Giving people a sense of belonging, no matter their circumstances and personal history – this is a big part of helping addicts and alcoholics get back on their feet.
And “belonging matters” is the theme of a Richmond festival to celebrate recovery kicking off this Sunday at noon at Minoru Park.
Vince Bulteel, who is in recovery from drug and alcohol abuse, is one of the speakers at the second annual Richmond Recovery Fest.
Bulteel credits an understanding nurse at the Richmond Hospital in February 2017 for taking the time to listen to him, to make eye contact with him and to connect him with an outreach worker for helping him get back on his feet.
Two and a half years ago, Bulteel was living on the street, sometimes just sleeping on a piece of cardboard, with substance use taking him down a dark path.
He said so many times he was in the hospital for drug and alcohol related issues and he just felt talked down to, staff would roll their eyes at him and he would think “what’s the point?” often leaving the hospital abruptly.
But when the nurse at Richmond Hospital took time to sit down and ask him what was going on, she gained his trust and he broke down and started to talk about his life and the situation he had ended up in, without his family and on the street.
“She actually sat there and she maintained eye contact with me,” Bulteel said.
The nurse connected him with an emergency response team. From there, he was connected with an outreach worker from Turning Point and he was able to start on his road to recovery.
Today, Bulteel is clean and sober, living in Steveston where he grew up. He spends a lot of time talking with health-care workers, police and other emergency personnel, including ER nurses, about how a non-judgmental attitude can go a long way to help an addict become clean.
His feedback is part of the Richmond Community Action Team’s “Belonging Matters” project, sponsored by the City of Richmond and Vancouver Coastal Health, to educate health-care workers on how to best connect with addicts and alcoholics.
He tells health-care workers that, while they have a lot of equipment to check for medical conditions, they don’t have any piece of equipment to know what’s going through someone’s mind.
Bulteel works hard at his recovery, with a daily routine and staying busy, but part of it is connecting with other through recovery meetings. He attends many kinds of meetings, including Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART meeetings, and he immediately feels at home in any of them.
“I can go sit in any of those meetings and right away I feel comfortable enough to share my story because everyone’s been where I’ve been; it’s the sense of community (that) is the biggest part of recovery,” Bulteel said. “That sense of belonging, where you feel safe, able to tell your story, there’s no shame or judgment attached to anything.”
Bulteel will speak on Sunday at Richmond Recovery Fest, and he’ll be joined by Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions as well as Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie.
The second annual Richmond Recovery Fest takes place at Minoru Park, in front of the library and cultural centre from noon to 4 p.m.