By Craig Gilbert/London Community News/Twitter:@CraigbGilbert
When a four-storey face appears on a wall in downtown London, one is wise to pretty much do as it says.
Luckily for those suffering from addiction, the face was that of local singer/songwriter Sarah Smith. Her message? Shift your thinking, shift your life and leave behind the preconceived notions you have about addiction.
Stage For Change, held Friday evening (Nov. 23) near the end of National Addictions Week, was put on by Addictions Services of Thames Valley (ADSTV), a community-based service cooperating with local addiction and health care agencies through the South West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN).
It featured a live performance by Nicholas Keays. He played his song “Impossible isn’t a real word,” a track he donated to the cause. It speaks of perseverance, and the fact that addiction can be overcome.
As did the pair of young women featured in the video projected on the side of the Bell building abutting the parking lot at Queens Ave. and Clarence St. where the event took place. About 100 people turned out.
The first woman to share her story via the massive outdoor projection was named Tabitha. The 28-year-old said she realized when she had a problem at just 11. At 16, she gave birth to a girl who “didn’t make it … as a result of my addiction.”
It was something she never wanted to go through again. It took seven different treatment centres, hundreds of meetings and two years before she was really clean.
“If I don’t take care of me, I’m going back to where I came from and everything in my life will go with it.”
Stage for Change is a wordplay on the term used by addictions professionals called Stages of Change. That’s a model they use to help understand the addictions process, and it’s used in other areas such as weight management and organizational change.
“When we create awareness we can start to find common ground, create common ground and create understanding,” Smith said.
Stage for Change is a part of a larger campaign called Possible (toques bearing the name were handed out on the blistery night). The idea is to tell the real stories of substance users, problem gamblers, those with compulsive behaviours, relapse, recovery and change.
“My addiction chases me down, but I’m active in my life today,” Tabitha said. “I feel my feelings and I’m longer wandering through life expecting someone to fix it for me.”