Tamara Scullion’s son Wyatt was funny, smart and incredibly curious. He loved knowing how things worked, so much so that as a young child, he once took apart the television remote control and put it back together.
Watching that adventurous little boy grow, his mom could never have imagined that as a young adult, he would one day confess to her that he had a heroin addiction, and that three years later she would lose him, at age 24, to an overdose.
That’s when Scullion discovered that while it’s heart wrenching to see your child die for any reason, losing a loved one to an addiction carries its own specific pain that most of the rest of the world doesn’t understand.
“There’s a big stigma attached to it. You feel judged. It’s a very difficult topic,” she said. “I was so devastated and in excruciating physical pain. I didn’t want anybody to look at me with sad eyes.”
Grief counselling helped on a personal level, but she wanted to connect with other people who had experienced the same kind of loss. She found out about GRASP, an acronym for Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing, an international organization created to provide support for families who have lost someone to drug use.
Scullion recently founded a Montreal chapter of GRASP, the first in Quebec that meets Wednesdays in Beaconsfield. So far the meetings are in English, though she is working on translating some of the material into French.
“It’s a safe place to express yourself, not be judged and be around other people who can relate,” Scullion said. Each participant can share as much or as little of their own story as they wish.
Part of the problem she said, is that there are so many misconceptions about addiction. The stereotype of bad people living in alleyways, unloved and unwanted, isn’t her experience, or that of the families she’s met. “That image is what you see in a movie. In our groups we see all these people with multiple talents, who had amazing grades in school; privileged kids who had piano lessons, went to ski school and had interests.”
Scullion’s son didn’t want to go to rehab, so she took him in. “I moved to a quiet suburb and watched him like a hawk for three years.”
Wyatt went on a methadone program and stayed away from heroin for three years. At the time, things seemed good, she said, but she didn’t realize that the underlying reasons behind his addiction had never really gone away. “Most people think the cure for addiction is abstinence,” she said. “But when you have an addiction, you have underlying issues, and these were never dealt with.”
Wyatt said he felt cured, and moved in with friends, but soon started using again. One day she went to pick him up, and he wasn’t there. Later, she found out he had overdosed.
“There’s so much we do not understand about addiction. There’s so much guilt, and wishing you could have done more,” she said. “Hearing other people say what you’re thinking (in support groups) is important.”
GRASP meetings are open, but pre-registration is required, by phone 514-898-1220, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Information and resources are available on the international group’s website, grasphelp.org and there is a Facebook page, too. As well, Scullion has an information site on addiction ourkidsaddiction.ca.
Substance Abuse Resources & Support
Drug Rehab Services
A free resource for drug and alcohol addiction, providing referrals for clients seeking rehab centers in Montreal
Andy’s House Treatment Centre
Private residential treatment and rehabilitation centre
Chabad Lifeline (Cote des Neiges)
Treatment centre for addicts, including youth at-risk programs and support groups, etc.
Drug Referral Line (Helpline)
24/7 referral service and informational helpline.
514 527-2626 or 1-800-265-2626
Foster Addiction Rehabilitation Centre (Montreal and Quebec)
Public rehabilitation centre for English-speaking youth and adult addicts. Offers help with recovery and social reintegration.
514-486-1304 or 1-866-851-2255
Portage – Adolescent Program (Quebec)
Drug addiction rehabilitation centre for youth (14-18 years old). Provides therapy, support, recreation and tools to help develop social competencies to better function in everyday life. On-site schooling is also available.
450-224-2944 (French services) or
514-694-9894 (English services)
Ligne Parents (Quebec/Online)
24/7 phone service that provides support to parents dealing with children and adolescents who are abusing substances.