New life plan

Emily Warren knows recovering addicts need help, because she is in recovery

Published on February 28, 2017

Emily Warren is a recovering opioid addict with a new life plan. Warren wants to help others overcome substance abuse, and will be beginning post-se condary studies this fall in Ontario.

©Patrick Murphy/TC Media

There is an epidemic in this province; in it we are certainly not alone. Its reach has been acknowledged in every province across Canada.

Emily Warren of Grand Falls-Windsor is one of many casualties of the epidemic, but not one of its victims.

You could say a phone call saved her life, but to do so reduces her recovery to a cliché, and the road to recovery for an opioid addict is anything but cliché.

"I was really, really, really sick from doing opioids... I was addicted maybe two, three years at that point," Warren told TC Media.

"I picked up the phone one day and called, and he responded, 'can you be here tomorrow or can you come today."

That is where her road to recovery began, with a trip to a private out-patient addiction clinic in Springdale. Addictions councilor Craig Wiseman took Warren's call that day at Main Street Medical. The family medicine clinic in Springdale is operated by Dr. Todd Young.

Warren says without the services she received there she almost certainly would have become another victim of the epidemic. The call was not the first time Warren had gone looking for help with her addiction, but she says it was the first time someone offered a solution.

"Before I went to Springdale, I actually went to my family doctor here (Grand Falls-Windsor) and told her what was going on with me and she couldn't offer me any support or any help," said Warren.

"She just told me that it was illegal, that I was buying prescription drugs off the street, and I was like, 'well I know its illegal, but I need help, I need you to help me get out of this addiction."

A frustrating cycle, but Warren says a familiar one for an opioid addict. She left the doctors that day with no referral, no knowledge and no hope.

In recovery and perhaps even in the grip of her addiction, Warren can tell you, timing is essential to the recovery of an opioid addict.

"That is the big thing for addicts, they need help now," said Warren.

"There are so many up and down with addicts that you just have to catch the them when they're at that point when they want help, you can't put it off."

In her newly discovered sobriety, Warren tries to understand the seemingly lack of knowledge, perhaps even compassion, from those who are the gatekeepers of prescription narcotics.

The flashpoint, if not the root, of the current opioid epidemic is widely considered to be Oxi-Contin, a prescription pain narcotic. While the means of its proliferation may be the source of some debate, unlike the fentanyl now found on the street, its source is not.

"If you can write a narcotic prescription, you should be trained too in the addiction part of it... what do you do if one of your patients gets addicted," said Warren. "How do you help them, what do you treat them?"

The province is taking steps to educate physicians. When Gander MHA and Health Minister John Haggie announced the province's Opioid Action Plan last November, among the components in the agenda are a prescriber awareness module and a provincial prescription monitoring program.

These steps will educate doctors on the dangers and signs of addiction and should do much to eliminate so called prescription shopping. Where addicts visit more than one physician to obtain multiple prescriptions.

Warren is doing more than identifying perceived flaws in the system. She recently received an acceptance letter for post-secondary studies in Ontario. Before that she will spend time working at the clinic in Springdale, a work-term program offered to her in preparation for a larger ambition.

Warren is set to study Indigenous Wellness and Addictions Prevention beginning this September. This is a two-year program that focuses on the root causes of addiction within indigenous communities. Warren herself is a member of the indigenous community and feels helping others will provide a more secure foundation for her own path to recovery.

Warren knows there is an epidemic on the island; but in it, we are certainly not alone.

Narcotics Anonymous

Emily Warren has started work on a local chapter of Narcotics Anonymous. Initially looking to join a group, she ended up responding to a 2013 ad found on the Internet. It was an act of faith rewarded.

"I just kind of winged it, I didn't think anything would come out of it," said Warren.

"He said, 'My love you are the first person whose inquired about it."

So now, armed with informational materials and provided with a space at the local Anglican church, discussion on meeting nights are underway.

"I'm going to see if I can make it work for Saturday evenings," said Warren. "People would probably like to have somewhere to go, or something to do rather than sitting at home alone."

Despite the infancy of her NA group, Warren says there are already people who have expressed interest in the program. Warren says she intends to return to her home province when her course is completed, hoping to do her part in stemming the tide of opioid abuse.