Dope- and booze-fueled workdays are becoming all too common for oil patch workers, addiction survivors and front-line workers say, inspiring the urgent need for specialized treatment.
“Most of the guys up there either know how to work, or abuse drugs and alcohol,” said Serenity Ranch founder Jim Gray. “It’s killing people up there.”
Easy money, separation from family and days away from civilization at isolated work camps are the ideal combination for temporary solace found by escaping in substances, recovering addict and oil patch worker Don McKim said.
“People realize this is our main industry in Alberta, but they don’t realize how different it is, and how tough it is to be right in it,” he said. “By the time I was ready to come out of camp, I was ready to explode. To deal with that, I drank.”
McKim said he owes his life to a specialized treatment program in central Alberta, modified to give oil and gas industry workers an “in-camp” experience.
Serenity Ranch was designed with the growing needs of the province’s chief export workers in mind. The facility, located east of Lacombe, was previously a prison camp, purchased from the province.
In an era of recession-inspired layoffs, oil patch workers in the grip of addiction are flocking to the centre in greater numbers than ever before, in hopes of returning to work with coping mechanisms, Gray said.
“This program is essential — it’s saving lives,” McKim said.