VisionQuest provides path to sobriety

Supportive recovery house in Abbotsford take a tough approach to staying clean

The VisionQuest Recovery House in Abbotsford uses a 'no-nonsense' approach to help addicts get clean.

Miles couldn’t last another day on the streets.

He had been living on Hastings and Main in Vancouver, addicted to alcohol and crack cocaine.

He had a good job in a warehouse, but was staying in shelters to save on rent, and using that money to feed his addiction.

Desperately worried, his two sisters urged him to get treatment.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the city, Jamie was so far into drugs and alcohol that his outlook on life was deeply negative.

You could say he didn’t really care if he lived or died.

The court ordered him into a recovery program after being incarcerated  for drug-related crimes.

Both men would find VisionQuest.

Jamie’s lawyer told him about a program, saying it was one of the better ones for getting clean.

Miles tried calling recovery centres, but none had spaces available. Finally, he got through to one, and they told him to get there right away, which he took as a blessing.

The two men arrived at VisionQuest Recovery Society house in Abbotsford in December, within days of each other.

Three months later, Jamie is the house monitor of the recovery facility on George Ferguson Way. He has taken on more responsibilities and helps look after the men’s daily duties. Miles, one of the oldest clients and one of the few to admit himself to the program, tries his best to impart his life experience and practical knowledge on the younger guys.

VisionQuest was formed in 1995 and now runs nine recovery homes in Surrey, Langley and Abbotsford, with about 120 clients in total. The non-profit’s motto is “crime prevention through rehabilitation.” The treatment is abstinence-based and doesn’t allow any drug use – including methadone. The program for recovery is 90 days, with strict regulations. The men can only attend activities approved by VisionQuest and cannot use the phone or computers. Men can stay after 90 days and begin reintegration with the community.

The Abbotsford house, which has been in operation for almost two years, regularly reports a list of residents to the City of Abbotsford and a liaison officer with the Abbotsford Police Department (APD).

John Davidson, a former APD inspector and member of the VisionQuest board of directors, said their no-nonsense approach is tough, but effective. The society states that 35 per cent of people who go through the program remain abstinent for one year, which is approximately three times the standard for recovery programs. He said the program is structured and strict, which can take some getting used to for the men, but many come to appreciate the added responsibilities of sobriety.

The men have a full schedule of programs, including chores, anger management classes, Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous, and group and one-on-one counselling.

JR Ewing works as the house manager, saying his role there makes him feel useful. He knows firsthand how difficult recovery can be, as he started as a client at VisionQuest in Langley. He’s seen people lose their lives to addiction and helping other men get their lives together gives him a sense of purpose.

Though Ewing, Davidson and counsellor Karen Robertson are there to help the men in the Abbotsford home, a lot of support occurs between the residents. Miles tries to help the other guys by teaching them to cook, as practical skills are important to staying clean.

Helping others has made Miles reconsider his plans for when he leaves VisionQuest. Though he considered going back to the construction work he did most of his life, Miles has realized he wants to work with others who are trying to overcome their addictions, saying he feels its the only way he can stay clean.

Jamie also agrees that he wants to give back.

He said addiction causes a person to lose his values and goals, but he has now realized his goal to go to school and become a heavy-duty mechanic. As much as this dream motivates him, he has also considered whether he should dedicate his life to assisting others with recovery.

Clients helping clients is an important part of the program. Davidson said VisionQuest is largely dependent on the social welfare system, donations, and the help of former clients. They run the program with $19 a day for each man. The average cost of keeping an inmate in provincial custody is $190 a day.

“We can make a dollar stretch like you wouldn’t believe.”

Davidson said Abbotsford’s supportive recovery use bylaw allows better regulation for legitimate recovery houses rather than “fly-by-night” operations. Davidson said the city and the APD have created a supportive system for recovery that has welcomed VisionQuest into the community.

VisionQuest requires all the men do 100 hours of community service, regardless of court orders, and Davidson said they are always looking for projects to help give back to the community.

Though the house is well cared for, they are on the lookout for a new washer and dryer, and Davidson said they are always in need of bedding and food donations, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. But despite some areas of continued need, Davidson said the community has been generous to the VisionQuest house.

“At its core, Abbotsford is a giving community.”

Those wishing to assist VisionQuest can call 604 300-1468.

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