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Addictions counsellor explains treatment innovations at Estevan hospital

Addictions counsellor Anthony Cafik is the the program manager at the Addictions Recovery Centre at St. Joseph's Hospital in Estevan
Anthony Cafik

Square One Community, Inc., a non-profit working to help the unhoused, featured an interview with addictions counsellor Anthony Cafik during their Nov. 17 Empty Bowls fundraiser, in which Cafik discussed the successes he and his team are seeing in Estevan.

Della Ferguson, president of Square One, said her interview with Cafik was an emotional and inspiring experience. 

"The interview with Anthony Cafik was moving to the core," she told during the event. "I have a friend who has come through that program. Anthony referenced trust as being the key element making their program so successful, and the fact that people who have been served by it know that they can come back, that they're referring others to it, affirming it, praising it, that's the greatest endorsement."

Cafik had his own experience with addiction, and subsequently became an addictions counsellor, a job he has brought empathy and compassion to for nearly 20 years now. After beginning his career in the private sector, he came to St. Joseph's Hospital in Estevan several years ago to help with the new Addictions Recovery Centre. Now the program manager, he believes that everyone deserves the same level of care, and is happy to bring that level of care to a public sector facility.

Interview with Anthony Cafik

"It's an honour to be asked about what we're doing and I'm quite proud of our team and our patients and our alumni who make this all possible," Cafik said. "I think it's a dream come true that there is, in the health care system, this level of care and commitment to helping people who in my opinion are afflicted with addiction through no fault of their own.

"I don't know if anyone has ever woken up one day and decided they wanted to lose their family, their livelihood, their will to live, (in order to) have a life of addiction. I think these things unwittingly creep up on people, and they find themselves in a position where they can't change. So, it's important that we look at them with empathy and compassion.

"Our program is roughly three years in the making. We're currently a 68-bed facility, we have 32 in-patient beds, four rapid-access beds, and 32 sober living beds. ... If you think of addiction as an illness, if you look at any type of illness, you can't really set a date on when you're better. So, what we have to do is have a program that can assess and evaluate on individual levels, and move treatment through different interventions to treat the addiction, which would be emotionally, behaviourally, mentally, and so on. And not any one person is going to be the same, so you don't want the treatment centre to be a factory, right?

"The neat thing about St. Joseph's is that we're open-ended. The length of treatment is based on milestones and treatment norms in which our clients progress with the help of a counsellor, and our whole clinical team. 

"So, we're preparing them to leave (treatment), and it's not that we're fixing them: We're partnering with them to help them achieve their desire to change their life. ... It's a painful path, and they need those supports so they don't leave early. It's too easy to give up and go back to a life of addiction.

"That's what addiction is. It's 'I can't cope, I don't know how to cope with pain and unmanageability and difficulty.' ... As we know, life can be very difficult ... and (our clients) don't have the skills to navigate that. And the next thing you know, they have a drink, they smoke some pot or use other drugs, and they get relief, and they go, 'That's what I want.'

"So, there's really a spiritual aspect of addiction. I think, like any of us, we're looking for peace. We're looking for some sort of relief from the pressures of life. 

"What we're doing is not teaching them just to stop. We're teaching them not to start — we're teaching them to reach out to something else they can trust that will support them, because if they don't use again, they won't have an issue. So, we really have to look at root causes. ... All kinds of different things are going on, so we can see those relapse triggers and attitudes, and give them alternative behaviours."

Cafik used the analogy of a recent knee replacement surgery. The operation was successful, but treatment didn't stop there. There was rehabilitation, exercise, social support, and recognizing the lifelong work of having an artificial knee.

"That's the model of recovery-oriented system care. A treatment centre, or more beds, isn't going to solve the problem. It needs to be a system that looks at the individual (and asks), What do they need? And where are they going back to? When I left the hospital ... they prepared me to be successful in the environment I was going back to.

"Using social assistance, using the housing authority, and our program with wraparound services, we provide an environment in which they go and be successful. We're teaching them how to budget, how to cook, how to manage a schedule, we're getting them back into our program as volunteers so they start giving back, some of them are getting their education, some are getting their legal issues sorted out and working with the local police department."

Cafik became emotional as he described helping people on their journey from having an unmanageable addiction to taking care of themselves and letting go of deeply entrenched shame and guilt.

"The really neat thing is, we have several of our staff who have come through our program, including counsellors, addiction specialists, (and) support staff.

"And I want to say," he added, pausing to collect himself, "that we believe in what we do."

Watch the full interview at and learn more about Square One at

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