VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Hundreds of people gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery today to celebrate the first-ever Recovery Day.

People who struggled with addiction were there, along with their friends and family, to raise awareness of the problem and share stories of hope and resilience.

Kim has been off cocaine for two and a half months; she tells News1130 she doesn’t want to go back to that dark place.

“[I started] partying. I’d end up in places I’d never been [and] did stuff I never wanted to do. I lost myself [because of] my addictions, and now I’m trying to figure myself out and find recovery,” she explains.

Her journey has been tough one, but Kim credits her support network for her newly-discovered life.

Adam battled with alcoholism for 24 years. He’s sober now, but almost lost everything he had, including his family. He hit rock-bottom before deciding to change.

“That’s when I got my counselling and went to a treatment centre and it helped a lot. Without that, who knows where I would’ve went. My life was going nowhere and they saved my life,” he says.

His father had a drinking problem. Adam wanted to break that vicious cycle and be a good example for his son.

Dozens of others at the rally told their stories of the uphill path to recovery.

Shining a light on the rise of teen addiction BC

Numbers show among people who struggle with substance abuse, the average age they first try drugs or alcohol is 11 years old. Former Solicitor General and current MLA Kash Heed says it’s not just those numbers that worry him.

“Youth addicted to drugs… are disproportionately likely to commit crimes. From my personal research and my time in policing of 31 years, this is quite evident and it continues to be a significant problem that we are not addressing,” Heed tells us.

He believes recovery is key to keeping teens get out of the cyclical lifestyle of gangs and crime. “The monetary value of saving one high-risk youth from a lifetime of crime puts the number [up to] $2.6 million to $4.4 million. That’s from the Journal of Quantitative Criminology.”

Heed says there need to be a bigger commitment to teen addiction centres, as numbers show youth who stay in treatment for four months or longer have an 80 per cent chance of staying off drugs in the future.

He points out providing funding for such centres requires a long-term commitment, something he believes many politicians and policy-makers lack.