Former addict hopes to share 'hope and light' through Brandon's first Recovery Day

If you ask Deidra Taylor-John to describe what the last year has been like, one word comes to mind — surreal. Just 15 months ago, Taylor-John, 31, was addicted to opioids. Having now celebrated one year of being sober, she wants to help others.

Deidra Taylor-John was addicted to opioids for years — now she wants to help others

Deidra Taylor-John, 31, was addicted to opioids for three years. Now sober for one year, she wants to help others. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

If you ask Deidra Taylor-John to describe what the last year has been like, one word comes to mind — "Surreal."

Just 15 months ago, Taylor-John, 31, was addicted to opioids. Now, she's organizing a day to celebrate people, like herself, going through struggles to overcome addictions.

Her on-and-off battle with drugs and alcohol started as a teenager. She tried to get clean a number of times, but one day 13 months ago, she decided enough was enough.

"That was difficult," she said. "I had to decide to finally admit to everybody in my life and make a decision that I was going to get clean."

She sought treatment, however many treatment and rehab centres won't accept patients until they have gone through a detox.

"I had to detox at my parents' house," said Taylor-John. Her and her parents had tried to find medical resources in Brandon to help, but came up empty in their search.

"You have a lot of physical symptoms … it was extremely difficult to detox and have that physical, emotional pain going on at once," she said. "We did that a few days before I was set to go into treatment and that was very difficult."

Detoxing at home 

Her mom, Antoinette Gravel-Ouellette, recalls trying to find her daughter a medical detox in the Brandon area, but came up empty and watched her daughter detox on the couch in her living room.

"It was really hard watching. She was really sick," said Gravel-Outlette. "It wasn't her. That's not who she is. She is a beautiful, loving, kind human being. For her to be saying negative things [about herself]… that was hard."

There have been calls to address the lack of places to detox outside of Winnipeg in recent years.

Earlier this year, the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba said possible changes it was considering to services included longer stays in detox and residential treatment settings.

It was also considering offering supervised consumption sites and the creation of a safe place for people to go while they wait for a bed in residential treatment, after they've completed detox.

Both Taylor-John and her mother, Antoinette Gravel-Ouellette, say their relationship is much better now than it was before. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

Taylor-John pressed on and was able to enter a recovery program run by the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba in Ste. Rose du Lac, Man., a town east of Dauphin, about 210 kilometres west-north-west of Winnipeg.

Birth of a new life 

She returned home and at the end of July, she celebrated one year of sobriety.

"It was awesome," she said. "I had a party. I rented out a community centre here in Brandon. I got a bouncy castle. I borrowed someone's BBQ [and] I invited all my friends and family to celebrate my recovery with me."

"It's a birth of a new life and it needs to be celebrated," said Taylor-John.

Taylor-John has now made it her goal to help others who might be in similar situations. She is now working part-time and also spends a lot of time volunteering.

"What I see is a lot of hurt people," she said. "I was very much struggling and I never thought I could do this. It amazes myself and I can help other people.

"I can't believe that I've done it and that I wake up every morning clean and sober, and just the ability to wake up and be happy," Taylor-John said.

Brandon's first recovery day 

She is now helping organize Brandon's first Recovery Day. Being held Sept. 8, she aims to bring everyone in the community together for a BBQ, teaching, drumming and speeches.

"We just hope to come together as a community," said Taylor-John. "It is for people who are even considering recovery too."

Her mom couldn't be more proud to see where she's come.

"I'm just, 'yes', said Gravel-Oulette. "I'm just, 'This is yours and this is where you shine.' That's her. She stands for community and she stands for things in life."

The event is being held from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Global Market in downtown Brandon.

"I hope that by me standing and saying, 'I have recovered,' it will give people hope and light," said Taylor-John. "Our message is: 'A light in the dark. I have recovered, so can you.'"


Riley Laychuk


Riley Laychuk is a news anchor and reporter for CBC News in Winnipeg. He was previously based at CBC's bureau in Brandon for six years, covering stories focused on rural Manitoba. Share your story ideas, tips and feedback:

with files from Jill Coubrough