Brian Demas has battled demons to escape the iron grip of crystal meth, and now he wants to help others who are struggling with the addiction.
The 29-year-old Brandon man has formed a Crystal Meth Anonymous support group. Their first meeting was held Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Knox United Church.
"It’s just addicts meeting with other addicts to help them and share their experiences of what they went through," Demas said as he sat at a bench during the second annual Recovery Day Saturday at the Global Market.
Unlike Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous, people who attend the meetings can identify their addiction to one another, Demas said. "That’s the only difference."
Demas has been clean for 20 months now, after spending a hellish two-and-a-half years addicted to crystal meth.
That’s when he hit rock bottom.
"I think it was the last three days of me using, and I was trying to kill myself," said Demas. "Every time, it brought me back to the thought of my kids growing up without their dad around."
Demas has two boys, 4 and 7, as well as an eight-year-old step-daughter and a three-month-old baby girl with his girlfriend.
"There’s no really winning with the crystal meth, because it doesn’t matter how fast the cops work at busting somebody, there’s always going to be somebody else to take the next dealer’s place," Demas said, "so, hopefully with the Crystal Meth Anonymous meetings that some people will feel that there is help for them.
Demas said when he was addicted, he didn’t believe he had anyone who could help him get sober.
He finally went into a program called Together We Can based out of Vancouver.
"I’m hoping with this new meeting that it’ll help people realize that there is hope for them and people that want to listen to them."
Corey Rodrigues knows what it’s like to suffer with addictions.
The 39-year-old construction worker from Winnipeg spent nearly 21 years suffering from addictions to cocaine, alcohol and crystal meth.
He also has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder from a childhood trauma.
"I wouldn’t be sober today unless I had got my mental health under control," said Rodrigues, who spoke during the event.
"So many people, they’re just trying to get sober, but a lot of people don’t realize you can’t get sober because that’s what I was running from, was that chaos in my head. Until I got that under control, I wasn’t going to be able to do anything."
He has been sober for 10 months after trying to kill himself.
"I said ‘If I make it through this, I’m going to fight for other that are out there.’"
Kari Keam, a 33-year-old single mom from Winnipeg, has been sober for two-and-a-half years after her own battle with cocaine and alcohol addictions for more than 15 years.
She, too, struggled with addictions stemming from a childhood trauma.
"You don’t know that you’re trying to deal with anxiety and fear and all of that," said Keam, who also spoke at the event.
"You’re just trying to numb something within you."
Keam works in the neurology department at Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg as well as with a Winnipeg agency called Recovery Education for Addictions and Complex Trauma, or REACT.
As many as 100 people attended the event organized by Recovery Day founder Deirdra Taylor-John, who has struggled with opiate addiction. The day drew about 40 people last year.
"It’s nice to know that as we grow, there’s more understanding and more community," said Taylor-John, who plans to continue the event next year, as well.
Mayor Rick Chrest recently signed a proclamation marking Sept. 7 Recovery Day in Brandon.
"We’re in an epidemic. People are dying every day and we are not only dying, but very much struggling and suffering," Taylor-John said, and often they just don’t know where to turn.
"For me, I want to bring to light that there’s possibilities, because I definitely thought there was no chance that I would ever, ever be able to get off opiates."
» Twitter: @BudRobertson4