Story by Gareth Vieira

Nicole Whitmore, Community Outreach Worker at Green Wood Coalition, will facilitate the Redpath Program which will be held at the Green Wood location at 18 Ontario Street, here in Port Hope.

Created by Peggy Shaughnessy, Redpath is based on indigenous teachings and incorporates the Four Room theory. The free program runs for 21 sessions starting in June, with twice-weekly sessions on Tuesdays and Fridays.

It’s really about self-discovery,” said Whitmore. “An addict has the answers, it’s just being asked the right questions to open those doors and do it safely.”

The Four Room theory states that we are all divided into four rooms: Spiritual, Emotional, Physical, and Psychological. The goal is to touch base with all four rooms every day equally, so that one doesn’t end up spending all of their time and effort in one particular room.

Throughout a session, you kind of dip your toes into every room and it’s subtle, so you don’t feel so overwhelmed,” said Whitmore. “With Redpath, we try to get to the root of the issue of why an addict is using. Is there early childhood trauma? Is it environmental? What is it that has made them unable to feel they have control over their own life?”

Whitmore has facilitated this program over a dozen times and initiated its pilot program in Port Hope over two years ago. Whitmore acknowledges that she too has suffered from addiction and still has a lot of questions she needs answers to.

Each time I’ve gone through the program, it has brought up different memories for me. Sometimes a question you’ve asked before can bring up a completely different answer.”

David Sheffield of Green Wood Coalition says that Whitmore as a community activator is seen as somebody who has the trust of those in the community.She brings an open honesty to conversations and offers support rather than judgment. Her own lived experience with addiction is an asset to her in this work, in many ways. A person living with dependency often has their antennae up when meeting someone new and Nicole has the ability to pass that test of trust.” 

Having spoken to people in the community whom she senses could benefit from Red Path, Whitmore feels that people are looking for a program that is readily available, is not going to have long wait times before each session, and has a prime location, which Green Wood Coalition offers.

I knew there was a lack of resources in Port Hope, but I didn’t realize that it was this bad,” she said. “If a person who struggles with alcoholism, for example, wants to go out and play some darts there’s nowhere other than a bar, so now it’s in their face. So maybe that means a sober space. Maybe there’s a league that they can start? A Recreation Room? It’s easy to be mindless to different needs, but we must meet these needs for different people.”

Redpath is not an abstinence based program. It is meant to be inclusive without judgment, to come as you are as opposed to what you hope to be. This allows a person to reach out without feeling that they are lying or cheating in some way. 

Some people feel ashamed to utilize a program when they are still abusing. It just leads to lies. I’m not going to sit there and ask a participant if they are using. I’m not that person, I’m not a counselor. I’m here to walk with you through the program,” she said.

With Redpath, the participant learns about themselves. The program is about regaining control of one’s life, identifying emotions, and asking questions such as: Why am I angry? Why am I jealous? Why did I turn out this way? These are the inquiries Redpath seeks to answer.

When the group understands that every person is there for the same reason, it’s really magical what you can see happen with all the different personalities as they begin to support each other and share experiences rather than try to one-up each other,” says Whitmore. “It’s that ‘aha moment’, that this is not a competition of who has had the worst life; it’s about doing this as a team and going across that finishing line together.”

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