Brooke started using drugs when she was 13, detoxed 5 times, and went through 4 treatment centers between the ages of 15-18. Though unaware at the time, she recognizes now that she used substances as a way to cope with trauma-related mental health issues.

She began her journey of recovery when she arrived at a group home in 2015. After landing herself in an unsafe situation, she called her mom, who picked her up but refused to take her home. Instead, she found Brooke a motel and gave her a list of services for youth who need aid. “I needed help and I didn’t want to accept it, but I didn’t want to be like I was anymore.” She called as many numbers as she could, searching for a service that could offer support. Eventually she reached someone who agreed to take her in.

“I strongly believe in serendipity,” says Brooke, “group homes are normally for those who have status as a child, and I had just turned 18.” The program staff decided to make an exception; they could see she wanted to change. Brooke describes the positive environment she found there. She was treated with unconditional love and told she had potential.

After receiving treatment at a trauma-based addictions recovery centre in Calgary, Brooke came back to Edmonton, and now attends Passage to Recovery, a weekly youth support group.

“I used to have a lot of resentment towards my story, but now I’m learning to accept it and realizing it had a purpose.

Her program coordinated with a program called Challenge by Choice last fall to send youth on a variety of trips as part of their treatment. Brooke went zip lining and rock climbing with 8 other youth at Birch Bay Ranch, and skiing with 6 others in Jasper.

The youth day camps were an opportunity for Brooke and other participants in her treatment program to build strong relationships with like-minded peers outside of a clinical setting. “I made some of my best friends through these day trips.” Outside of their formal group meetings, the youth don’t have to take themselves so seriously.

Brooke spent much of her youth either using or in recovery; going on these trips was a a chance to just be a kid. She thinks that the camps were a very positive experience, and believes there is definitely need in the community for more recreation programs.

Brooke is now very active in the community, and intends to become a social worker, to help other at-risk youth find their way to healing. Her next step is completing training in experiential holistic therapy.

Experiential learning and recreation programs play a fundamental role in youth recovery. They prepare young people to make healthy decisions in all facets of their lives. You can help us provide more programs like these by donating.

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