Takis Liris stopped drinking in 1992. After 28 days of treatment for his alcohol addiction, he and other individuals in the same treatment program braced for the question that those new to recovery struggle with: “What’s next? “We were lost,” he says. “We were in a sinking boat.”
Liris understood that recovering from an addiction is beyond abstinence it often requires separating from your past life: the places you go, the people you see. He saw a void between treatment and reality, and that his friends in recovery also desired a safe space to meet.
So Liris and two others in recovery created the Oasis Movement, beginning as a series of meetings in a small Greek town café. Supported by donations of clothing, bedding, art and lifestyle essentials – there are currently 150 green donation boxes throughout Toronto – in 1995 Oasis became a charitable non-profit organization: The Oasis Addiction Recovery Society.
Twenty seven years later, the doors remain open.
In a spacious, wheelchair-accessible building on the Danforth with eggshell white walls and carefully placed black and white photographs, coffee is brewing. People sit in booths, leaning in close to one another. The second floor houses meeting rooms and a full computer lab. On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, a free relapse prevention group is open to anyone on the journey to stay clean and sober.
Most visitors to Oasis are between 25 and 45 years of age. Some of them have not finished high school. Each year over 500 individuals use Oasis Services.
Oasis now focuses on the following: (a) job and life skill training, Personality Assessments and Career Evaluations in a six week preparation program (b) Job Preparation and Employment Placement. Oasis works with the client to connect them with employers throughout the GTA.
Most facilitators, like Ryan, have gone through the program themselves. He considers it life-saving. “We focus on confidence-building” he explains. “It’s individualized, meaning we figure out what job stream best reflects each person’s values. That can be very validating.”
Ryan had been in the restaurant business his whole career, an industry that can be particularly challenging for those seeking to rid themselves of drugs and alcohol. He says the program immediately helped him identify educational and career paths suited to his strengths. For those in recovery, the sense of confidence and routine that comes with employment is crucial to their well-being.
Oasis is also no stranger to the crisis regarding concurrent disorders (mental health/addiction), particularly in lieu of the recent Ontario government cuts to funding. The need for people to talk to others who have been there, who truly get it, is more pronounced than ever. With this in mind Oasis provides services to those individuals on ODSP to assist them in overcoming their obstacles and preparing them to find meaningful employment in the community.
Healing is not linear. Many Torontonians of all backgrounds will have times when they need to lean on a community. By filling the space between treatment and recovery, The Oasis Movement ensures you never have to go through it alone.