Month: September 2017

TWC ‘All My Relations’ Program – Building Communities

Recently, a community group in White Rock contacted Together We Can to assist with the development of a new community garden. Growing by the Sea is a grassroots organization that has partnered with several other community organizations to expand the community garden at White Rock's Centennial Park.

On Saturday September 16, seven residents and one staff member from TWC's All My Relations Program assisted with the placing of planters and filling them with soil. Many of our residents have past experience with landscaping and labour work and this opportunity allowed them to strengthen and showcase their skills.

In one day, our clients moved 60 cubic yards of soil, and all of the planters were placed which meant that a significant portion of the work was complete. As rain was forecasted, it was with relief that the garden was complete ahead of expectations.

The community garden plots are to be leased to White Rock residents, many of whom are older adults that prefer a higher garden plot. Community gardens provide significant benefits such as the ability to grow vegetables for food which reduces grocery expenses. At the same time, the space that was donated has been transformed into what will be a visually appealing and engaging area for White Rock residents to interact and enjoy gardening in.

The TWC All My Relations program uses an indigenous approach to healing in its addiction treatment program. One traditional teaching that many First Nations shares is the concept of generosity and to make a meaningful contribution to the community. In many First Nations cultures, the elders are respected and the young men will take care of them.

In this spirit, our program actively seeks opportunities to make meaningful contributions to the community. Not only do our residents benefit from being able to share their talents and experience, but the community benefits from the dedicated work of our residents.

There has been very positive feedback from the volunteer organizers who noted that without the help of our residents they would have not been able to complete the garden in a timely manner. Our residents also shared how they enjoyed being able to spend some time in the outdoors and to give back to the community.

TWC All My Relations is committed to bringing a positive contribution to the community and we look forward to future projects!

This blog post was contributed by Tyler Craig, the Indigenous Cultural Coordinator for Together We Can.


About the All My Relations Program

The All My Relations program at Together We Can incorporates an indigenous approach to healing in our recovery program. We honour and acknowledge that our program is delivered on the unceded, ancestral and traditional territory of the Coast Salish people. We recognize the intergenerational trauma resulting from colonization and the residential schools which has resulted in a significant higher addiction rate in indigenous men. Our program is trauma informed, uses established best practices in substance abuse treatment in a culturally authentic, supportive, therapeutic environment.

We believe indigenous culture, traditions and spirituality are at the core of recovery for indigenous men. Our residents attend indigenous ceremonies and cultural gatherings as part of their treatment program. We invite elders and traditional knowledge keepers to share their teachings and to mentor residents on a regular basis. It is our desire for our residents to develop pride in their culture and traditions as they start their recovery journey.

TWC All My Relations is a men’s program available for anyone seeking an indigenous approach to substance abuse treatment.

TWC Staff and Alumni Celebrate 42 Years of Summer Clean Time

This Summer, TWC staff and alumni kept the cakes coming with a long list of clean time birthdays – 42 years worth of clean time to be exact!

When we celebrate a cake, we not only acknowledge the effort that those in recovery make to change their lives and heal their spirits, but we celebrate the fellowship and every person who has helped them along their way.

A cake isn't just about saying "you did it" – it's about saying "we all did it."

TWC would like to congradulate the following staff and alumni for their amazing and inspiring acheivments:

Loyd S (7 years), Lee D (3 Years), Joey M (2 Years), Tyler B (1 Year), Jeremy B (1 Year), Dale L (1 Year), Rico P (2 Years) Mick D (11 Years), Steve B (3 Years), Jim C  (1 Year), Josh D (2 Years), Zack F (1 Year), Richard T (1 Year), JJ N (2 Years), Vaughn D (1 Year), Elvis P (1 Year), Nicholas P (1 Year), Nathan M (1 Year).

Happy birthday to all of you!


TWC Brings ‘The World Of Olympus’ To Vancouver PRIDE 2017

After months of planning and anticipation, Together We Can came out in full force on August 6th at the 2017 Vancouver Pride Parade and wowed the crowd with an inspired float named "The World of Olympus."

Complete with gladiators, Gods, togas, and tunes, Together We Can proudly spread the message of recovery, fellowship and pride to one of the largest crowds in the parade's 39 year history.

Websites like "Gay Whistler" put the entire day into perspective for participants and spectators alike:

"The 39th annual Vancouver Pride 2017 Parade and Festival is one that will no doubt go down in the history books as one of the best. Perhaps it was the weather of being hot and dry? Was it the smoky haze from the BC Wildfires that helped to keep the intensity of the sun in check and creating an ery orange/red glow over the city?

Or maybe it was an influx of LGBT Americans coming North to embrace the warm Canadian hospitality (and to take advantage of the strong US dollar). Could it be that the LGBT community were united and the mood in the city was full of love and caring?

Topping it off Vancouver Pride 2017 had an unexpected surprise visit from Netflix's original series – Sense8 cast and crew."

Together We Can would like to thank all of our staff, clients, and volunteers who put their hearts into making "The World of Olympus" come alive, and helping to show everyone that recovery is not only possible, but that having pride in yourself is a part of recovery too.


Portugal’s Approach on Drugs – Medical Issue not Criminal Issue

16 years after making a bold move to treat drug use as a medical issue rather than a criminal issue, Portugal is now experiencing one of the lowest rates of overdose in the EU second only to Romania.

"Portugal decriminalised the use of all drugs in 2001. Weed, cocaine, heroin, you name it — Portugal decided to treat possession and use of small quantities of these drugs as a public health issue, not a criminal one. The drugs were still illegal, of course. But now getting caught with them meant a small fine and maybe a referral to a treatment program — not jail time and a criminal record," reports the UK based Independent.

When Portuguese citizens are caught with personal amounts of substances, the law treats these infractions as a health issue, rather than a criminal one.

According to Vice News "Today, Portuguese authorities don't arrest anyone found holding what's considered less than a 10-day supply of an illicit drug — a gram of heroin, ecstasy, or amphetamine, two grams of cocaine, or 25 grams of cannabis. Instead, drug offenders receive a citation and are ordered to appear before so- called "dissuasion panels" made up of legal, social, and psychological experts. Most cases are simply suspended. Individuals who repeatedly come before the panels may be prescribed treatment, ranging from motivational counseling to opiate substitution therapy."

Portugal's drug czar João Goulão has spearheaded the Portuguese initiative and told National Public Radio "Every family had its own drug addict. It was so, so present in everyday life, that it turned public opinion. We are dealing with a chronic relapsing disease, and this is a disease like any other. I do not put a diabetic in jail, for instance."

NPR went on to further exaplain that "Under the 2001 decriminalization law, authored by Goulão, drug dealers are still sent to prison. But anyone caught with less than a 10-day supply of any drug — including heroin — gets mandatory medical treatment. No judge, no courtroom, no jail."

Polls have shown that across the board, Portuguese citizens are in favour of, and support the approach that João Goulão has helped institute in their country and have embraced the country's policy that has brought overdose deaths to some of the lowest in the EU.

How Does BC Compare?

In terms that any Canadian familiar with the current opioid crisis can understand, the distance between Portugal's overdose rates, and those of British Columbia, are eye opening.

The province of BC with a population of 4.6 million is on track to top 1400 overdose deaths for 2017, which translates into 304 deaths per million population.  Portugal's 6 deaths per million population for their entire country is based off of a population of 10.3 million, which is more than double the population of BC.

Canadian law makers are currently debating the issue of decriminalizing marijuana, which is one small part of a larger picture that Portugal is leading the way, and the world on.


Finding Serenity – Treating Addiction With Traditional Chinese Medicine

TWC Health and Wellness Blog

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views the body holistically. This holistic view takes into account what you eat, where you live and even how the weather affects your health.

The basis of one’s health in TCM can be defined by how well their qi (chee) is flowing through the meridians or channels of their body.

Qi is a life force that is in all things. The air we breathe contains life-supporting oxygen (called clear qi), and the water and food we eat and drink also contain vital, life giving qi.

In our bodies, the channels (meridians) are the pathways that carry qi, allowing it to flow and permeate through the whole body.

When our qi is flowing smoothly, we are well, emotionally, spiritually and physically. When there is a blockage caused by emotional, spiritual or physical factors, qi cannot flow smoothly resulting in disharmony and/or disease. Engaging in activities that work to promote the free flow of qi, like acupuncture, meditation and breathing exercises, you can effectively rebalance and restore wellness at an accelerated rate.

There is no doubting the damaging effects that stress and addiction have on the body. These types of prolonged stressors overwhelm the nervous system and create an internal state of agitation. Known as the “Fight or Flight” response of the sympathetic nervous system, it is a response generally reserved for cases of emergency, intended to act as a life preservation system.

However, stressors like chronic pain, trauma (PTSD) and addiction trigger this part of the nervous system keeping it active, wearing your body down as it becomes deprived of the balance that rest and relaxation provide. As a person in the early stages of recovery, it may sometimes feel that you have little control over your body; that the pain, restlessness and emotional exhaustion you are feeling have all of the control, but by learning and practicing relaxation and meditation techniques you have the opportunity to take back some of this control.

The most immediate effects of regular relaxation:

  • Slowing your heart rate
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Increasing blood flow to your whole body
  • Reduced muscle tension and chronic pain
  • Improved concentration and mental clarity
  • Reduced negative feelings like anger, frustration and resentment
  • Improved sleep

As when learning any new skill, it is important to practice. Start slow, with only a few minutes a day and build up to longer periods as you get more comfortable. There are many techniques to choose from, and it is not expected that you will like all of them. Choose one or two that work best for you, and give yourself time to get familiar with them.

Get creative by combining various parts of different techniques that you like, or alternate between a few every week. Whatever you choose it is important that you choose one or two techniques that resonate with you, fit your lifestyle, and that you ENJOY.

Tips for success:

1. Schedule a set time to practice each day.

Set aside some time each day as your relaxation time. Try to schedule a time of day where you typically have the most energy. For some this may be first thing in the morning before the tasks and responsibilities of the day get in the way. You will be more successful if you are consistent. Using these techniques during acupuncture is a great way to start implementing and benefiting from them.

2. Practice relaxation techniques while you’re doing other things.

One of the main purposes of these practices is to help you become more self aware and able to control your internal environment. Practicing when you are out doing other things helps to build confidence and increases your ability to elicit a state of calm when stressors we cannot control are present in the moment. Try deep breathing when waiting in a doctor’s office or at a stop-light. Do a body scan for tension and try to release it using visualization or any other technique while making dinner or any other activity.

3. Avoid practicing when you are tired.

You will get the most benefit if you practice when you’re fully awake and alert allowing you to truly feel the effects of relaxation and self-awareness. Do not practice after eating a heavy meal or while using drugs, tobacco, or alcohol.

4. Expect ups and downs.

Don’t be discouraged if you miss a few days or get off track by even a few weeks. It happens. Just get restarted and slowly build up again. The body will remember what to do.


About the author: 

Dr. Kim Graham, heads the Together We Can Acupuncture Program, and is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine. With eight years of education in Eastern and Western medicine, Dr. Graham is an expert in her field, and has hands-on experience with homelessness, addiction, and mental illness in Vancouver’s downtown East Side and at Harbour Light. 

Dr. Graham has been facilitating acupuncture treatments for men in early recovery since 2002, and is an expert at recreating balance and alignment for the processes within the human body.