Mi'kmaw woman starts clothing brand, offers hope about recovering from addiction
'People can come out on the other side,' says Tyra Paul
Tyra Paul has turned her life around from drug and alcohol abuse and now she wants to show others there is life beyond addiction.
Last winter, the 26-year-old launched her own company, paying homage to her Mi'kmaw roots.
Drip Avenue 902 is a clothing brand with a logo featuring a water droplet, Nova Scotia's area code and a dreamcatcher design.
Originally from Pictou Landing First Nation, but now living in Sydney, N.S., Paul is sharing her story through her business hoping that others will avoid going down the same path to addiction.
She says substance use is often normalized among Nova Scotia teens and young adults.
"For years, I thought it was just something everybody did — all the kids do," said Paul.
"Basically, pop culture is showing us every day that it's OK to pop pills and drink alcohol and party all the time and people get caught up in that lifestyle. I know I did.'"
Paul said she started smoking cannabis at age 13 and experimenting with alcohol. Following university, she was introduced to stimulants such as cocaine and Adderall. She said after years of drug abuse, she started showing signs of mania and was eventually diagnosed with bipolar II disorder.
Paul said medication prescribed for her condition later led to a muscle-movement disorder that comes and goes.
"I think it's really important to share my story of how the drugs affected me, and hopefully people can learn from it," Paul said. "What I go through, I wouldn't want anyone to go through."
Paul said sharing her personal story hasn't been easy, but it's something she wants to do. She said the slowdown of the pandemic and a reconnection to her Mi'kmaw culture helped her put drugs and alcohol behind her.
"Starting this business, I wanted to end the stigma and show people that it's OK and that people can come out on the other side.
"I think by just raising awareness of what these drugs can do to your brain, I think it will help a lot somehow."
Paul said her clothing is Canadian-made and will be used to support causes such as mental health and addiction services in Nova Scotia.
Most recently, she donated $500 to the QEII Foundation for its e-Mental Health services.
Pastor Dave Sawler, founder of the Undercurrent Youth Centre in Glace Bay, said teenagers living in communities like his have long struggled with addiction.
He said they need role models like Paul to look up to.
"We need more and more role models and more and more things for our young people, so they don't continue in the cycle that we've been stuck in right now for decades."
"Every time there's someone who successfully made it through this, it's an encouragement for people who may think that there's no hope."
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