What is the difference between enjoying and NEEDING substances? Join the Conversation!

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This week 24 Selkirk students, staff and community members engaged in Substance Awareness Training, Level One.  They learned  about the factors that create RESILIENCE, some skillful ways to talk to students who may be struggling with life-style choices and they also learned about the various substances used in the Kootenays and how to recognize if someone might need medical help.  It was a packed few hours with lots of information and time to practice our skills in engaging in difficult conversations.  Over dinner groups discussed the following questions and here are some of their reflections on these provocative topics:

 What experiences or mentors have helped you to have a healthy relationship with substances?

  • Friends that have gone through substance abuse issues and warned me.
  • Friends that have healthy relationships with substances.
  • Watching my parents socially drink
  • Being scared by people who have really blown it.
  • Parents who opened the dialogue at a very young age
  • Early non-judgmental dialogue
  • Early exposure in a controlled environment that removed the taboo
  • Being involved with sport and spirituality helps to manage substance abuse
  • Parents as role models – good and bad (one of each)

 What does it mean to you to have a healthy relationship with substances?

  • It’s very personal – it’s when substance use doesn’t negatively affect your daily life.
  • Not private and hidden
  • Moderation
  • Deciding for yourself when to use
  • Knowing how to pace myself
  • Sometimes substances are a kind of medicine for people.  There can be short-term relief, but possibly long-term problems.
  • Sometimes substance use is a  rite of passage
  • Sometimes substance use is part of community building.

How do we know what “enough” is for ourselves?

  • Everybody’s limit is different but self-awareness of how a substance is affecting you is really important.
  • When I’m crying I know I need to stop
  • The more you drink the less you know what “enough” is.
  • Having good friends who can warn me before I get to that point again
  • By crossing the line and learning from that
  • Peer experiences/parent’s stories
  • I know that I have a very addictive personality, so I do not use
  • Checking in with self

What is the difference between enjoying and NEEDING substances?

  • Priorities – what wins out?
  • Being able to stop
  • Being able to enjoy activities without substances
  • Enjoying is using once in a while/ Needing is using every day
  • Enjoying is making intentional time for it
  • Enjoying is when a substance is part of your life but not your life.
  • NEEDING is when you can’t maintain regular daily obligations without the substance.

 If you could wave a magic wand and make the campus a safer, healthier environment what would be happening that is different?

  • More open non-judgemental communication about substances.
  • Reduced stigma
  • Designated spaces in residence for those choosing to use and designated spaces for those choosing not to.
  • Supporting people doing what they want to do in healthier ways.
  • Harm reduction integrated into policy.  This would improve relations between staff/ students/ rules.
  • Fun substance free gatherings
  • Moderation Perspective
  • Drug testing available
  • Poster campaigns with harm reduction/ health promotion focus
  • Youth more involved – – maybe they can Pay it Forward

  How do you think the Selkirk College community should go forward in creating a healthy campus culture?

  • More harm reduction
  • Community events
  • Having more preventative measures in place
  • Safe places that people who don’t use can go.  That way the partiers have their end and those who don’t use don’t need to put up with their actions
  • Bring harm reduction in policies and procedures
  • More sessions like today
  • This is a great start
  • Creating a coffee-house
  • Community kitchen ideas – healthy eating/ healthy life
  • We need a on-site bar or pub
  • Promotion of harm reduction in policies
  • Advertising and involvement
  • Keep doing what you’re doing
  • Give lots of healthy alternatives
  • It is nice to have an image attached to anti-drug – the drug scene is always portrayed as cool – it’s nice to have a “cool” image attached to being without drugs
  • Have information booths and sessions available to students giving the opportunity to exchange information and ideas.
  • Continuing to do more and more student outreach education and awareness workshops and activities.
  • Continue to have creative ways to create community that involves alternatives to substance use and the use of substances to create a community and sense of belonging.


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Thank-you so much to fourth year nursing students LaCara Biddles and Megan Hawton for the excellent information and fun experiential exercise that helped us explore resilience.

Thank-you to Karen Miller from Trail Mental Health for reminding us of our appreciative inquiry dream themes and  letting us know about the upcoming theatre production DISSOLVE about date-rape drugs.

Thank-you to Matty and Leslie Comrie for helping us understand, explore and practice the skills of recognizing when someone is pre-contemplative or contemplative and how we can best be their allies in living safely or engaging in positive changes.

And lastly, thank-you to Chris Gibson, formerly of Freedom Quest and now counsellor with the amazing TAKE A HIKE program for his jam-packed presentation on Drug Facts.

 What do you think helps students have health relationships with substances? What do you think our next steps need to be in creating a safe, healthy culture at Selkirk College?

We would love to hear your thoughts!


3 responses to “What is the difference between enjoying and NEEDING substances? Join the Conversation!

  1. Hi, I think a few slides from Chris Gibson’s slideshow from our last meeting would fit perfect in here.. defining what experimental, recreational, social use, etc means- for one example 🙂

  2. I’m glad this issue is coming to light. I think it’s good to look at the cultural assumptions surrounding the College residence experience. Does it have to involve binge drinking? What is the real need behind the culture of excessive substance use? Change of consciousness? It has been recognized that all humans across many cultures have a need to regularly alter their consciousness. The question remains for each individual to ask themselves: why do I do what I do? Why am I having a drink? To relax? To celebrate? How is it helping me know myself better? Is it enhancing or harming my ability to relate authentically with others? Are there other ways we can change our consciousness that arise from more ancient wisdom traditions and indigenous traditions? What about indigenous uses of plant medicine in the context of ceremony and elders?
    The other questions that come to mind are about the connection between binge drinking and sexual assault, which is a relevant question within the context of the college residence experience. There was an article written about this recently by about this and the author was interviewed on CBC’s “Q” this past week.

    I am grateful for this window to express these thoughts and I hope everyone continues to celebrate, stay in balance and know themselves to be sacred creator beings no matter how they choose to engage in communion.

  3. Thanks for your reflection Josh and Gabriel. I will try and get some of Chris Gibson’s slides that look at the continuum of social/ recreational use, mis-use, abuse . . . . . I found that interesting too. I am wondering as well whether these discussions and self-awareness affect choices . . . . .

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