Charitable Choices: Ciara Brady of the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre

The Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre (AARC), provides the necessary care for youth and young adults aged 12-21 navigating the challenges of substance abuse. AARC stands as a highly regarded, research-backed program, dedicated to supporting individuals despite the adversities of their journey. Fueled by funding from the Government of Alberta through the Ministry of Health and Addiction, AARC ensures accessibility by offering a reduced sliding scale fee, affirming that no family is denied treatment based on income or savings. We spoke to Ciara Brady, the Community Outreach Specialist, to discuss this non-profit solely committed to fostering healing and recovery and empowering young lives to overcome substance abuse and embrace a brighter, healthier future.

Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre

Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.

The Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre (AARC) is a highly regarded, research-backed program designed to help youth and young adults aged 12-21 who are struggling with substance abuse despite negative consequences. AARC is funded in part by the Government of Alberta through the Ministry of Health and Addiction which allows us to offer a reduced sliding scale fee for adolescent clients and their families. No family is denied treatment due to lack of income or savings.

What problem does it aim to solve?

Through long-term treatment (8-10 months), the unique program at AARC based on the 12 steps of AA provides a solution for youth and young adults aged 12-21 who are immersed in their addiction. The program also provides support for all family members impacted by addiction.

When did you start/join it?

My family entered treatment in 2021, graduating in January 2022. My role as AARC’s Community Outreach Specialist began in December 2022.

What made you want to get involved?

Our family had a lengthy journey through the mental health system. It took us years to hear about the AARC Program. Following their thorough assessment process, AARC prioritised treatment for my son’s addiction. Along with support from first-class Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Social Workers, Clinical Counsellors and Peer Support Workers, the fog was lifted from his addiction and his mental health struggles could be prioritised. AARC provides support for the whole family so parents and siblings are also provided with a space to be vulnerable with their pain and a chance to heal without judgement. This support helps loved ones understand and cope with loving someone who struggles with the disease of addiction, providing a support system post-treatment. I am eager to raise awareness around this incredible program in the hope that it will make AARC easier to find for families who are on this painful journey, trying to find their next step in times of distress.

What was the situation like when you started?

We were in a life-or-death situation with our son when we entered AARC following two almost fatal overdoses and years of services and programs. Our son was immersed in his addiction and could see no way out. AARC is considered the last house on the block when it comes to addiction treatment. They understood his struggles like no one else could. Most of the AARC staff have been through the program themselves and share their lived experience to support youth coming into the program. Their understanding and compassion made a huge difference for our family’s treatment experience. Peer Support is just one of the components of this unique program.

How has it changed since?

Our son is currently living a healthy life, proud of his sobriety and new relationships with his family. He has an incredibly supportive community around him from his time at AARC filled with others who understand his journey. We, as a family, have a new understanding of the disease of addiction and were provided with a new set of tools to support him and ourselves.

What more needs to be done?

Conversations around addiction are difficult as they are filled with pain, shame and guilt. As a parent, it is difficult and heartbreaking not to be able to find the next step when all you want to do is help your child out of their pain and ease the suffering for the family unit. Destigmatizing adolescent addiction could make these conversations easier and shorten the journey of finding appropriate treatments when in crisis. Raising awareness around available treatment options for adolescent addiction can be extremely effective as it can guide families towards a supportive and confidential space to be vulnerable about this painful journey and provide a place to recover with dignity, something I believe everyone deserves. There is hope. More importantly, there is a solution.

How can our readers help?

I encourage anyone who reads this column to raise awareness about long-term treatment options for youth struggling with addiction and their loved ones. Share this information with anyone you feel may benefit. Encourage them to call AARC for a free consultation if they are concerned about a loved one struggling with addiction. We understand and are here to help.

Do you have any events coming up?

Annual Miracle Gala – Wednesday, May 8th, 2024 – Calgary Telus Convention Centre, Macleod Hall

Stampede Breakfast – Sunday, July 7th, 2024 – AARC

Golf Tournament of Miracles – Monday, August 19, 2024 – Silvertip Resort, Canmore, AB

Where can we follow you?


PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?

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About Emilea Semancik 82 Articles
Emilea Semancik was born in North Vancouver. Emilea has always always wanted to work as a freelance writer and currently writes for the Vancouver Guardian. Taking influence from journalism culture surrounding the great and late Anthony Bourdain, she is a recipe author working towards publishing her own series of books. You can find her food blog on Instagram: