Yarmouth resident Becca Newell talks about the impacts of addiction and about fighting to get and stay clean
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YARMOUTH, NS – Becca Newell’s words will resonate with anyone who is battling drug addiction or recovering from addiction.
“I didn’t know that one choice was going to be my choice for the rest of my life,” she says. “I didn’t know I was going to smoke the actual devil.”
Years ago Newell became addicted to crack cocaine.
She’s also overdosed six times.
“One night I died. I was gone for two minutes. The rest of them, I was very lucky to make it out of them.”
Her last overdose left her questioning why anyone would keep using. She knew she didn’t want to.
She’s been working hard to be clean and to stay clean.
She says she’s no longer using.
“I was getting paranoid from the drug. It wasn’t masking my problems anymore,” she says.
Recovery isn’t easy for anyone.
For people trying to stay clean – and even those who are successful at it – there are constant triggers.
Recently having become homeless, Newell overcame a very large trigger.
“I was staying in a hotel where I overdosed in the exact same room. But I walked in, I was strong. I made it through it,” she says. “With my recovery, it’s one step at a time. One breath at a time.”
The Yarmouth woman is speaking out because she wants people to know the consequences and negative impacts of drugs.
She wants people to understand not everyone who uses drugs is a bad person.
No one grows up wanting to be an addict.
“In this town everywhere you go, there’s people on drugs. There’s not enough help with mental health in this town. There’s not a rehab for people in this town. All there is are tons and tons of drugs,” she says.
“We, as addicts, did not know that our party fun was going to turn into the devil. Even in recovery, we are still battling the devil. That’s why people have relapses,” she says. “There are people that want to get off the drugs but can’t. Some can do it. Some can’t. Some can do it with rehab. Some relapse and learn their lesson. Some might not do drugs for the next 10 years and all of a sudden they’re heavy on drugs again.”
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Newell says people battling addictions are human beings – someone’s son, daughter. Husband, wife. Brother, sister. Friend. And on it goes.
Still, people look down on them.
She says a lot of experimentation with drugs happens when people are teenagers. They may be bowing to peer pressure their first time, but become hooked and find themselves surrounded by the drug culture. Their friends do drugs. They hang out in places where drugs are present. Girlfriends have boyfriends who are drug dealers and vice-versa.
For Newell, when someone she refers to as the love of her life and best friend, along with other friends she knew, died after their fishing vessel was lost at sea, to cope she started getting heavier into drugs.
“Even at my weakest moments, I kept saying, ‘I’m gonna get out of this’,” she says.
All these people who do drugs, don’t you think they sit down and cry and beg for forgiveness and a way out?”
While from the outside people may see drug use as a chosen lifestyle, in reality it’s a disease.
“I’m pushing and I’m keeping strong. I don’t hang with my drug addict friends like before,” says Newell. “But people are still human. They’re not bad people, they just do drugs.”
But not everyone is understanding.
And the fact that drug use often fuels criminal activity doesn’t gain people with addictions points in the empathy category.
Even those who recover or are in recovery can’t shake perceptions, nor their past.
“I’m still getting judged because I was a substance abuser,” says Newell.
She says that may never end.
“Even me being clean now, there’s people out there saying, no, we’re not gonna give her a place because she was a substance abuser.”
Newell says she’s paying the price for her past.
She’s lost her kids. More recently she was evicted from her home of four years. Still, at the lowest of her low, she’s fighting to get both back.
Meanwhile, she was pointed to a women’s shelter in Halifax. As it was explained to her, you call at a certain time each day. If there’s a space, you have an hour to claim it in person. If not, it goes to the next person.
“If you’re in Yarmouth, you can’t make it there in time,” she says. “But I know two people that are very active in addiction that just got on welfare and got a seven-day stay at a local motel.”
Newell doesn’t claim to have never made mistakes or bad decisions.
And she understands why Child Protective Services wants to ensure she’s not currently abusing substances.
“I’ve hit rock bottom before, but this time I’m scraping the metal. All I want to do is find a place and get my kids back.”
Being homeless has been eye-opening. In this part of the province there is little in the way of shelter options.
At 36, she’s too old for the SHYFT house, which offers temporary housing to at-risk or vulnerable youth. She’s not in an abusive situation so Juniper House is not an option.
“I wouldn’t want to take a place of a woman that is being abused anyway. I’d rather sleep with a sleeping bag on a bench knowing a woman is safe.”
Is another shelter option needed here?
“Obviously this is a huge gap, not having these types of shelters available. But if we get shelters, are they going to have people that are addicts or people that are too lazy to pay their rent say they need a place to live and use it as a vacation home?” she says. “Then people like me that need it are not going to get into it if people abuse it.”
Even so, she feels there should be a shelter in the region for people in homeless situations.
As for judgment, that’s hard to shake.
She readily admits not everyone wants to give her a chance or believes she can change or has changed.
Again, her message is no one grows up wanting to be an addict and not everyone chooses to stay one.
“I just want people to know I’m a 36-year-old woman that is doing everything possible to get my children back. I battle in my recovery and what I mean by that is I run into people that do drugs. You’ll always get offered drugs because this town is very sick with drug use. It’s all about making your own choice and the right ones.”
“I want a place to lay my head temporarily. I would like to get an apartment. I would like to get my children back,” she says. “I’m looking to go back to school to get my Grade 12. I want to be a counselor for addicts because I think I have a lot of knowledge.”
“People in my predicament would have completely given up and relapsed and made their situation worse. I’m still looking to keep moving forward,” she adds.
“I pray for people’s sobriety. I pray for my recovery. I pray that people can make the right choices. It’s one step at a time.”
“I feel some days the seconds on the clock are stuck. But I keep getting up, getting dressed and I just keep going.”
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