Recovering meth addict now leading program that helped him heal

For Todd Lange, rebuilding his life after meth addiction was a long, and costly, journey. Now, he is leading a program aimed at helping crystal meth users overcome their addiction, and heal.

Todd Lange says addicts needs ongoing support in the community, not just short-term treatment

Todd Lange is a recovering meth addict who will be leading the next session of the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba's program to help people heal from meth addiction. (Marcy Markusa/CBC )

For Todd Lange, rebuilding his life after meth addiction was a long, and costly, journey. 

Now, he is leading a program aimed at helping crystal meth users overcome their addiction, and heal. 

The program is called Leading Change and is run by the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba.

After finding the program helped him, Lange says he wanted to give back by leading its next session. 

"I want to know that all the pain I went through wasn't for nothing," he told Information Radio show host Marcy Markusa. 

"I want to take what I learned and be able to help somebody with it because I don't think anyone should have to go through what I went through."

Lange, 26, began using methamphetamine three years ago. Last spring, his use soared, and the drug took over this life. 

"From that point on it was only a handful of months until I was letting everything else in my life fall to the side in favour of it," he said. 

Eventually, he was jobless, homeless, and alone. 

"All these people I thought were my friends, they didn't want anything to do with me. My family had given up what little hope they had," he said. 

"You know they saw that I wasn't going to listen to any of their advice, I was just going to keep hitting new rock bottoms. My health was failing, my teeth... looked like The Walking Dead and I was 130 pounds."

Despite all of the people in his life who were concerned for him, Lange said he had to decide on his own to get help. 

"I will say that no amount of people's concern or advice or cries for help was enough for me," he said. "The decision had to be mine before I could start working on myself and make take this journey."

A turning point 

When he was ready, he went to the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, who offered him counselling. 

Lange was put on a list for a bed in detox, but since it was a two month wait, he said he was forced to try to detox at home. 

"I was sleeping all day, I was biting everyone's head off," he said. "I'm amazed anyone put up with it but more amazed that I was able to get through it." 

Lange found the Leading Change program when he was two months into recovery. He said it forced him to confront what made him turn to drugs in the first place, with the help of art. 

Lange created this piece of art when he was in the Leading Change program, which represents himself and the things that led him to drink heavily and use meth. (Marcy Markusa/CBC )

In the first few weeks of the program, Lange used a technique called body mapping, where he outlined his body on a big piece of paper, and mapped out his life journey, starting from his childhood to now. 

Through this process, he said he realized the root causes of his addictions: that he had been using drugs and alcohol to self-medicate his anxiety. 

"It made me ask myself the hard questions that I'd been avoiding, trying to push out of my head," he said. 

"Like when did certain problems start, when did I get these dependencies? What have I used the drugs to cover up? What have I been trying to put drugs in place of? Have I grown since then?" 

He said the body mapping exercise helped him be kinder to himself.

"I think laying me out on that table and working on me helped me be a little more accepting, knowing that whatever scars are on me, some of them I put there, but at the same time I didn't put them all there and a lot of the things I did were just me trying to cope with a trauma I didn't understand," he said. 

Lange says he has also found the peer support aspect of the program hugely beneficial to his recovery, and says recovering addicts need to find ongoing support in their community.

He says treatment centres do a lot in the short term, but then you're going back into the world alone. 

"I've heard that compared to pulling a drowning man out of a river drying them off and pushing him back in," he said. 

"I found that I need to keep going to different meetings and classes to stay on top of this because it's a disease, addiction is a disease, and if you don't get on top of it, it'll get worse."

The next session starts Aug. 23. The first session filled up within hours.

With files from Wendy Jane Parker and Information Radio