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New app promises 'hope' for those struggling with addiction, says Port Coquitlam mom, who lost her son to an overdose

Better app, developed by the Last Door Recovery Society, can help people in recovery track their recovery score, create a plan, receive coaching, inspiration and information and get a safety monitor if they relapse and use alone
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Kathy Wagner lost her son, Tristan, to a drug overdose four years ago.

Port Coquitlam resident Kathy Wagner never imagined she’d be a spokesperson for supports for people struggling with addiction.

But four years ago her son Tristan died alone on a friend's couch of an overdose of cocaine laced with fentanyl.

He was 21.

Now she hopes an app — created by a New Westminster recovery centre that provides addiction treatment for youth, adults and families — will provide a lifeline for others who struggle with substance use.

Wagner said her son had battled his addiction since he was 15 — sometimes winning, sometimes losing.

Tristan went to schools in Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam and even moved to China to study kung fu. For him, recovery was a process; while in treatment he was able to focus on his priorities, such as becoming a chef.

But the drug always lured him back, until the day it was poisoned with fentanyl, and Tristan lost his life.

“He had a few relapses, but he kept coming back and kept returning to recovery. It became his North Star, if you will.”

She’s endorsing the Better app because she thinks it would provide the kind of support many people need to feel valued and encouraged on their journey. 

By not ostracizing them — if they lapse — and providing allies and safety monitors — if they use — the app bridges harm reduction with recovery, she said, something that is often missing in conversations about ending the current overdose epidemic. 

Giuseppe Ganci, community development manager with the Last Door Recovery Society, said the Better app was developed to connect people around the world who are seeking recovery from addiction.

“Those who may return [to using] feel like they are no longer part of the recovery community and they need to return to harm reduction world.,” Ganci said.

With the Better app, he said, “The recovery community and those who use drugs can still be in a community where recovery is still ongoing.”

A video produced about the app shows that it can help people track their recovery score, create a plan, connect with support circles and receive coaching, inspiration and information.

Although she doesn’t know if Tristan would have used the app, Wagner said it’s possible the Better app could have allowed him to continue his recovery journey, she said.

“His choice was to use alone and in private, something this app recognizes as it is targeted to people like him — people who choose to use alone yet who are connected to the recovery community.”

Four years after her son’s death, Wagner sees sadness in the never-ending numbers of people dying from fentanyl overdoses — 46 last year in the Tri-Cities. 

Still, with the Better app, she’s a little more hopeful for the future, she said.