‘It’s like a new chance’: Recovering meth user faces new challenges after overcoming addiction

WINNIPEG — A former methamphetamine user taking steps to turn his life around is facing challenges upgrading his education.

Steven Sangster, 37, lived with a methamphetamine addiction for four years. He ended up living on the street and got in trouble with the law before deciding he’d finally had enough.

“I was flat broke, I was on like a seven-day bender and I just got robbed for my last $40,” said Sangster, a former kitchen manager. “You just get tired of it – it’s a hard way to live.”

Sangster spoke to CTV News two years ago while going through the detox program at Main Street Project.

He relapsed and ended up back on meth after the interview. Using lessons learned in a rehabilitation program and help from friends and family, Sangster said he got sober but it hasn’t been easy.

This past September he went back to school to finish his grade 12 at Winnipeg’s Adult Education Centre.

“It was awesome,” he said. “I felt good about myself.”

Sangster’s plans have since been put on hold.

He recently stopped going to school because he felt he had no other choice.

In order to continue receiving Employment and Income Assistance benefits that he said he needs to pay rent, Sangster’s required to enroll in a community-based program to help him get a job. A program that he said runs during the same hours as school.

“I will be following through with it,” he said. “I do need to pay rent. I do need to live. I do need to be responsible. There are policies in place, I do understand this,” he said.

He could choose to go off EIA and focus on school but doesn’t think he’d be able to juggle both classes and getting a job to cover his rent while recovering from addiction.

The Winnipeg School Division said it’s a challenge for many of its Adult Education Centre students to get financial support while upgrading their education or improving their prospects for employment.

The school works closely with Employment and Income Assistance so counsellors can monitor a student’s progress, however, there are still some students who are declined benefits while attending to school, the division said.

A spokesperson for Manitoba Families said in an emailed statement: “EIA requires most participants to work with their counsellor to develop an action plan to prepare for and find employment.”

“If a person is in recovery, conversations with their counsellor might include outpatient services or participation with a community-based program and their counsellor can help connect them with those supports.”

Sangster’s just glad to be away from the life he lived.

He knows the path ahead may be difficult and has chosen to accept the challenge.

“It’s hard to explain,” he said. “It’s like a new chance.”

He said once he has a job he’ll hit the books again and continue working towards his goal of finishing grade 12.