British Columbia

Turning Point Recovery Society former resident says misconceptions drive fear

A former resident of an addiction recovery centre similar to the one proposed in North Vancouver says people who fight against recovery houses in their neighbourhood have misconceptions about addiction and the people it affects.

Gary Schubak, once homeless and 'hopelessly' addicted to drugs, is now the chair of Turning Point Recovery

Gary Schubak is the board president of Turning Point

A former resident of an addiction recovery centre similar to the one proposed in North Vancouver says people who fight against recovery houses in their neighbourhood have misconceptions about addiction and the people it affects.

Hundreds of North Vancouver residents turned up for a meeting to speak out against a proposed nine-bed facility in their community. The organization, Turning Point Recovery Society, operates four other recovery houses in Metro Vancouver.

Gary Schubak is the board president of Turning Point, but 15 years ago he was one of its residents. He was "hopelessly addicted" to drugs and alcohol. That addiction took a major toll on his life, leaving him homeless, separated from his family and without a job.

'I didn't really know where to go'

"I felt hopeless. I didn't really know where to go and how I was ever going to recover and I didn't really think I could," said Schubak.

His family convinced him to try a Turning Point recovery house in Richmond, B.C.

"It was the turning point of my life," said Schubak. "It really got me started in recovery."

While he was there, he had to keep himself busy by participating in activities, therapy, and house projects.

"The most important things for people in early recovery is to have a home," said Schubak. "Secondly, security and structure."

When he was there, the Richmond branch of the Turning Point was also a contentious issue and not supported by its neighbours.

"The neighbourhood reaction was really unsettling for me and the other people in the house," he said. "It's hard to feel safe when you've got a hundred angry people outside yelling at you."

But the people who lived there took care of it like it was their own home, and Schubak says the centre has never had any significant issues. Eventually, the neighbours came around and the centre has since been accepted by the community.

'People don't start out as homeless drug addicts'

Schubak thinks people who are opposed to these types of projects don't understand how recovery works.

"I think it's really just a lot of fear of the unknown," he said. "There is a misunderstanding about what addiction is as an illness."

He also believes that when people think of addiction, they think of a certain kind of person. But from his experience, that's not the case. He says most of the residents at Turning Point are just normal people with families.

"People don't start out as homeless drug addicts," said Schubak. "They may end there, but they deserve a chance to recover."

The District of North Vancouver has said it will reschedule a meeting about the new centre in the next three weeks.

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: Gary Schubak's personal journey of recovery from addiction

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