Members of a New Westminster group that has been quietly helping youth overcome substance abuse since 1996 say their connection with the community continues to deepen.

The Last Door addiction recovery youth program is celebrating 20 years of operation in New Westminster on Thursday.

"This place has helped me out so much. I've got my life back, I've got my family back," said one of the program's clients, a 19-year-old from Maple Ridge who agreed to anonymously speak about his experience.

Last Door

A guitar sits on one of the youth beds at Last Door's residence in New Westminster. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"I caught myself, like, just wanting to die. All the withdrawing, and, like, hurting. It was too much. I was in pain and, like, I just wanted to die," said the youth, who began doing heroin and fentanyl when he was 17. 

"Either just give me all the drugs you can get, or ... if I had none, I'd literally be in so much pain from withdrawing that I just wanted to die."

"I just stole from my family. It was just enough. I just didn't want to live like that anymore."

Families are part of the program

Families used to drop their kids off at the centre, said Peter Beka, who has worked at the program since the beginning.

But Last Door has added family programs to include loved ones in the recovery process.

Last Door

Last Door's Peter Beka stands in front of the youth residence in New Westminster. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"We've decided, after some research, [to] create some family programs so that families are involved in the recovery process because there's a much higher success rate for kids who have families invested in the process," said Beka.

But some things never change.

"The fundamental heart of helping people struggling with addictions, caring about someone, creating mentorship, creating opportunity to feel good about their lives and live with integrity, and celebrate life, has never changed."

Helping youth province-wide

Much of the Lower Mainland's resources for addiction are located in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside but substance abuse is something that affects all communities in B.C., said Beka.

"The Downtown Eastside is just a small part of people struggling with addictions. I currently have 10 people in residence at our facility, and not one of them is from the Downtown Eastside."

Last Door

Chairs are arranged in an oval in preparation of a group meeting at one of the Last Door facilities in New Westminster. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

He says there is no "cookie-cutter formula" on how to help youth struggling with addiction.

"They're all from families — different parts of B.C. Some were in school, some were not enrolled in school, some were involved in sports," he said.

"Anyone can be affected by substance use."

For the 19-year-old client, his life looks a lot brighter, thanks to the program. He said he was spiraling down a path toward life-long addiction, homelessness or worse.

"If I didn't get in treatment I was definitely just going to die, I know it. Like, I've almost [overdosed] a lot of times," he said.

"I got all the trust back."

With files from CBC Radio's The Early Edition


To listen to the full interview with Peter Beka, click the link labelled: Last Door marks 20 years of youth addiction recovery.