Zambory shares personal story of addictions in reaching out to teachers

Sask Bulletin
December 5, 2019

This was not Tracy Zambory speaking to teachers attending the Saskatoon Teachers’ Convention as the president of the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses about the explosion of opioids among the province’s youth.

Rather, this was Zambory conveying her own personal story as to how her then-teenage son Wessley one day quite unexpectedly shared with his parents that he was struggling with drug addiction.

The fact that she had not seen it only served to underscore her point to teachers that the opioid crisis in Saskatchewan is real and is very dangerous, while chronicling her own experience as a poignant example of the sort of turbulent journey that it can take a family on.

While advocating for the admittedly somewhat controversial utilization of safe injection sites, Zambory was very forthright in her advice to those citizens who have expressed their opposition to such facilities in their respective neighbourhoods. “I have news for you people, this is very real and it can happen in anyone’s neighbourhood. Addiction is not what people think it is and addiction does not discriminate. You never know who is struggling with addiction because people are too scared to reveal.”

Zambory’s address had a twofold message, also pointing out the benefits of a burgeoning relationship being contemplated between the province’s nurses and teachers.

“It’s a natural fit in that ours are two professions that have impacted so many families, and our shared goal is to positively shape the lives of people we encounter every day. That’s a joint commitment we have,” she said.

Noting the numbers of the respective professional organizations that would exceed 20,000, Zambory said “we need to come together in order to push for more resources.

“As nurses and teachers, we are in a unique situation where people trust us. So we have a very public platform to share our message in terms of providing guidance for our youth,” Zambory added. “We need greater investment in coping with mental health issues in society.”

As the culmination of her keynote presentation, Zambory summoned her courage to provide a glimpse into the roller coaster existence that her family experienced during her son’s up-and-down battle to overcome his range of addictions as he grew into adulthood and searched for a career path.

“Addiction is a disease to be clear about it. Ultimately, people are looking for a way to escape, whether it’s anxiety or depression or whatever mental health issues they are dealing with.

“It’s critical for our profession to equip kids with the tools to recognize the perils of opioids and meth; it’s never going to be the answer.” After several painful setbacks, Zambory noted that it took the support and strength of a woman whom her son had fallen in love with that helped him seek help via entering a methadone clinic.

“The biggest barriers we face when this affects someone in our own families is the shame. We need to bring it [addiction] out of the shadows and break the stigma because it’s a disease.”

Zambory said the whole experience served to confirm the importance of having a strong support system in place when confronted with a scenario like the one she saw all too personally.

“If we are going to have success in this area in the future, it’s going to take an interprofessional support team like we are creating here today. There is so much work to do and it will take a community like we have to make a difference if we’re ever going to win this battle,” she said to heartfelt applause.