An old Chinese proverb says that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Tom D. remembers the day he took his first step towards recovery.
“It was February 4, 2019. I woke up and I decided that I needed to get help for my opioid addiction,” he said.
With the support of his sister, Tom found Scarborough Health Network’s (SHN) Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (RAAM) Clinic. Offering barrier-free, same-day counselling services and medical treatment for those struggling with alcohol, opioid, or other addiction issues, RAAM services are available on a walk-in basis without a doctor’s referral.
Tom’s journey with opiates is not uncommon. It began about seven years ago as a coping mechanism for anxiety and depression, starting with Percocet, then Oxycontin, and finally Fentanyl – he smoked about a gram a day. As his tolerance grew, so did his addiction. He attempted sobriety on several occasions, but would eventually relapse each time.
“My whole life was just waking up and trying to find a way to get money to find drugs to use. Then the effects would wear off and I would do it all over again,” Tom reflected.
“I knew I gotta break the cycle and do something different. I had to be honest with the people around me and with myself.”
Then he found the RAAM Clinic.
“This time, I sought help for myself and not for someone else, which has made the biggest difference,” he shared. “Once I made my decision, I didn’t have to wait for an appointment to access services; I just went in and they helped me whenever I needed it and that really motivated me to stay on track.
“The first visit, they gave me Suboxone and some others medications to help stabilize me. And just encouraged me to come back. So I did. Eventually, I started counselling, mindful meditation, exercise, and reading, and began to rebuild my life.
“The RAAM team were my biggest champions. They really wanted to see me succeed. I truly believe I would not have had the same success without them.”
Tom continues to access RAAM services to help him maintain his sobriety.
“It’s incredible to witness Tom’s journey towards recovery and wellness,” said Paul Koniec, Registered Nurse at the clinic. “He has the freedom to choose the strategies that work best for him and that really allows him to take ownership of his recovery process.”
Through recovery, he has gained a new appreciation for life’s small treasures.
“I am enjoying doing all the little things I was missing out on before. I love spending time with my daughter and I try to fill each day with positive things. My family has been a huge support through my journey.”
His advice to others who are struggling with substance use?
“Don’t be afraid to get help. Your life is valuable. Have hope, have an open mind, give everything a shot and see how it affects you. Stay motivated. All you have to do is show up and try.”
The RAAM Clinic is located at SHN’s General hospital and celebrated its first anniversary on May 1. In its first year, the clinic helped nearly 600 patients – with 98% saying they would recommend RAAM to a friend. If you think RAAM may be right for you, drop by or give us a call.
SHN General hospital
3050 Lawrence Ave. E., Scarborough
Crockford Pavilion, Ground floor
Hours: Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, 9 to 11 a.m.