Our Collective Journey Where Lived Experience Meets Clinical Support

Rick Armstrong, Damyan Davis, Ryan Oscar

April 12th 2022 11:30 am Neilson Room 1

Session Description

After a recent contagion of suicides in Medicine Hat, AB, there were noticeable gaps in pre and postvention. Three local men in recovery came together in search of tangible action steps that could be taken to bridge the gaps and help those struggling. Addiction, mental health, and suicide were common threads in their personal journeys, and each of them were impacted along their own journeys by someone with shared experience. The commonality was found and Our Collective Journey (OCJ) was created. What started as three men with a big idea quickly developed into OCJ present day: a network of people with lived experience and community-oriented partners offering collaboration pathways to create recovery orientated safe spaces for individuals.

Through their own lived experiences, OCJ recognizes when someone gets the courage to reach out for help, that time of willingness can be short lived. OCJ strives to be there before the window of opportunity closes. OCJ focuses on building a trusting relationship, assisting in system navigation, and building recovery capital while supporting the individual every step of the way.

OCJ believes recovery is more than the absence of symptoms, it is about having the opportunity to live a satisfying and fulfilling life. The name Our Collective Journey came from the idea that OUR stories are powerful vessels in which others may gain new insight each time our stories are shared. Once you are part of the COLLECTIVE, we are all on the JOURNEY together. The sharing of stories through the OCJ podcast “From Darkness to Life” has noticeably reduced the stigma and misconceptions around addiction, mental health and suicide in our community. Bringing together people from all walks of life.

Learning Objectives

  • A clear understanding of the therapeutic power of shared experience and how this can exponentially foster credibility with the individual.
  • Identifying the value of being available when the window of opportunity is open.
  • Identify the importance of recovery management including post-connection check-ins; recovery coaching; ongoing connection to recovery communities; community-based recovery resource collaboration and development.


Beverly J. Haberle, Stacey Conway, Phil Valentine, Arthur C. Evans, William L. White, Larry Davidson. (2014) The Recovery Community Center: A New Model for Volunteer Peer Support to Promote Recovery. Journal of Groups in Addiction & Recovery 9:3, pages 257-270.

Kelly JF, Humphreys K, Ferri M. Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs for alcohol use disorder. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2020, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD012880. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD012880.pub2
Robert D. Ashford, Austin M. Brown, Rachel Ryding, Brenda Curtis. (2020) Building recovery ready communities: the recovery ready ecosystem model and community framework. Addiction Research & Theory 28:1, pages 1-11.

White, W. & Cloud, W. (2008). Recovery capital: A primer for addictions professionals. Counselor, 9(5), 22-27.
William L. White, John F. Kelly & Jeffrey D. Roth (2012) New Addiction-Recovery Support Institutions: Mobilizing Support Beyond Professional Addiction Treatment and Recovery Mutual Aid, Journal of Groups in Addiction & Recovery, 7:2-4, 297-317, DOI: 10.1080/1556035X.2012.705719

About Our Collective Journey

A question that we are often asked is “What makes Our Collective Journey different than what’s being done in community already?” Our Collective Journey’s strength comes from the power of shared experience, but we also bring a lot more than that to the table!

One of the most important pieces that Our Collective Journey prides itself on is the authentic, honest connections with individuals rooted in shared experience. An OCJ peer support draws from their experiential knowledge – the happenings, emotions, and insights of their personal lived experience – as they listen to, interact with and support peers. Through our own personal experiences and hearing experiences of others, we understand that often times peers who are suffering in silence are not ready to walk through the doors of a professional agency. By sharing these stories of hope, individuals have a chance to explore and resonate with unique parts of each real-life story. Every time someone shares their story, they help erase the shame for others which helps them not feel so alone in their pain.

All OCJ peer supports have experienced their own personal darkness at some point in their lives. Each of these peers are ready to share their experience, of how they moved through that darkness and into a new light, with the next individual who reaches out. These stories of lived experience may include various professional supports, coping mechanisms, support groups, and other tools that are unique to each story. OCJ’s diverse peer support network encompasses individuals who have found their way into recovery from not only addiction and mental health, but many other real life experiences. At OCJ, a number of the sharing peer supports are also trained professionals that keep the mandate of “do no harm” at the forefront of all connections. OCJ peer supports are ready to share their experiences at any hour of any day. This is one thing that is difficult to duplicate in a professional agency due to the constraints of hours, regulations, and other agency policies. OCJ approaches all of its connections from a person centred approach and doesn’t just say this on paper. We prove it with each interaction by meeting people where they are at (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually); then continue towards the overarching end goal of empowering peers as they explore possibilities and find their path towards a healthier and happier outcome.