Drug Treatment Court success story: ‘I just thought it was my life’

The Edmonton Drug Treatment Court Service is an intensive one-year (minimum) court-supervised drug treatment program aimed at helping participants break the cycle of crime and addiction. The program sees participants completing drug treatment rather than being incarcerated. Successful graduates return to the community with access to secure housing, employment or schooling, as well as the tools to continue in their recovery.

The success of the drug court program is evident through its graduates, who are at a much lower risk to re-offend. Albertans who complete the program participate in a graduation ceremony in the courtroom where their success is celebrated with friends, family, mentors, former graduates and stakeholders who play a part in supporting them through their journey.

Alana is one of those graduates – read her story below.

Alana was 12 when she started drinking alcohol and smoking pot. She had a loving and supportive family growing up, but when she experienced severe trauma at a young age, it eventually led her to self-medicate in order to escape. “It was never something I told my family,” she says.

By the time she was 16, she was using cocaine; crack by the age of 18; and by 21, she was using fentanyl and injecting heroin. “I never believed I had a problem,” she says. “I just thought it was my life. I would call my parents every night at 10 p.m. to let them know I was alive. I was hopeless.”

Alana entered her guilty pleas in September 2017, and was facing over two years in prison for her charges. When her Legal Aid Alberta lawyer told her about Drug Treatment Court, she agreed to do it. She observed drug court for three months while she was still using and doesn’t really remember it. “Deep down I knew I wanted it, and it was life and death.”

As she started the drug court program, she went through a period of detox followed by intensive treatment and ongoing programs. Alana started to see herself take on a new life and new purpose. Alana’s journey through the drug court program has been a difficult one. She struggled immensely. She was required to attend residential treatment multiple times, day
treatment programs, ongoing psychological counseling and a multitude of life skills programs.

“I didn’t think people were willing to help. I thought the whole world was against me. This
program, it’s like a family. They check in and they’re always there for you.”

Since entering the program almost two years ago, Alana has completed over 147 hours of volunteer work in the community with a variety of organizations, has attended over 300 recovery based meetings and has had over 135 clean drug screens.

Alana is currently employed full time and graduated from the program in May 2019.

“I’m grateful for what the program has done for me. It has changed my life.”

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