It’s been a long road to recovery for Red Deer’s James Olafson.
Olafson said he’s battled alcohol addiction for 25 years and began recovery in 2014. He has relapsed twice since beginning recovery, but has now been sober for three-and-a-half years.
“One of the things with recovery is that you have to want it,” he said. “Some people aren’t quite at that point. I didn’t want to admit I had a problem, but once I hit the bottom I had to admit it.”
Olafson was one of several Central Albertans who shared their story at the fifth Red Deer Recovery Day in City Hall Park Saturday. He said an event like this is important for the community.
“It’s awesome … to speak about your journey,” he said. “It’s an honour to be a part of this day. I feel really grateful to have a platform to share my story and to hear other people’s stories.”
Olafson said people with addictions face a number of challenges each day, including dealing with the stigma that comes with being an addict.
“There are supports out there, but getting people to get those supports is tough.
“It’s hard seeing other people suffer and struggle, especially on the streets here downtown, because of addiction and mental illness, which kind of go hand-in-hand,” he said.
Olafson said Red Deer needs a treatment centre where recovering addicts can deal with the trauma they’ve suffered.
Krista Black, Red Deer Recovery Day co-ordinator, said the event was a success.
“I was concerned about the weather … but it was really well supported. So many people think it’s a great cause and want to support it, which was clear by the amount of people who showed up,” she said.
Black said she wants the event gives some hope to people battling addictions.
“It’s important for people to recognize there’s … a possibility of getting well,” she said. “When you’re suffering with substance abuse or addiction problems, you feel very much isolated and alone.”
Black said Recovery Day can help people learn about services and organizations that can help.
“We’re there to support them,” she said. “The path to recovery looks different for everybody, but the most common bond is that in order to get well we all needed to find a community or connection that supports them.”