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80 powerful presentations at the EMSB

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Do you remember getting educated about drug addiction?

Those long, boring presentations where someone droned on and on about how your life can get screwed up if you take drugs? The ones that you all laughed off?

At the English Montreal School Board, those monotonous lectures are now relics thanks to their innovative partnership with Chabad Lifeline.

Leading with vulnerability

According to a recent study by Closing the Addiction Treatment Gap, 1 out of every 10 students will grow up to be an addict. The addiction may be alcohol, drugs, pornography, internet, gambling, sex or gaming and it usually develops during the teen years.  

Chabad Lifeline's school presentations are unique. Over the past 30 years they have been developed to encourage student participation in creating a safe space for open communication. The goal of these presentations is to provide information and resources to those in need.

Each school presentation opens with an interactive dialogue about a subject that is often taboo. Chabad Lifeline's Addictions Counsellors openly address questions about addiction and detail the harm addiction causes biologically and socially.

School staff are then asked to leave the room and a guest speaker shares their experiences with both addiction and recovery, what led them to go from experimentation to self sabotage. Their honest depictions of pain and loneliness often lead youth to connect and share their fears and experiences. 

The presentation and dialogue is open, without speeches or video. The speakers create an environment where authenticity is celebrated and usually leads to frank discussion.

At the end of each school presentation a questionnaire is handed out. Students can privately share feedback, disclose if they know someone affected by addiction, or provide their contact information if they'd like to speak confidentially with a Chabad Lifeline Addictions Counsellor.

Saving lives

Chabad Lifeline's collaboration with the EMSB has literally saved lives and helped families learn to deal with the disease of addiction. Here are some samples of children who were helped thanks to these presentations (names and certain identifying information have been changed).

Mark's* father was a raging alcoholic. His mother was unable to cope with the chaos and Mark took charge of the home, helping his siblings get to school, cooking dinner, and paying the bills. Filling in a questionnaire at one of our school presentations led to Mark, his siblings, and mother receiving the help they needed to learn how to manage their lives.

Chantal* asked to meet an Addictions Counsellor in private following one of our presentations. She lived with her Mom, a drug addict. Not only were we able to guide Chantal but her mother recently began a treatment plan for her addiction.

Nick* opened up at one of our school presentations, courageously admitting that he was worried about his addictive tendencies. He later disclosed that he had never thought he was on the path to becoming an addict until he heard the young recovering addict speak and recognized the similarities in their experiences, particularly their feelings.

"I would once again like to thank you for our partnership this school year," said Marco Gagliardi, Principal of Rosemount High School. "I believe that our partnership is truly a benefit to our students. Your counsellor has been working closely with students throughout the year. She has been consulting with them on a variety of addiction problems to giving workshops on dealing with anxiety as well as anything else that comes up in between. Although some of these skills are taught through the school curriculum it is a valuable experience for our students and staff to work with a professional and hear it from a different voice both during and outside of class."

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To find out more about our school presentations, click here

My kid found me looking at porn

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It wasn't a problem to stop. I stopped hundreds of times.

It was staying stopped.

Some of you readers may struggle with an addiction to pornography. If you're like me, you can't help it. You need that rush.

Please, PLEASE seek help. Your wife will somehow find out. Your KIDS may find out.

Mine did. Here's what happened.

I was introduced to porn at a young age. Some people can look at porn and move on. But I got hooked. I needed porn.

For 20 years I struggled with porn, and it affected every relationship I had, especially romantic ones. No one could ever measure up.

I got married without my wife ever knowing about my porn addiction. I wouldn't admit it at the time, but despite having an amazing spouse, I felt incredibly lonely. I lied to her every day.

Smartphones made it even worse. Porn is so easily accessible.

I swore it off so many times. I made so many broken promises to myself. But it took one moment to change everything.

I arrived home for lunch. My wife was at work, and our home computer is located in my office. I had no idea my 14-year-old son had returned home from school because he was feeling ill.

I was watching a video... I can feel my face heat up in shame as I write this. I am literally shaking from embarrassment.

I was watching a video when my son walked into the room to ask me something.

It happened so fast. There was no time to shut off the screen. He said, "ewww, Dad!!" and ran out.

The next few days was the worst time in my life. My wife accosted me about my behaviour. I tried to lie my way out of it. It took a couple of days for me to admit that I had been hiding my addiction from her from day one.

To her credit, she stuck with me and I am grateful every day for that. She found Chabad Lifeline before I did, and started getting help.

I had always been lonely, but I had kept up a facade. Now, I had nothing to hide behind. My son avoided me and my wife didn't trust me.

I finally admitted that I had a problem and sought help from Chabad Lifeline. Thanks to Jennifer and Karen, I have been progressing. We're now working on getting our son to come to Lifeline.

Please, if you suffer in secret from a porn addiction, PLEASE reach out to Chabad Lifeline. You will get real help, and everything will be completely confidential. You will stop feeling alone.

Do it before your spouse finds out. Do it before your children find out. Most of all do it for yourself.

Miracle at McGill: Meet Genevieve

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Autumn at McGill. It was a windy day on campus. Students pulled up jacket lapels as they sloshed through piles of multicoloured leaves. 

In the warm office of McGill's internship field coordinator, Genevieve Malouin sat nervously. Hoping against hope that she would be sent to work at Chabad Lifeline.

The coordinator looked at her file. "I'm sorry, Genevieve, but we selected someone else for Chabad Lifeline's internship."

One week earlier

The McGill career fair. Close to 50 tables set up. Students milling about, holding steaming mugs of coffee. 

Chabad Lifeline's Clinical Director Karen Bresinger and Addictions Counsellor Jason Stein were sitting behind their table when a young student approached excitedly.

"I can't believe it," she gushed. "I just sent in my internship request and asked to be sent to Chabad Lifeline!"

Karen and Jason were delighted. "We chatted for a good ten minutes," Karen recalled. "She asked about our services and our internship, and we got to know her better. She was exactly the kind of intern we were looking for."

Genevieve was thrilled. As a second year student, she hadn't planned on visiting the career fair. But she was excited to make a connection with the place she wanted to work. Was it coincidence that she had bumped into the staff of the very place she wanted to work just days before they would select their intern, or was it fate?

From Luxembourg to Quebec

Genevieve Malouin is originally from Luxembourg, a small country located between France, Germany, and Belgium. When she was 16, her family moved to Montreal. "I wanted to go back," she admitted. "But over the years I slowly started to realize that maybe Luxembourg isn't the place for me, and I've made more of a home in Montreal."

Bill 101, which states that if neither of your parents had gone to an English speaking school in Canada, you are obliged to go to a French speaking school, meant that Genevieve had to attend a French school despite the fact that English was her first language. At first it was difficult, but then she discovered others who were in the same boat, and joined an English-speaking social circle. 

 

After graduating High School, she applied to the correctional intervention program at John Abbott. It took two tries but she was eventually accepted into the program, which included an internship at a halfway house working with ex-convicts. "Since I could remember I was always interested in working with people, in helping people," Genevieve said. "I knew that that was what I wanted to do, working in the judicial system. That's my niche."

Selecting Chabad Lifeline

Genevieve wanted to get a degree she could use in the judicial system, and joined Concordia's Human Relations program. But the unstructured style of study wasn't a fit for her, particularly coming from correctional intervention. 

After a couple of months, Genevieve decided to apply for McGill's Social Work program. "I was told how hard it was to get into, and people advised me to set the expectations lower but I decided to try. I sent in everything they needed, telling myself that if I don't get in, I'll just finish my degree in Human Relations."

To her delight, she was accepted immediately, and two years later, sat down with her McGill internship field coordinator. "I had found out that Chabad Lifeline was an option," she recalled. "I know a few people who came to Chabad Lifeline, and they told me how great it was. I've always been interested in addictions, and people from the prison system often are dealing with addiction. If I want to better be able to help them, I need to have a better understanding of what addiction is. I saw this as an opportunity to learn about the field."

During the interview, Genevieve made clear her desire to work at Chabad Lifeline. Then a few days later, she met Karen and Jason after deciding on a whim to drop by the career fair. "I told them excitedly that I had put them down as my first choice for an internship and they told me they hoped to see me there. I took a few pamphlets from the booth that I still have, and I left."

It's always worth asking

When Genevieve found out she would be placed in another organization, she was disappointed.

But she wondered why it didn't work out with Chabad Lifeline. "I told her about how I had spoken to them at the McGill career fair, and I was really excited and they also seemed really excited to meet me."

The field coordinator looked up. "Oh, that was you they were speaking about!" 

Turns out, Chabad Lifeline had mentioned a student they had met and wanted as their intern, but they had forgotten to take her name.

Everything fell into place. The field coordinator decided that Genevieve and Chabad Lifeline were meant to be, and moved things around to ensure Genevieve was placed at Chabad Lifeline.

Internship work

At Chabad Lifeline, Genevieve attends Tuesday's open speaker's meeting at noon, and co-facilitates a group for families. She also sits in on intakes, and does psycho-social work with clients. In addition, she leads school presentations together with Chabad Lifeline's Youth Counsellors.

Her experience at Chabad Lifeline so far has changed her perspective on addiction. "I plan on eventually getting a Master's in Social Work, and I'd like to go for a certificate specific to addiction," she said. "I didn't think I would before I started my internship here, but I'm learning so much about the field and I find it fascinating. Especially here at Chabad Lifeline where we help the families of the addict, which has been a real eye opener for me and such a great experience. Karen is my supervisor and she is the Family Counsellor. She is amazing.

"The family aspect sets Chabad Lifeline apart. From what I see and hear, not all organizations see addiction as a family issue. They usually see it on an individual level and I think Chabad Lifeline is unique in the sense that they get everyone involved, using a "how can we all help" approach. It's more of a community change."

 

Blackout freakout: my son's gaming addiction

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My son Josh* was a typical teen. Doing ok in school, hanging out with friends, playing hockey and baseball. At home, he did his weekly chores, teased his younger sister, told us about his day over dinner.

He didn't really understand the concept of moderation, but we never saw it as a major area of concern.

For his thirteenth birthday, we got him a gaming console and he loved it. His friends came over on rainy days. Gaming was a social activity.

Then he went into hibernation.

At first he was missing meals. Then his friends stopped showing up. His marks started going down.

He isolated himself. And he got aggressive anytime we told him to stop or moderate. Soon, every conversation we had was related to his gaming. And they were mostly arguments. Then he stopped showering.

His marks plummeted further, his relationships with friends and family deteriorated, and he was always agitated.

Then came the blackout.

It happened on a cold winter weekend. We were eating dinner without him, as was our new custom, when the power went out. That's when we heard a primal yell. It was followed by a couple moments of silence, and then the sound of smashing glass. Screams, and more loud crashing.

I rushed to his room and burst in, using my phone as a flashlight. 

He was shrieking in anger. The room reeked. His bed was overturned. He had smashed his lamp. Pushed over a bookcase.

When he saw me, he began shouting at me. SWEARING at me. Throwing things at me.

I told Josh that it was only a blackout. That he could continue his game when the power returns. "When?" he demanded.

"I don't know," I responded.

That's when things got scary. It was like I had pressed a button. The change was instant.

The moment he realized he didn't know when he would be able to play, he got anxious. He began physically shaking, and he started crying. I'd never seen him so distressed.

I assumed that the power had gone out as he was about to win an important game, but I would later find out that he had just started playing.

As I watched my son shake with anxiety, I knew we had a serious problem.

My husband contacted an acquaintance whose son had experienced similar issues. That led us to Chabad Lifeline.

I knew computer games could be addictive, but I had never heard of gaming addiction until I visited Lifeline. I met with Karen, the Family Counsellor, and she gave me the information I needed.

I sat down with my husband and Josh and we came up with a plan. Josh joined Lifeline's youth program and he meets with his Youth Counsellor once a week. We joined a parenting group and see Karen once a week.

Josh's grades have started improving, he's getting more involved in our family life, and he spends time outdoors with friends. We owe our thanks to the wonderful Youth Counsellors and staff at Chabad Lifeline. We feel like we got our son back.

My message to other parents is: don't ignore the warning signs. If your child is isolating him or herself, it can be an addiction. Reach out to Chabad Lifeline. Reach out for help. Because help is out there.

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Chabad Lifeline currently has 7 Addiction Counsellors dedicated to youth.

If you or someone you know may be affected by a gaming addiction, reach out to us. You never have to be alone again.

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*Please note that names and certain identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals in this story. 

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