‘It’s everywhere’: One Manitoba family’s battle with crystal meth


It’s been two months since Jessica Courchene last used meth.

The first time the 36-year-old tried the drug was in 2013.

“I thought it was cocaine so I tried a line,” Courchene told APTN News. “[The person] told me it was meth and to be honest it was like that first line I was already hooked.”

“I knew at that moment this drug was great and I knew in my head that this was going to be an awful struggle.”

For the past year Winnipeg police, grassroots organizations and front line workers have been struggling to address the rising use of crystal methamphetamine in the city.

Courchene is one of the more than 300 people currently in treatment for amphetamine addiction in Manitoba.

According to the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba this has increased by more than 100 per cent since 2014.

Winnipeg is in the midst of a meth crisis.

Courchene said she is trying to escape it.

“It’s everywhere. I can’t believe it. As opposed to when I started using. Even [three years ago] it was not this bad,” said Courchene.

Her addictions started with cocaine more than a decade ago then escalated to prescription pills.

Once she started using meth she says she began to lose control of her life.

She started fighting with family members. At her lowest point she was homeless and living in her car.

“I have so many friends that [have] died already,” Courchene said tearfully. “I don’t want my life to be like that. I don’t want to be remembered like that.”

Recent statistics from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority show an increase in meth-related hospital visits.

Since 2013 visits have gone up by 1,200 per cent.

The office of the province’s chief medical examiner reports meth was involved in 35 overdose deaths in 2017 up from 19 in 2016.

Steve Courchene fears his daughter will face the same fate.

“Imagine when you hear somebody found dead from overdose…and your first thought is you think it’s your child,” said Steve Courchene.

“Try living like that. It’s horrible.”

It’s something he’s already experienced with his son.

In 2005, Donovan Courchene died by suicide after living with drug addiction and mental health issues. He was 20-years-old.

Steve Courchene has sought solace in writing. He had a blog where he shares his experiences, fears and advice.

“We can’t enable them but at the same time we have to try to have empathy and kindness for them,” he said.

“We really don’t know what they’re experiencing. The lifestyle they go through. The violence they see. The hurt they see. The pain they go through.”

The death of her brother Donovan, propelled Jessica Courchene into her own battle with addictions.

She’s been in and out of treatment since.

Currently she is in an Indigenous-run out-patient program. She attends the Pritchard House four times a week for treatment including therapy and beading. She also attends Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings three times a week.

“It’s a constant thing to have to work on your sobriety,” she said.

“That’s the thing as soon as I stop or if I don’t go to NA or AA…or if I have any free time I’ll do it. That’s the scary thing about that drug.”

In the past five years Courchene has been to three in-patient programs and two out-patient. But it hasn’t always been accessible. At one point she waited nearly four months to get into an out-patient program.

The average wait time for government-funded treatment centres is two to three months, according to AFM.

Courchene hopes to see more accessible programs for addicts seeking help.

As she heads into month three of sobriety she’s taking things one day at a time.

“When I go to my meetings and they’re like it’s just for today…I always used to think that’s kind of like a cliché for them to day but I get it,” she said.

“This is as much as I can think. Every morning when I get up I say, ‘thank you for another sober day,’ and that’s really how my life is.”