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Seeing the Person Behind the Addiction

How one student is discovering her calling as an addiction worker

Younger woman wearing glasses smiling holding a cup of coffee at a group discussion table

Since she was a teenager Jennie wanted to work in addictions. She always felt that people with addictions were stigmatized, which made it harder to reach out. Now she is learning how to offer that help at Mission Services’ Suntrac program.

This fall Jennie was asked to co-facilitate a group session in the Suntrac Addiction Treatment and Wellness Centre. She was both excited and nervous. “It was my first time helping to lead a session,” she recalls, laughing bashfully, “and I think everyone could tell!”

Jennie, whose given name is Evguenia, emigrated to Canada from Russia with her parents in 1994. They were both doctors, which probably inspired Jennie’s early interest in healthcare. But her real passion was assisting people with addiction. “I’ve always believed that we need to see the person,” she explains, “and not just the addiction.”

While raising her boy and girl twins, Jennie went to school for her Community Services Worker diploma and started volunteering at Suntrac as part of her student placement. She completed her required 200 hours a long time ago and still comes three times a week to help out.

Jennie and her family have also been personally touched by addiction and substance use. Not too long ago, she had to take her twins and move into second stage housing after a family member experienced a serious relapse. “I believe strongly in community-based treatment like Suntrac offers,” Jennie explains. “That way people can stay with their family and continue working while learning how to handle all of the triggers and stressors. It helps you develop the skills that you will need in the real world.”

Jennie standing in front of Suntrac logo smiling

Jennie at the Suntrac Addiction Treatment and Wellness Centre entrance.

Sitting at the table during her first group session, Jennie drew on her schooling, her personal experiences, and her passion to keep going even though she was nervous. “The clients were supportive, and the session turned out to solidify that this is my calling.”

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