Saturday, January 19, 2008

Ex-addicts happy to be clean and sober

At the height of his cocaine use, Gérald was spending up to $300 a day on his habit.

Doing two to three grams a day "at about $100 a gram, you need a lot of money, and sometimes the way to make that money was not totally legit," the 49-year-old former user said Friday.

"I abused alcohol, cocaine and pot. That will keep you stupid for many years."

Fifteen years ago, Gérald attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting with his girlfriend at the time to offer his support for her drinking problem.

"I ended up finding out I had a problem, too," he said.

But thanks to Cocaine Anonymous Quebec, Gérald has been clean and sober for 14 years.

Gérald is attending CA Quebec's 21st annual convention, which began last night and ends Sunday at the Delta Hotel.

As the group's name implies, members shield their identity, so Gérald does not want his last name published.

CA Quebec has been a presence in Montreal since its first meeting, in August 1986, drew 16 people. There now are 45 meetings a week in Greater Montreal, 10 in English and the rest in French.

The convention is normally held in the fall, but CA Quebec decided to schedule its 2007 event event now, right after the holiday period. This is a time when many users have difficulty dealing with the ubiquitous parties and with the New Year's resolutions to give up drugs, which can be difficult to achieve.

The bilingual convention features workshops on the 12-step program and sessions about medications, conjugal violence, spirituality and sexuality.

It's also a party, albeit without mind-altering substances.

"This is an event to rejoice in being clean and an opportunity for everyone to meet," Gérald said.

Organizers expect between 500 and 700 people to attend the three day convention. Tonight's main event is a large banquet with music and dancing.

Attendance at the weekend workshops costs $30 for two days. The banquet costs $70 and is nearly sold out.

"Just like the meetings, our policy is: Those who can pay, do," Gérald said of the workshops.

"We really want to reach out to newcomers. Anyone can come for free."

. The Cocaine Anonymous help line is 514-527-9999. The CA Quebec convention is being held at the Delta Hotel, 475 President Kennedy Ave., through Sunday. Participants can register at the door.

source: The Montreal Gazette

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