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Ask An Addict: Entering the final steps of the program

Ask an Addict is a column penned by Helena Paivinen, a Kamloops scholar with expertise in addiction issues and someone who is also a a self-described addict
Ask An Addict

I was 15. He was 21 — a worldly man, or so I thought at the time. He introduced me to fancy new fare, Chinese cuisine, at a restaurant in Northern B.C. that was upscale to me to me.

It was exotic and foreign, this restaurant and its food. It had two rooms, with one away from public view. It was almost hidden, like an illicit, secret backroom.

Decor was laden, with a heavy, funeral parlour feel, the kind where sounds are muffled, silenced and swallowed whole.

The floors were covered with thick, heavy, red shag carpets, with each wall draped and dripping with velour black blood-coloured drapes.

In hindsight, it was reminiscent of Gold Rush days, when hard-working men became lost and seduced in mind-numbing thick smoke — illicit Chinese opium dens.

I see now how surrounding environments and the ambiance of people can unknowingly seduce.

I think of Jeffery Epstein, how his age, wealth and prominence influenced and had power over the undeveloped, unconscious brains of vulnerable young women like myself.

The restaurant and my older boyfriend, with his Cessna 152, two muscle cars and waterski boat, led my young teenage self to consume, then participate in nightmares.

I was only 15. He was 21. His co-worker was 34.

I stop




for awhile



Now today

Working the steps

Trying to uncover

Recover and


I work the 12-step program each and every single day. I do this to address not only my sobriety, but also past trauma and pain.

Steps 10, 11 and 12 are called maintenance steps, which require daily inventory, examining my conduct and making amends, if necessary.

I get to take responsibility for myself, my way of being, as this is the only thing I can now control.

The maintenance steps also ask for meditation every day, which is extremely difficult, but important, as it helps reprogram my broken soul and once intoxicated, lost brain.

I am to be responsible for service, helping and focusing on others to get out of myself. These are the keys to staying sober, even when — especially when — post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and past trauma memories suddenly reappear.

I cannot write any more about this except to say that I recently attended a trial at which a former university student of mine was the sexual assault victim. She was 21 and he was 50.

She fell into my arms after recognizing me at court. Incidents at a young age set both of us up for future traumas to deal with.

I whispered into her ear and she looked up at me with astonishment.

Hashtag Me, Too.

Ask an Addict is a column penned by Helena Paivenen, who has expertise in addiction issues and is a self-described addict. The column is meant to inform and help, which is particularly important as we remain mired in an opioid crisis that continues to claim thousands of lives each year. If you have a question you would like answered, email it to Anonymity is guaranteed. To read previous Ask An Addict columns, go online to and search “Ask An Addict.”