Thursday, 31 December 2015

Thank you for walking with me

My friends,

On this final day of my addictions advocacy work, I wanted to take the time to say thank you for being part of my journey and for allowing me to be a part of yours. Since I announced my retirement from advocacy work earlier in the month, I’ve received some beautiful messages that really touched my heart.  This whole journey has been filled with beautiful connections with people that I will treasure for the rest of my life. Thank you for walking with me.

Though I am writing this final good-bye with tears in my eyes, my heart is happy. I am looking forward to what the next phase of my life will bring. I’m ready to take on new challenges and to create great memories with my family.

If you are in a battle with an addiction (yours or a loved one’s), please don’t ever give up.  Recovery is possible for everyone. There are no lost causes.  Where there is life, there is hope.

I wish you all the best in 2016!

With love and appreciation,


Sunday, 6 December 2015

Time to say Good-Bye!

Dear friends and family,

It is with a peaceful heart that I announce that on January 1, I will be saying good-bye to my advocacy work, and hello to the next chapter of my life. After five years of complete dedication to the cause, it is time. I am looking forward to a slower pace in life and just enjoying all that life has to offer.

I started my journey to advocacy in 2011 when I began to get educated about addiction and joined the newly formed committee called “Island Addiction Movement”. At that time, I never could have imagined where this was going to take me. It has been an incredible journey that has forever changed who I am in some really good ways. I am much stronger and confident now because I know what I’m capable of. I also don’t sweat the small stuff. These are all good things.

My advocacy work kept me very busy on top of working my full-time job and, of course, being there for my beautiful family. But, I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. I was doing exactly what I was meant to be doing. I knew that with every ounce of my being.

I have been healed for four years now, and my son is over two years into his healing and recovery. We are blessed and grateful. It is time to move on and enjoy our lives free from addiction, knowing that we helped in some way to make the journey a little less hard for others who came, or will come, after us.  While the system is still not perfect, it is much better than it was when our son reached out for help years ago. We have done what we set out to do.

Through tears and smiles, I took a walk down memory lane by creating a summary of my advocacy work so that I would have something to look back on. I am so glad that I did that because I had already forgotten about some things. I am posting it on my blog to share with anyone who is interested in the hopes that it will inspire others to find their voices, even in a small way.  If you do find yours, I guarantee that you will not only empower yourself, but you will empower so many others, too.

I am proud of what I’ve accomplished and I have no regrets. Every time I penned a letter, walked up to a podium, researched addiction, or something else, I did it with love and compassion, wanting nothing more than to help people who were hurting. I would regularly ask God to give me guidance on what He wanted me to do next, if this was indeed what He wanted me to be doing. Needless to say, He kept me busy!

I could not have accomplished any of it without the support of my loving husband and beautiful children and granddaughter. However, I owe the biggest thanks to my son because none of this would have been possible without his permission to share parts of his life with you. He is my hero.

I am so grateful for the friends that I made along the way, and for the people who trusted me with their deepest secrets and worst fears when they reached out to me for help.

I am also thankful for people like Karen Mair from CBC who was always so supportive and had us on her show to talk about things that we were doing, and Jim Day from the Guardian who was the first reporter that I spoke to when our family went public and he was so kind to this nervous mom.

I am grateful for those of you who followed my work by visiting my blog, sharing my posts, and so on, and to those of you who invited me to be part of your events.

Thank you all! I reached people because of YOU!

Although, I am no longer going to be involved with addiction and advocacy, many of the things I was involved with will continue. Roni Power will continue to be an admin on our various Facebook groups, including the Island Addiction Movement. Our fantastic SMART Recovery team will continue on with the meetings, and Roni will continue to run the family support group that we started together.  

I will continue to co-chair our SMART Recovery family & friends group and post daily on my blog and Facebook pages until December 31st. I may post on my blog from time to time in the future, if something inspires me to do so. Please be sure to bookmark or follow my blog so that you will receive any new posts. 

In closing, I would like to ask Premier Wade MacLauchlan, Health Minister Doug Currie, and others in government to incorporate the recommendations that the Mental Health and Addictions Advisory Council will be putting before them at some point. As a member of the Advisory Council, I worked hard and I know that the others at the table did as well. Please don’t let the document collect dust. This issue is too important to the lives of all Islanders (whether they realize it right now or not).

Thank you all for everything.

Much love and peace,

PS: Here is the link to my SUMMARY OF ADVOCACY.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Grieving Moms on Harm Reduction

Left to right: Ronnie Power, organizer and addictions advocate; Donna May, mumsDU panellist; Petra Schulz, mumsDU panellist; Barb MacKay, attendee; Rose Barbour, organizer and addictions advocate; Donald MacPherson, Director of Canadian Drug Policy Coalition and event sponsor

Our Harm Reduction: A Family Focus panel presentation on October 29th was a very powerful event. Our room at the Reach Centre was packed. Outside, we filled two parking lots. Our panel members were knowledgeable and experienced. Our audience was engaged. We couldn’t have asked for anything more.

The stigma with harm reduction and addiction treatment programs is deadly. Ronnie Power (co-organizer) and I have known many people who felt rushed to come off of their addictions medication (methadone, suboxone) or who felt they had to hide that they were on medications instead of being able to fully embrace and celebrate their new life in recovery. Some would even go so far as to tell them "you're not clean" or "you've just traded one drug for another."

This pressure on individuals to come off of the very medication that is saving their lives can lead to relapse and/or death. There are other harm reduction programs that are also stigmatized despite the important work that they do. This is why we chose harm reduction as the topic of discussion.

There are many harms associated with drug and alcohol use that affect individuals, families and communities. Harm reduction reduces these harms through evidence-based solutions.  Not everyone is able to obtain abstinence right away so we have to meet them where they’re at. As Tom Adams, Addictions System Navigator, said in his presentation, “Abstinence says we can’t help you unless you give it all up whereas harm reduction says ‘come on in and we’ll help you with that problem that has been giving you so much grief’.”

Both of our moms, Donna and Petra, feel that if they had known about or understood harm reduction programs better their children might still be alive today. Petra shared, “Had we not pushed him so much to get off things and on with life, it would have maybe given him a better chance. Harm reduction is one of the greatest kept secrets. If there is a message that I have for parents it is to keep them safe so they can make a better decision on another day.” Donna feels that her tough love approach caused her to miss some pivotal moments where she could have helped to set a new path for her daughter, which may have resulted in a different outcome. This is why they travel the country to educate. They don't want another family to have to bury a loved one because they don't have the right information.

Thank you to our major sponsor the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition (CDPC) and our other sponsors mumsDU, SMARTRecovery PEI, and the Reach Centre.  This event was part of a cross Canada conversation on drug policy and harm reduction that the CDPC has started this fall.

Thank you to our panel members: Donald MacPherson, Director, Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, Donna May, mumsDU, Petra Schulz, mumsDU, Ann Marie Carr, Public Health Nursing, Needle Exchange Program and Tom Adams, Addictions System Navigator.

Here is the entire presentation that was taped by Pat Martel. Please watch and share.

Please click here to listen to the interview that Donna May from mumsDU and I did on CBC’s Island Morning.

Here are some photos from the evening.

Thank you to those who came out to the presentation, our fabulous volunteers, and to the visitors on my blog for reading about it and watching the video. Together, we can end the stigma and save lives.


Friday, 16 October 2015

Harm Reduction: A Family Focus (EVENT)

Harm Reduction: A Family Focus

Because it could be anyone's child

Ronnie Power and Rose Barbour are pleased to invite you to a powerful and important panel presentation entitled “Harm Reduction: A Family Focus”. 

Harm reduction aims to keep people safe and minimize death, disease, and injury from high risk behaviour such as drug use. It involves a range of support services and strategies to enhance the knowledge, skills, resources, and supports for individuals, families and communities to be safer and healthier.

Our major sponsor, the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, is bringing people in from across Canada to join our panel to share their stories and knowledge with Islanders. The goal is to educate individuals, families, professionals, and the public on the importance of harm reduction in our province as it pertains to drug use. PEI has harm reduction programs that are saving lives every day. We’ll hear more about them as well.

Panelists will include: 

Donna May, moms united and mandated to saving the lives of Drug Users (Toronto)
Petra Schulz,
moms united and mandated to saving the lives of Drug Users (Edmonton)
Donald MacPherson, Executive Director, Canadian Drug Policy Coalition (Vancouver)
Ann Marie Carr, Health PEI, Public Health Nursing, Provincial Needle Exchange Program
Tom Adams
Addictions System Navigator, Health PEI, Addictions Services

Sadly, two of our panelists, Donna and Petra, have lost children to addiction. Connected by grief, they joined with other moms to form a group called “moms united and mandated to saving the lives of Drug Users” (mumsDU). As panelists, they will share their stories of loss and how access to harm reduction programs may have saved their children. They share their powerful and painful stories to raise awareness in the hopes of affecting change so that another mother doesn’t have to bury her child. 

You can get more information about our panelists on their websites:

Canadian Drug Policy Coalition:

moms united and mandated to saving the lives of Drug Users:

Place: Reach Centre, 223 Mason Road, Stratford
Date: October 29, 2015
Time: 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Cost: FREE

RSVP: Rose at or Ronnie at 902-892-4643

We hope to see you there!

Friday, 9 October 2015

A great success!

Left to right: Nicole Publicover, Roni Wakelin Power, Cheryl Roche, and Rose Barbour 

The Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Possible book launch and signing on Tuesday was a great success. Thank you to all who came out to purchase books in support of the Reach Centre, a wonderful and important program for young Islanders in recovery. I am thrilled to tell you that you helped to raise almost $1,000. Well done everyone!

Tomorrow (October 10th), I will be going up to my old stomping grounds in West Prince for a book signing at JC Handyman Services & Sales in Alberton from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm. All proceeds from the book sales will also support the Reach Centre. Looking forward to seeing everyone!


Sunday, 20 September 2015

When crazy ideas become reality!

What an exciting month it has been!  I announced in August that the story I submitted to Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Possible had made it to the final selection round. I am so happy to tell you that it was successful in that final round and will be published. The book will be available for sale on October 6th! I still have to pinch myself. How my crazy idea to submit a story about addiction came to this I'll never know! It is such an amazing opportunity to raise awareness.

I didn’t think it could get any better than that until I received another email from the good folks at Chicken Soup. They told me that as a contributor to the book, I have the option to help local charities raise money through their special charity program. I was all over it! What another incredible opportunity!! The two charities that I have chosen are the Reach Centre because of the life-changing work they do for young people in recovery and the University of Prince Edward Island’s (UPEI) Student Affairs, which does a wonderful job of raising awareness and offering support to students through their various mental health initiatives.

Reach and UPEI’s Student Affairs will each be selling books at various locations in Charlottetown. Reach will also be selling books across the Island. I will post an update when the locations are identified! That way, if you plan to buy the book, you may be able to get one in your area while supporting great charities in the process. The books also make great Christmas presents!

For my followers across Canada, the USA, and around the world, when you purchase a book in your own community, you will also be helping to raise awareness about addiction, especially if you give the book to someone who doesn’t understand it. The book will be filled with inspiring stories so they will likely really enjoy it without realizing they are getting educated at the same time!

If you are a family that has been affected by addiction, I hope that you find inspiration and empowerment in my story.

Your support of addiction awareness and my chosen charities (if you are on PEI) through the purchase of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Possible would be very much appreciated!


PS: I do not receive any royalties from book sales. The opportunity that Chicken Soup has given me to bring my message to a wider audience while also helping two of my favourite charities with their important work is absolutely PRICELESS.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Updates and Opportunities

I can’t believe how long it has been since I last posted! Time certainly does fly by when you’re busy enjoying this beautiful gift of life.

Although I hadn’t written in my blog for a while, I continued to keep busy in my advocacy and other addictions work so I thought I’d give you a bit of an update on some of the things I've been doing. Please note the opportunities for you to get involved if you wish to do so.

Our SMART Recovery meetings are going great thanks to our wonderful team of facilitators and, most importantly, the inspiring individuals who attend our meetings. We’ve met some amazing people, and I know I speak for every member of our team when I say that we want them all to make it. Being a SMART Recovery facilitator is truly one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.  We’ll be holding another information session soon for anyone interested in learning more about becoming a facilitator. Please check back for details.

Nicole Publicover and I had the opportunity to meet with the residents of both Talbot House and Lacey House recently to share information with them about SMART Recovery. The residents and staff at both homes made us feel so welcome. We’ve received tremendous support for SMART Recovery from the management and staff of addictions services who are glad that their clients now have even more programs available to support their recoveries. There are great people working in the system, that’s for sure. We are grateful for their support.  

I also keep busy as a member of PEI’s Mental Health and Addictions Advisory Council. It has been a great experience and I look forward to putting our recommendations forward when the time comes. I will be forever grateful to Health Minister Doug Currie and Chief Mental Health and Addictions Officer Dr. Rhonda Matters for offering me a seat at the table even though I’d spent a couple of years (at that time) in the public eye exposing the gaps in the system, which I painfully discovered when my son tried to access help. I was critical of the government’s handling of the mental health and addictions file, which desperately needed an investment. Minister Currie could have chosen someone who has never been a thorn in his side, but he didn’t. That meant a lot to me and said a lot about the level of commitment to this important cause. There have been a lot of improvements over the past couple of years but there’s still work to do!

Roni Wakelin Power and I are partnering with a national organization to host a couple of free events in the fall (one for professionals and one for the public). We’ve been busy working out the details, including picking the topic that we felt would be most beneficial and a speaker who is well-versed in that area. The national organization is covering the expenses, including flying in the guest speaker. We’ll have local speakers as well. This is a wonderful opportunity for our Island community. Stay tuned for more details!

Roni and I are regular guest speakers at Jim Good’s family program at the Provincial Addictions Treatment Facility in Mt. Herbert. We spoke to another one of his groups this summer. It feels good to share information and spread some hope. We’ve both sat in those chairs at one time or another and know how helpless and scared we felt at that time. We want the families to know they are not alone and that there is hope for recovery for them and their loved ones.

Nicole and I also had the opportunity to be guest speakers in one of my daughter’s high school classes in June. The topic was mental health. I think I was more nervous about this talk than any of the others I’d given (except for my very first one) because my daughter was going to hear me speak publicly for the first time. It went well and the students were engaged. My daughter and her partner did such a great job with their part of the presentation. I was a proud mom that day (and everyday!).

I recently received word that a story I had submitted to “Chicken Soup for the Soul” has made it to the final selection round. I still have to pinch myself. I can’t believe it! My story is about addiction but the topic of the book is something else altogether. This means that if my story makes it into the book, I will reach many people who may or may not have any experience with addiction. This is a wonderful opportunity to open minds and hearts. I should know in September whether or not the story will be in the book. Fingers crossed!

I saved the best update for last! Our son is now 22 months into his recovery and doing great. He graduated from Holland College in the spring and is now working and enjoying all of the things that life has to offer. We were so proud to watch him walk across the stage at the graduation ceremony to get his diploma. That piece of paper represents so much more than the new skills and knowledge he’s acquired in his field. It represents hope and love and all that is possible in recovery. We are truly blessed. Individuals can and do recover. Never give up!

I hope to see you at our next SMART Recovery Facilitator session and/or at our public event in the fall! Together we can make a difference.

Enjoy the rest of the summer!


Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Mama, Don't Give Up!

This song came to me one night. The words kept running through my head all day until I put them down on paper. While I write a lot of poetry about our family’s experience with addiction, this is the first time a song came to me. It was also strange that it came in the voice of a person struggling with addiction who wants recovery, rather than in the voice of a mother, which is the voice I use in my writings. Because it was such a different experience, I didn’t know what to make of it. I sent it to JD to see what he thought. He worked his magic and turned it into this beautiful song that is simple like it was in my dream but, hopefully, powerful as well. The struggle is very real for our loved ones. We hope this song gives them a voice, even if it is just a small one. We hope you like it!

Mama, Don’t Give Up!
By: Rose Barbour

I’m dying on the outside
And screaming within
It’s a deadly game
That no one wins.

The people that I’ve hurt
At every turn
The roads I’ve travelled
The bridges I’ve burned.

Mama, I hurt so bad
From this life I’m living
The addiction that I have
Is so unforgiving.

Through the darkness
There’s a glimmer of hope  
That I might break free
If I can somehow cope.

With nothing to lose
I’m taking control
Reclaiming my life  
And my heart and soul.

Mama, I hurt so bad 
From this life I’m living
The addiction that I have
Is so unforgiving.
Please forgive me
For the pain I’ve caused
I hate myself
But I was so damn lost.

Turning a nightmare
Into a dream
The power is in me
I want to believe.

So, Mama, don’t give up
I am on my way
Keep your hope alive 
And continue to pray.

Who I was
Is not who you see
This life is hell
It has hardened me.

Please forgive me
For the pain I've caused  
I hated myself
But I was so damn lost.

So, Mama, don’t give up
I am on my way
Keep your hope alive 
And continue to pray.

Song Lyrics by Rose Barbour
Music by JD White

Friday, 3 April 2015

SMART Recovery is growing!

We are so pleased to announce that we now have 3 SMART Recovery meetings in Queen’s County:

Mondays at 7:00 at the Reach Centre in Stratford

Wednesdays at 7:00 at the Trinity United Church (Richmond Street Entrance), 2nd Floor, Classroom 12

Saturdays at 2:30 at Mt. Herbert Addictions Treatment Facility (this is a closed group for patients only)

We currently have several people registered to become facilitators and many others who are interested. We are hoping that by the summer time we will have SMART Recovery meetings most nights of the week.

We are holding an information session on Saturday, April 11th from 1 to 3 for people who are signed up for the facilitator training or interested in it. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to Rose at or Nicole at 902-620-0000.

We need people from all over the Island to volunteer so that we can bring this wonderful program to all Islanders who need it. If you want to make a difference in your community, this is a good opportunity to do so. There is not one community that hasn’t been impacted by addictions in some way.

Here is the SMART Recovery website where you can learn more about the program: 

Come out and join our SMART Recovery PEI team! 

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Silent Screams

Silent Screams
By: Rose Barbour

The storm clouds are all around her
She prays they’ll go away
The blue sky of yesterday
Is now an ominous gray.

The wind is picking up
Through the streets she roams
Looking for her child
So she can bring him home.

The lightning spreads across the sky
Threatening to strike
She fears for his safety
Her chest is feeling tight.

She can’t find him anywhere
The streets are so mean
She looks to the sky and weeps
God, help me please!

Her cries are drowned out
By the chaos all around
The rain is beating down on her
While the thunder pounds.

She takes refuge from the storm
Needing a new plan
Questioning a life
That is so hard to understand.

She slowly starts to leave
Hanging tight to her phone
Shaking like a leaf
And feeling so alone.

There’s no family she can call
No friends to lend an ear
Just her silent screams
And a pillow full of tears.

Addiction has stolen her child
And it mocks her love
It hurts like hell
But she’ll never give up.

Written by:

While the journey with an addicted child is like being caught up in a terrifying and threatening storm that we have no control over, we can never lose hope. Individuals and families do recover.....all the time. Never give up!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Rock Bottom

Rock bottom is a sad and hopeless place where the tears flow freely and energy, peace and happiness are but a memory. I found myself there after years of dealing with my son’s addiction.

I am a take charge type of person so when I found out that my son was struggling with addiction I naturally jumped into action trying to help him. Sadly, no matter what I tried to do or how much encouragement I provided, it didn’t work. His drug use continued to escalate causing his mental, emotional and physical health to spiral down even further, and mine did, too. I was out of ideas and out of hope.

I couldn’t stand to see my son self-destructing. I worried every day that he would die. This constant worrying affected my mental health. The lady who many people have described as “the most positive person I have ever met” was dealing with depression. I was shocked with the diagnosis but as I reflected on how I was feeling, it began to make sense.

I didn’t like rock bottom; not at all. I wanted out of there and fast! I knew that I wasn’t going to be any good to my son, my other children or my husband if I was sick and couldn’t get out of bed. I needed to do something. Knowing that I had no control over my son, I started focusing my energy on the one person that I could control: me.

My first step to my own recovery was to reach out to other families who were dealing with addiction. There is something very healing about being around people who understand. They don’t judge because they, too, found out the hard way that this can happen to any family.

My husband and I also got educated quickly about addiction. When it comes to this misunderstood and stigmatized illness, education is very important. As family members, we are better equipped for the difficult journey when we know and understand what we are up against.  

In our search for information, we looked for credible sources just like we would if our son had any other serious health issue. The more my husband and I learned the more effective we became at parenting our son through his addiction while maintaining a healthy and close relationship with him. Of course, there are never any guarantees. Sadly, some of the most loving parents educated in addiction have lost children. One thing is for sure, though, family members have nothing to lose by getting educated.

Today, I am healthy, informed and empowered, and rock bottom is but a memory. As for my son, he got the help that he needed and is now 17-months into his recovery and a full-time college student. He is healthy and happy and his life is moving forward. We are so grateful for the gift of recovery.

Never give up.



Wednesday, 4 February 2015

SMART Recovery on PEI

I am happy to tell you that Islanders now have options when it comes to recovery programs. Like many others, our son did not care for 12-step meetings like NA. While they have helped millions of people to find recovery, the format was not for him. However, 12-step meetings seemed to be the only option around, leaving people like my son with no outside support system that they could relate to.

While searching for an alternative program, I found SMART Recovery. I thought it sounded great. It is not a 12-step program so Islanders would have a choice.  It would also be a good complement to AA/NA for those who have found recovery there.  It wasn’t offered here on PEI so I took the training with the plan to start a meeting. Here is some additional information on the program:

SMART stands for “Self-Management and Recovery Training”.  


Their 4-Point Program offers tools and techniques for each point:

1. Building and Maintaining Motivation
2. Coping with Urges
3. Managing Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviours
4. Living a Balanced Life


• Teaches self-empowerment and self-reliance.

• Provides meetings that are educational, supportive and include open discussions.

• Encourages individuals to recover from addiction and alcohol abuse and live satisfying lives.

• Teaches techniques for self-directed change.

• Supports the scientifically informed use of psychological treatments and legally prescribed psychiatric and addiction medication.

• Works on substance abuse, alcohol abuse, addiction and drug abuse as complex maladaptive behaviors with possible physiological factors.

• Evolves as scientific knowledge in addiction recovery evolves.

• Differs from Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and other 12-step programs.


SMART Recovery has a scientific foundation, not a spiritual one. The program teaches increasing self-reliance, rather than powerlessness. The meetings are discussion meetings in which individuals talk with one another, rather than to one another. They encourage attendance for months to years, but probably not a lifetime. There are no sponsors in SMART Recovery.  They also discourage use of labels such as "alcoholic" or "addict".

I know many people who have found recovery in the rooms of 12-step meetings. The comparison above is just that - a comparison. It is by no means saying that one type of meeting or method is better than the other. It is only meant to show the differences. You may actually enjoy both types of meetings. In the end, we all want recovery for you. You can decide what's right for you. 

Nicole Publicover, the wonderful youth addictions worker at the Reach Centre, and I are both now trained in SMART Recovery, and we are so pleased to be bringing it to PEI. The first meeting will be held on Monday, February 9th at the Reach Centre, 223 Mason Road in Stratford. We will be offering childcare and transportation from Charlottetown for those who need it. If you need either of these services, please send me an email at to make arrangements.


Here is our recent interview with CBC’s Karen Mair where we discuss the SMART Recovery program: