Hundreds of people gathered in New Westminster, B.C., Saturday to celebrate how far they've come.

Sept. 10 has been officially declared as Recovery Day across Canada, an event that aims to "build awareness, challenge societal stigma and celebrate the role that recovery plays in improving the lives of millions of Canadians."

Among those celebrating was Ian Chalmers, 29. As of Saturday he is 112 days clean, after 12 years of substance abuse.

"I think it's great to celebrate recovery instead of having negative stigma around it," Chalmers said. 

"If I had known there was such a large community in New West and the Lower Mainland, I might have reached out earlier because being alone was a big part of my addiction."

His addiction began innocently enough, he said — partying in high school while drinking and smoking pot with friends at parties. Near the end, he was using crystal meth.

Ian Chalmers

Recovering addict Ian Chalmers says the shame of addiction can be a lonely place. (CBC)

"I was so defeated, so beat down after 12 years of not having progress in my life — lying to everyone, having no connections with friends and family. I just couldn't take it anymore. I had to get help," Chalmers said.

But Chalmers says there is hope for anyone who wants to quit.

"You have to be willing, you have to want this. You have to get to a point where you're desperate enough to get help. It is desperation that's behind it," he said. 

Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse CEO Rita Notarandrea said stories like Chalmers's highlight the need for events like Recovery Day.

"It's a chronic disease and once we understand it, I'm hoping we go from stigma to compassion — compassion in the work place ... compassion in our community and compassion in our families," Notarandrea said. 

"It is really riddled with guilt and shame."

Recovery Day

Many Recovery Day participants on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 commemorated loved ones lost to addiction. (CBC)

While most celebrated their accomplishments Saturday, others reflected on those they lost to drugs.

Kim Denofreo's sister was in treatment but she overdosed during her road to recovery. Denofreo's daughter only knows her from photographs. 

"When you say addict you think of downtown people or off-the-street or prostitutes," she said. "My sister was not, she was just troubled and had a horrible disease.

"I think if she had a chance to see that she wasn't alone, that it wasn't something she had to hide, she might even still be here with us today."