'I was just dying': Islanders share addiction experiences with local school

Three Prince Edward Islanders shared their experience of drug addiction with the Grade 12 class at Bluefield High School last week.

'Just for today I'm not going to use, and I live it that way'

Kyle Buote and Kelsey Ford have been friends since elementary school, and have shared both drug addiction and recovery. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

Kyle Buote, now 27, remembers sitting in the auditorium at his high school, listening to recovering addicts share their experiences.

"I remember … sitting there and truly knowing that would never be me. And then 10 years later I'm up there," Buote said.

Buote was one of three Prince Edward Islanders making a presentation about his drug addiction with the Grade 12 class at Bluefield High School last week.

Buote was on the stage with Grant Matheson and Kelsey Ford. Matheson recently published a book about his addiction.

Buote was already deep in addiction when he was an audience member for a similar presentation. He was using cocaine and opiates, which he had started at the age of 14.

After high school he developed a $500 a day habit. He supported himself through crime, and he thought of nothing else but  how to get the drugs he needed.

"I'm 27 and I never dreamt of actually being this age," he said.

"I was down to 130 pounds. I had track marks all over my arms and my neck. I had scabs on my face. I wasn't eating, I wasn't sleeping. I was just dying."

Watching friends die

Ford, whom Buote has known since they were both in elementary school, started taking drugs later than him, but when she did start, it changed her life quickly.

She dropped out of school when she was 17, supporting herself working as a chamber maid and by selling drugs to others. Many of her friends were also addicts, and some of them died from it.

"After that happened I thought if I don't hurry up and change now this is going to be me. That's what really pushed me to change," she said.

Ford spent seven months at the Portage program in New Brunswick.

"That was a huge game changer for me, getting off the Island and leaving all the old friends and leaving everything behind," she said.

"I couldn't have that with me in order to actually do the steps to change."

Inspiring change

When Buote saw Ford when she came back, it inspired him to try to change.

"If she can, maybe I can stop doing opiates," he said.

I know I'm eligible for a relapse.- Kyle Buote

"I want to be able to smile without drugs. That was a big goal for me. I'm able to smile, and I don't take it for granted."

And Buote, five years clean, doesn't take abstinence for granted either.

"I don't stop putting the work in. I don't stop. I know I'm eligible for a relapse. I don't sit there and say I will never go back," he said.

"Just for today I'm not going to use, and I live it that way."

'There's hope'

Both Buote and Ford would like to continue to use their own stories and experiences to help young people stay away from or get away from drugs. Ford is studying sociology and psychology at UPEI, and after the presentation, Buote said some students stopped to talk to him about their own experiences with drugs.

"The goal for myself was for these people to know there is another way of life," he said.

"There's hope for young people in recovery."

With files from Island Morning