Former meth user offers stories of hope and support for those still in drug's grip

One year into his recovery, former meth addict Skyler Moneyas organized Life After Meth at the Westminster United Church Saturday, with the aim of showing current addicts a path to a new life.

'I'm just happy ... I have a good life today,' says Skyler Moneyas

Skylar Moneyas created Life After Meth, an event where former addicts can share their stories and pathways to recovery in hopes of helping curb the ongoing meth crisis in Winnipeg. (Ahmar Khan/CBC News)

For the better part of three years, Skylar Moneyas was addicted to meth, but now, a year into his recovery, he knows the impact a success story can have on those still struggling.

"I have a lot of family [and friends] who are still into meth and some of my friends actually think there's no way out," he said. "People that are sharing their stories today — [they] are living proof that there is a way out, you just have to want it."

With this in mind, Moneyas organized Life After Meth at Westminster United Church Saturday, where former and current addicts, along with a couple dozen community members, could openly talk about the path to recovery.

During his addiction, the biggest problem for Moneyas was that he felt he had nobody around him.

"When I was struggling with meth addiction I had nowhere to go, I felt like nobody loved me or cared about me," he said.

The problems in his life, an inability to hold jobs and tenuous relationships with friends and family all weighed on his shoulders, and meth became his escape.

"It was me hiding the pain and hurt that I was holding in from, a little bit of my adult life and just all the trauma that I had from the past," Moneyas said.

Eventually, when he decided to make the drastic change he so desperately sought, Moneyas went to the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba. He completed the 28-day program and then moved into a recovery home, where he has lived for the past 11 months.

"You know every day you're waking up you're doing a group session [of] group therapy," he said. "You know how to learn how to be on your own."

The switch really flipped for Moneyas when he hit his 30-day milestone and was invited to the birthday of another former addict.

"[He] was 15 years clean and the smile and the way everyone described how that guy's life was and how much he has changed and how much he's helped other people [it] made me want that," he said.

While getting clean is hard, Moneyas says getting addicted is much easier — for him, it happened after first high.

"All it took was the first try for me and I was addicted … it just went straight downhill from there," he said.

The long path to recovery can be arduous and at times he felt alone, but now a year removed from the day he walked through the doors of the recovery facility, Moneyas is thrilled about his current state.

"I'm just happy, I'm free, I'm myself again, I'm 100 per cent clean … I have a good life today. I have a job now," he said.

Part of the struggle to getting recovery and staying off the streets is that Moneyas believes governments haven't done enough to help all the addicts.

"I honestly don't think there is enough resources here in one case for treatments, second-stage housing, living and meals. They don't have enough resources for [us]," he said,

Jameson Bell, a recovering user, has struggled with his addictions in one form or another since the start of high school.

The path to leading a clean lifestyle wasn't an easy one, says Bell.

"Through six rehab centres, detox, various stints of sobriety, different meetings — I was trying for a long time before finally getting my feet planted and finding recovery," he said. 

Bell spoke to the crowd at Westminster United Saturday, providing details of what meth did to him, and how fighting back against his addiction has changed his life.

"I think I've really started finding who I really am … [it] gave me a whole new outlook on life and actually a new appreciation and gratitude that I lacked before."