Steve Low, President: Reflections on My First Year at Aurora Recovery Centre

By Steve Low

I had to laugh. Here I was after thirty-plus years of dedication to helping people get well from substance use disorder with the most amazing opportunity, and it was in the midst of a global pandemic.

Before the pandemic hit, I knew I was facing a significant challenge renovating a drug and alcohol treatment center program while it was fully operational. This with staff who had been through multiple leadership changes and were now facing more uncertainty than ever. 

Fortunately, my daily practice, intentional and deliberate, connects me with my Higher Power. This purpose-driven practice has allowed me to be at ease even during the turbulence created by the pandemic. It has given me the strength to be fully present, to nurture relationships and provide leadership to my team. 

Fifteen-hour days were the norm for many months, and I could not have done it without my daily practice and unconditional support from my family. To be fair, I have an advantage. I LOVE this work. My fascination with people and their behaviour, my belief in everyone’s ability to transform their lives, and my passion for recovery kept me engaged every step of the way. 

In many ways, the pandemic has brought out the best in people. United in a singular cause, our team created even stronger bonds. I was also able to reach out to other treatment centres, who generously shared their approach to the pandemic with me. I contacted Shared Health of Manitoba so much, I’m sure they got tired of me! Our conversations about operations and how to navigate the pandemic were excellent. I can’t say enough about what a responsive and incredible resource they are. Everybody pulled together and it really felt good. 

The underlying feelings of unrest at the beginning of the pandemic really challenged us all to stay in the present moment, have faith and work with the single focus of role modelling recovery for our patients. So many people stepped up, got creative and dug deep in order for us to navigate the ever-shifting environment. 

I relied heavily on my network of professionals for their expertise as I implemented programming changes. It really kept me sharp, as I had to give clear rationale for all the changes I wanted to make. Introducing new systems is always tricky but, overall, it went quite well. I had so many great conversations; the staff were curious, open and excited to take Aurora to the next level. 

Inevitably, I ran into stumbling blocks and, when that happened, I relied on owner Paul Melnuk’s willingness to take a supportive role of my leadership and provide his unwavering support. Not only did he back me 100%, he also let go of many of his firmly-held ideas about how treatment needed to be. It’s so cool to be able to work with someone willing to change their mind, who trusts me and has the same goals as I do. 

Originally my wife and daughter were going to be moving to Manitoba with me, and as the pandemic shifted the landscape, we realized that would not be possible. It’s definitely been difficult to be away from them. My wife has found herself working, and single-parenting a teenager who is isolated from her peer group. I deeply appreciate her willingness to make sacrifices so I can do this work. I’ve managed to fly back to Vancouver Island almost every six weeks and we’re making it work, one day at a time.

All the experts with whom I had scheduled to meet in person or have visited the treatment centre had to be cancelled. But then, COVID’s influence on all things virtual made them incredibly accessible. Talk about a blessing. We were now able to access world-class experts in their field and provide training for staff, as well as lectures and counselling for our patients. Here are some of the professionals who are working with us. 

  • Kevin Diakiw Mindfulness teacher and recovery coach trainer. 
  • Rand Teed Educator and lecturer on addiction recovery. 

As challenging as it’s been, this first year has also brought many blessings. Number one, of course, has been seeing people get well. People whose lives were being consumed by the disease of addiction. It’s incredibly rewarding to be part of their journey. We’ve built solid recovery,oriented systems of care, and seeing entire systems heal is so cool. 

Life continues to be a fascinating adventure, filled with opportunities to connect and grow and learn. It’s an honor to do this work, and I look forward to the years to come. 

By Steve Low
Aurora Recovery Centre