Families of meth addicts start support group for each other

A Winnipeg artist is launching a support group for families affected by the "demon" of the drug world, she says -- methamphetamine.

Urgent plea from organizer: 'Meth is a different animal. It wants to take you. We really need help'

Artist Jackie Traverse hopes families with loved ones addicted to meth join the support group to fight the 'demon' drug. (CBC)

A Winnipeg artist is launching a support group for families affected by what she calls the "demon" of the drug world — methamphetamine.

"I believe that meth is a demon that has entered the bodies of our people through their blood, and it's ruining communities, it's ruining lives," said Jackie Traverse. "It's a different kind of animal ... and right now, there's no support for those of us looking for answers."

Addictions experts and justice officials have recently noted meth use in the province is soaring; in the first month of 2018, the Winnipeg Police Service seized more than six kilograms of meth, worth close to $600,000. That's more than half the amount police seized in all of 2017.

Meth psychosis

The high can last for days.

The drug — or withdrawal — can cause meth psychosis: when sleep-deprived users become paranoid, agitated and often violent.

Traverse decided to start the support group after the meth crisis started to close in on her. First it was her friend's daughter, who threatened her mother with a knife while under the influence.

Now, meth's taken over members of her own family.

"One of my best friends [has] been struggling with this problem. Now I've been affected by it," Traverse said. "And that's as far as I'd like to elaborate. It's too painful."
Artist Jackie Traverse painted this image of meth called 'Deth,' which depicts a 'happy-looking skull because he's happy to take you.' (Supplied by Jackie Traverse)

Traverse reached out to Manitoba Moon Voices, a non-profit agency that supports Indigenous women and projects, and asked them for help in creating the support group. Their response was immediate.

"They said 'sure, we'll support you in any way," Traverse said. "Now my hope is to get help from our elders and our medicine people."

Support group a 'godsend'

Traverse hopes to hold weekly meetings starting in May; already, however, word of the group is getting out.

"It's a godsend," said Adam Leszkovich, whose sister is addicted to meth. "I plan to jump in head first. We're grateful." 

A Winnipeg woman whose loved ones are addicted to crystal meth, is starting a support group specifically for families affected by the drug. 0:47

The support group has also caught the attention of Tala Tootoosis, a Saskatchewan-based motivational speaker and consultant, who works with Indigenous communities about how to handle both the meth crisis and the meth addict.

She's also a former meth addict.

"I was highly addicted to meth to the point of three or four days no sleeping, no eating," Tootootis recalled. "People don't know how to deal with that."

Traverse hopes she'll share that insight with her support group.

Winnipeg artist Jackie Traverse is starting a support group specifically for families facing what she calls the "demon" of the drug scene, meth addiction. 1:35

"I could for sure talk from my perspective, I can speak from an addict's perspective," Tootoosis said.

The first planning meeting, to hammer out details of the support group, was scheduled for Thursday, April 19 at 6 p.m., at the Thunderbird House in Winnipeg.

Traverse said anyone can attend.

"Just show up," she said. "And let's start talking."

On April 25, the CBC is hosting a special "CBC Asks: Breaking Meth; What's needed to beat the meth crisis in Canada?" To preregister, click here.

About the Author

Donna Carreiro

CBC Radio Current Affairs Producer

Donna Carreiro is an award winning producer and journalist, for more than two decades here in Winnipeg. Prior to that, she was a print journalist for a daily newspaper and local magazines. She is drawn to stories that give a voice to those who need one.