New Brunswick

'You die or you get help': How an Oromocto High student overcame drug addiction

Tatyannah Côté was high on crystal meth, when she stole her mother's 2011 Ford Fusion to visit her friend at Pizza Delight, although he'd died two days earlier.

'I kept trying to kill myself and just didn't really want to be alive'

In November 2017, Tatyannah Côté's friend Cole Robicheau died by suicide. Since then, Côté has been trying to overcome drug addiction. (Maria Jose Burgos/CBC)

Tatyannah Côté was high on crystal meth when she stole her mother's 2011 Ford Fusion to visit her friend at the Pizza Delight in Oromocto, although he'd died two days earlier.

"I wanted to go see him, even though I knew he was dead," the 17-year-old said Wednesday.

"I thought in my brain that maybe if I went to his work, maybe he was on break, smoking. Maybe I could go get him."

Côté's friend, Cole Robicheau, died by suicide in November 2017. The two friends, both children of military families, grew up together outside Brandon, Man., and later reconnected when they both moved to New Brunswick.

There's nothing to live for. I didn't have a home. I didn't have anything. I just gave up.- Tatyannah Côté

After he died, Côté, who was in Grade 11, dropped out of Oromocto High School, was kicked out of her home and lived on the streets.

Many times, she herself wanted to die.

She remembers one night in particular, when a man she encountered on the street fed her cocaine. Then he told her how "horrible" and "disgusting" she was for doing drugs and needed help.  

She can also remember receiving text messages from a person she knew who called her a tyrant and said she only cared about snorting cocaine, "going line after line."

Côté had hit rock bottom.

"I kept trying to kill myself and just didn't really want to be alive,'" she said. "I was like, 'I can't do this. There's nothing to live for. I didn't have a home. I didn't have anything. I just gave up."

Battling with addiction 

Côté had struggled with addictions throughout her entire high school career. She remembers Robicheau begging her to get help.

But she was never ready.

In Grade 7, she started drinking and smoking marijuana. By the time she hit Grade 9, she was doing speed and then moved onto "Molly," a mashup of MDMA, the component in the drug Ecstasy, and unregulated synthetic stimulants.

In Grade 10 she tried cocaine and Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug. In Grade 11, she eventually turned to crystal meth, which is when things really started "to spiral."

Côté will be receive a Turnaround Achievement Award on Wednesday evening for getting clean and returning to high school. (Maria Jose Burgos/CBC)

"There were nights when I would sleep on her floor in her room while she would sleep for four days," said Jennifer LaHaye, Côté's mom.

LaHaye always hoped the drug use was just a phase and would try to overlook it.

"There were nights I didn't know where she was. I don't know how many times I called the police to try to find her."

A hope for new beginnings

At the beginning of every school year, Côté would always promise herself she'd turn things around. But she never did. And in her first two years of high school she had 13 suspensions, was expelled at least once and was in and out of her mom's home.

After stealing her mom's car more than a year ago, LaHaye went to the police to press charges. Then she gave her daughter an ultimatum. 

"Either you continue and you die, or you get help. These are your options. And she decided to get help."

Côté has a tattoo of a butterfly on her shoulder. The tattoo represents Robicheau and how he's always with her. (Maria Jose Burgos/CBC)

A few weeks later, Côté went to Portage Atlantic, a drug rehabilitation centre about 30 kilometres south of Sussex.

At the centre, she worked on getting clean and kept up with her studies, which included a 98 per cent average in one of her classes. It was there she started to let herself dream of graduating from high school and maybe even one day, be accepted into university.

Côté was at the centre for a total of six months and three weeks. She attributes her recovery to staff at the centre.

"There was a girl that came in, she was a staff [and] she did the program too," Côté said. "She was in the same four walls that I was in. It was kind of like a hope, you know? I can make it."

'I was proud of her every day' 

Her life has come a long way since then.

Côté will be receiving an award at the Turnaround Achievement Awards in Fredericton on Wednesday night. The ceremony is to recognize students who turn their struggles into lifelong achievements.

"I was proud of her every day, even the days I shouldn't have been, I was proud of her," said LaHaye.  

Listen to Tatyannah Côté talk about how she overcame drug addiction and turned around her life.

"I'm glad there's going to be a room full of people that are going to feel that pride that I feel in her."

After her first semester in Grade 12, Côté joined student council and earned a 95 per cent average.

"Everything was the same except for myself. I felt like the change was in me and not in others."

University ahead of her

She's graduating from high school in June and running for valedictorian. In fall, she plans to attend St. Thomas University, where she'd like to go into social work or help other teens at Portage struggling with drug addiction.  

After everything she's been through, Côté feels a part of Robicheau is still with her today.

"Being sober now, I think he would be really proud of me," she said.

"He would tell me that he loved me."

With files from Information Morning


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