Windsor non-profit offers counselling to young women affected by addiction codependence

A not-for-profit organization says addiction in Windsor has become so prevalent, it's now offering counselling services to support young women affected by people with addictions.

'The support aspect of this group is very important,' says social worker

Tim Baxter has administered Naloxone at least five times as an addictions counsellor in his office. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

A not-for-profit organization says addiction in Windsor has become so prevalent, it's now offering counselling services to support young women affected by people with addictions.

Crossroads: Centre for Personal Empowerment is running a 10-week group counselling program for women between the ages of 16 and 24 who struggle with codependency.

"The main issues or challenges these women would face are self-esteem, identity, having value within herself, decision-making and creating boundaries in life," said Dana Agnolin, a social worker who is leading the codependency group at Crossroads.

What exactly is codependency?

The term 'codependency' was coined a few decades ago in the context of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

"It was originally created for family members of those struggling with an addiction," said Agnolin.

"They love this person, and they have a hard time separating themselves from the person's addiction." said Tim Baxter, executive director of Crossroads.

 "They rely so heavily on how the other person is doing that they abandon their own feelings and emotions in an effort to address what the addict needs. And it impacts them significantly." 

Dana Agnolin is running group counselling sessions for young women who are struggling with codependency. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

The new group sessions will tackle one topic each week for 10 weeks to help people gain a healthy perspective on themselves. The first half covers topics such as boundaries and assertiveness and the second half creates a support system for women to hear one another's stories and realize they aren't alone.

"The support aspect of this group is very important." said Agnolin.

How did we get here?

Tim Baxter said when he launched his non-profit organization 12 years ago, addiction wasn't at the forefront of many minds.

"The opiate crisis was just starting to manifest itself at that point in time. The heavier drugs were just starting to become prevalent," he said. "[Opiates were] so bad at one point around that time, people were renting vans and driving them out to doctors they had identified would easily prescribe them that kind of medication for them."

But with widespread drug use, came more significant problems in Windsor, and the need for agencies to increase programming, according to Baxter.

Tim Baxter interrupted the interview to reach into his desk drawer and show the audience this... 0:43

While funding at Crossroads — similar to multiple agencies in the city — is limited, the non-profit has tried to evolve with the times.

In 2019, that means providing codependency treatment for young women who haven't properly learned how to have a healthy relationship and cope with emotions.

"They place value in situations rather than value in themselves, in their own opinions," said Agnolin.

Agnolin says sometimes people who struggle with codependency want to fix the other person and lose sight of who they are and what they need for themselves to prosper.

What is the reality of addiction now?

Baxter has been in addiction services for nearly 30 years. He said he has called paramedics and police multiple times to his office.

During his interview, Baxter reached into his desk drawer.

"You know what this is?" he asked while holding a Naloxone kit. "It originally came with three doses. There's only one dose left in there. That's the second kit I've had." 

Baxter said he's had to administer Naloxone in his office at least five times.

"I don't like it to happen, but it happens. I can't change it."

While Baxter can't change how addiction looks in Windsor, he is changing the services the organization has to meet community needs. 

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