03/22/2017 02:41 EDT | Updated 03/22/2017 02:41 EDT

Opioid Crisis In Canada: Addicts Are Not Having Fun. We Are Simply Trying To Survive.

Time to come out of the shadows, I guess. Something needs to be done to help those addicted to opioids.

There is no doubt that we are facing a crisis with drugs in Canada and many are dying in Vancouver, There have been 755 overdose deaths in the province since Jan. 1, 2017 -- an increase of 70.4 per cent over the same period last year.

Politicians and health professionals are talking about treatment options and more beds but by that time, it will be too late. We need to keep drugs from these individuals and treat their pain and mental health issues first.

"I remember being so reliant on opioids that I could not function though a day without them. I would go from running a successful business to buying drugs from the streets."

Are you telling me that all of these people are repeatedly ingesting poison that may kill them, defining them as insane, and that we now have an insane population? No, it's not so simple.

One of the most brilliant minds on this topic is Dr. Gabor Mate. His forward thinking is that where there is pain, there needs to be relief. He recently said to a local journalist that fixing fentanyl means treating trauma that creates addicts. As he stresses, opioids sooth emotional pain.

An addict in recovery

Going through my own trauma-related drug use, Dr. Mate clarified things for me that made me realize that I was not broken but simply needed good help.

He explains, "But opiates also soothe emotional pain; in fact, the suffering of psychic pain is experienced in the same part of the brain as that of physical pain."

Hence, the first question when dealing with opiate-dependent human beings should be not "why the addiction" but "why the pain?"

I remember being so reliant on opioids that I could not function though a day without them. I would go from running a successful business to buying drugs from the streets. The shame I felt when leaving a boardroom or the office to buy drugs was unbearable.

I have now been clean from opioids since April 2016 ... almost one year. It was not easy and I will always be an addict in recovery BUT if my mental illness and trauma was diagnosed earlier, I may never have sought the comfort of drugs.

rachel thexton
Rachel Thexton with her mom.

I hope that my friends and colleagues can emphasize with my disease and still know that I am a bright and capable professional. I will no longer hide behind this disease because of shame but instead celebrate my ongoing recovery and help others to feel as though they are not alone.

This is not something you need to be ashamed of.

I am also appalled that B.C. medical doctors get less than a day on addiction medical training. I was once told by a doctor that if I didn't embrace the well-known 12 steps of recovery, I would die. This was wrong and, in fact, I did my recovery as an out-patient with my own help.

The rehabilitation centre on Bowen Island did not work for me. I'm sure it's done wonders in others' lives but the lack of one-on-one time with my therapist was a huge problem. The addicts' brain is actually built differently than that of a non-addict and we have a DISEASE!

The life-saving drug Suboxone also helped to save me.

rachel thexton fiance
Rachel Thexton with her fiance.

Can I tell you something that you may not know? Opioid addicts are not having fun. They are simply trying to survive, often sick in body and mind. Stopping the drug can be the most painful experience.

The next time you see someone struggling in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, have compassion. These people are suffering and you have no idea what they have been through in their lives.

Let's make drug use and recovery the last stigma and use our hearts to reach out.

Not every day is easy

As a successful 36-years old professional, I know that this can happen to anyone with pain and I have experienced horrible pain due to this disease. I felt I could no longer be happy, or function, without drugs. It's as though my brain needed higher octane fuel!

Not every day is easy, but through therapy, exercise, hiking and spending time with animals and working, the days are brighter.

Can we take the judgment out of the equation and remember that pain causes this drug problem and we need new methods of treating this pain? Everyone deserves this much.