around the block, combined with some sun on my face, often brings a temporary sense of relief. To add to my physical wellness tool belt, I also adopted a small pup over a year ago who requires moderate exercise, which has helped me take more of those walks in the sun. Having a loyal friend who is always by my side has definitely contributed to both my physical and mental wellbeing. And if I cannot obtain an adequate amount of vitamin D from the weather, then I ensure I consume it orally, in addition to vitamins as recommended by my naturopath. I have attempted many physical activities that are out


of my comfort zone and I encourage you to do the same. Even though I don’t do them on a strict routine basis, I never knew that my favourite physical exercises would become snowshoeing and kickboxing. I truly love drudging up the mountain during the winter months and connecting numerous kicks to a rubber dummy’s head during my kickboxing circuit. I also consider that I am a nicer person to the world when I embark on these physical activities, as they allow a perfect outlet for my anger and ease anything that may be irritating me. I highly recommend testing a great variety of physical activities and finding something that you actually enjoy because we only truly become committed to things that we authentically care about. I have to be honest that I do not feel at peace about my physical and mental health all the time, but it brings me immense joy to know that I am currently bursting with life and I am truly happy today. I try my best to stay fit and take part in extracurricular activities, but nothing is a constant. I have learned that I do my best with who I am and what I have to work with. I now take the guilt and shame out of not achieving perfection and remind myself that every breakdown I endure is another opportunity for a breakthrough.

recovery day victoria

Sept. 9th 2017, 12pm-5pm Centennial Square

Free event



Carmanah, Cityreal

+ Comedian Richard Lett

presented by

m a g a z iSTIGMA ne



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