For some, the warmth of the season is synonymous with the buzz from drugs and alcohol.

Russ Vandeverdonk knows. He used both drugs and alcohol to excess before he got hold of himself, and ran the 24 Hour Club, a place where recovering substance abusers can live while they sort out their lives.

He left the 24 Hour Club two-and-a-half years ago because he couldn't take it any more. He said 27 of the people he knew there are now dead, having succumbing to their addictions or their effects.

'The hardest thing is to talk to a mother or a father over the phone, and give them positive feedback,' Vanderverdonk said, 'because their son or daughter has died.'

Chris Delaney, a former 24 Hour Club resident, has ridden the sine curve of addiction. If the experience is like a rollercoaster, the bottom often comes during the holidays.

'It's definitely a more sensitive time of year,' he said. 'Because I can think about times past and become sad. Or I can think about times past and be joyful for those times. That's what I choose to do now.'

The season can be brutal for families. Lillian Lawson, whose husband was an alcoholic, knows.

'If they feel bad about themselves, they're going to make sure that you feel worse,' she said.

Her husband died sober, but finding the path to sobriety was agonizing for those around him.

'Everybody has to make their own decision,' Lawson said. 'I can't tell you what to do, I can't tell anybody else what to do.'

That said, their are some guidelines for both abusers and their families. Having run the 24 Hour Club, Vandeverdonk has seen virtually every angle, seen every sorrow, and heard every saga.

Families, he said, should see their recovering loved ones this time of year. Be patient, but be tough, Vandeverdonk advises.

As for those recovering, he said to stay busy.

'Have at least one job -- preferably two,' Vandeverdonk said. 'Go to work every day, to keep your mind focused.'


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