Pubdate: Tue, 11 Aug 2015
Source: Chronicle Herald (CN NS)
Copyright: 2015 The Halifax Herald Limited
Author: Erin Pottie
Cited: Faces of Addiction:


Son's Death After Years of Struggle Led to Video Talk

SYDNEY - Of all the things she loved about her son, it is his 
captivating smile that she remembers the most.

Vince Keating beamed so brightly he could light up a room, all the 
while distracting others away from his darkness.

"He was a really handsome guy, physically fit; you'd never know he 
had issues looking at him," said his mother, Debbie Keating.

"When he'd talk to you, he'd make you feel like you were the only 
person in the world. He had this real special way of communicating to 
people, yet he was hiding it all inside of him."

In the fall of 2014, after struggling for years with drug addiction 
and depression, Keating's 26-year-old son had started to turn a corner.

But his success was abruptly halted six months later, when the Albert 
Bridge man was found dead near a Sydney playground after having some 
drinks at a local bar.

According to his autopsy, Vince Keating died of hypothermia, although 
his mother believes he gave up the fight with his own demons.

"It was more a state of depression and coming off his medication," 
Debbie Keating said. "He was back and forth between the mental health 
side of it and the addiction side of it.

"It started in high school when he was drinking. I thought this is 
just normal, he'll grow out of it. I didn't see him get into drugs, 
but I knew when he went out west - he was back and forth to those 
camps - and he would talk to me about stuff."

Although her son was warned about the effects of oxycodone, Keating 
said he accepted a pill given to him by a supervisor.

After spiralling into a web of addiction, Vince Keating completed 
several treatment programs, but his mother said it did little to 
address his underlying emotional issues.

Throughout the ordeal, the family struggled by Vince's side.

"I thought if God is going to keep anyone alive through this, it's 
going to be him," his mother said.

"One time I said, 'You can't be here like this' and I made him sleep 
in his car. ... I remember talking to (the priest) about it and he 
said, 'You do what you have to do.'"

To keep her son's memory alive, Keating is now speaking up about drug 
and alcohol use in Cape Breton through an 11-minute video, Faces of 
Addiction, launched by members of the Lighthouse faith community in Glace Bay.

Among those featured in the video is Kurt MacLennan, a residential 
counsellor at Talbot House recovery centre who knows all too well the 
struggle with prescription drug dependency.

A former Percocet addict, MacLennan said since the Cottonland 
documentary was released almost 10 years ago, the problem with drugs 
has worsened in Cape Breton.

"As a community we can no longer pretend that this pandemic doesn't 
exist," said MacLennan.

"We recognize the war on drugs is happening right here, right now, 
and we're trying to figure out what is it going to take for our kids 
to stop dying daily."

MacLennan said in Cape Breton, addiction is often a family and 
community disease. He said drug users who are in deep will do 
anything, including stealing and lying, to feed their need.

"Had I known then what I know now, what I was signing up for by just 
taking a pill, I would have obviously never, ever taken that one 
pill," he said.

"In all my years in addiction and recovery, one of the many things 
I've learned is that diseases don't define people; it's a part of who 
they are."

Dave Sawler, executive director of Lighthouse of Cape Breton, which 
also operates the Undercurrent Youth Centre, said the island's 
addiction recovery programs simply can't keep up with the demand.

Sawler is calling for a new approach to addiction that involves 
creating several youth centres across the island.

"We're so swamped with dealing with addiction that we don't have any 
time left to keep people out of addiction," he said.

"We're fighting a losing battle if we're only dealing with addicts. 
There has to be some kind of focus on lowering the amount kids and 
youth getting into addiction."

Although the federal government recently announced $3.9 million in 
funding to support at-risk youth in Cape Breton Regional 
Municipality, Sawler said it's not yet clear how the money will be spent.

He said the amount of money spent in Cape Breton on addiction 
prevention is extremely low.

In order to make a change, Sawler said, more attention needs to be 
placed on future generations.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom