A new Narcotics Anonymous group is starting up in the Valley, led by a recovering addict who wants to help others get clean.

“You never think you’re going to get there and next thing you know you’re a drug addict,” said Lance*. “You can’t live like that. It ruins your life. It ruins your family. It catches up to you.”

Lance started doing drugs at parties and progressed to doing cocaine alone whenever he could.

It wasn’t difficult to get his hands on the hard drug in the Valley, where he said: “it’s easier to find a bag of blow than it is to get a bag of weed.”

As Lance’s addiction snowballed, so did the consequences. His wife left, he lost friends and family and his work was in jeopardy. Eventually his addiction grew so fierce that he stopped caring about whether his next high would take his life.

Lance’s addiction continued until – at risk of losing his new girlfriend and their baby – he fought to gain control of his life.

“I almost lost everything,” he said. “It was bad. I should be dead.”

He quit using on March 28th and found himself “running around from building to building like a junkie looking for help.”

Lance was celebrating 128 days of sobriety when he met with the Pioneer to share his plans to bring Narcotics Anonymous to the Valley.

He wants to create a safe space where addicts and recovering addicts can share their stories, make connections and find support as they rebuild their lives.

Lance said getting sober was his first act of service to the community. His next act of service is to help other addicts find their way to recovery as well.

“I’m learning to let go and accept things for what they are… I’m seeing the world function again,” Lance said. “I’m excited again.”

As he restarts his life, Lance is reclaiming his passion for his family and for the outdoors. He is filled with gratitude as his life shifts back into colour.

Lance said he would have benefited from having more support in the Valley than was available to him. He wants to fill that gap and give drug addicts a regular meeting place where they and their stories are welcome.

The Narcotics Anonymous group will also offer resources and information that people might not be able to access otherwise.

“We’re reaching out to everybody and letting them know there’s help,” Lance said. “We’re here to listen… We’re there to support you.”

Lance said participants at the meetings “can connect and share their stories. You know you’re not alone in this and someone else is fighting the same battle.”

The first time Lance shared his story in a support group was “scary, emotional and hard” but he felt better than ever when he let his secrets out.

“It gave me that feeling that I was going to be okay,” he said.

Sergeant Darren Kakuno, the detachment commander for the Columbia Valley RCMP, said there have been overdoses here over the past couple years that have unfortunately claimed lives.

“I myself welcome any counselling services that address the drug addictions in our area. These addictions are very difficult to overcome. And those with the addictions, they require all the support we can offer,” Sgt. Kakuno said.

While he said the drug problem in the Valley isn’t as severe as it is in larger centres, Sgt. Kakuno considers it to be a “significant local issue,” adding that “even one individual with a drug addiction impacts their family and our community as a whole.”

He asks that anyone with information about drug traffickers contact the local RCMP detachment or call Crime Stoppers.

According to a tweet from BC Emergency Health Services, on July 27th paramedics responded to 130 suspected overdose calls across the province. The province has only seen such a high single-day overdose record once before.

The agency’s tweet urged: “Tell your families, tell your friends: Don’t Use Alone, and Call 911 if you suspect an OD.”

The Columbia Valley Narcotics Anonymous meetings will be held every Thursday evening at 7 p.m. at 4878 Athalmer Road beginning on August 16th. Opioid overdose kits will be available onsite. All addicts are welcome to attend, regardless of race, gender and age and no matter where they are on their recovery journeys.

The East Kootenay Addiction Services Society also provides supports for addicts, including counselling and referrals. Visit ekass.com for more information on the services they provide.

* Lance’s name has been changed to preserve the anonymity offered through Narcotics Anonymous.