Addiction Rob Helbak has abused drugs for more than half of his life. His first experience was with heroin at age 13.

Now Helbak, the founding member of Grateful or Dead in Calgary, speaks out to advocate for safer drug use and dealing with addictions.

“If people can learn from me without having to go through all the same mistakes, then hey, that’s the better,” said Helbak, 41.

The group advocates mainly to nursing students at this point, providing insight into addiction and the frame of mind of addicts.

Helbak said one thing he tries to get across is that if someone’s addiction isn’t treated while they are in hospital, it’s likely they will risk their lives and leave the hospital to get another fix.

Safeworks staff Diane Nielsen and Leegay Jagoe help facilitate meetings that Grateful or Dead hold twice a month, and through the staff at Safeworks future members will hopefully be found, said Helbak.

Members have the opportunity to share their stories with health professionals in hopes of eliminating some judgment through education.

“It’s important to remember that we are all people, no matter if we are a disabled child on a bus or a disabled person on the street who looks all grubby and is repulsive,” said Alex Smiley, a recovering crack addict and group advocate.

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