Alumni Story: One Eventful Trip Around the Sun


I am pleased to give you an update on my last twelve months since leaving SCHC.

A year ago I already knew my drinking was out of control and finally came to the realization that I needed help to get off the roller coaster cycle of drinking myself unconscious every day.

I started the process of recovery by looking at options and started with my family doctor. I soon discovered that the health system and General Practitioners, in particular, we’re woefully unprepared and untrained to deal with addiction. He pulled up a webpage on his computer and advised me to look into the advertisements displayed there, choose one and come back with the printed forms, which he would then complete. I left his office more confused than when I entered.

After doing some online research into treatment, I learned that alcohol is the most dangerous drug to withdraw from and the effects of that withdrawal can be fatal if not medically supervised. This information gave me some parameters for the type of treatment facility I needed. The webpages were, for the most part, advertised more like holiday retreats and very few of them offered medically supervised detox. There were choices to make between 12-step programs, non-12 step, programs that were based on religion; the choices were confusing and this was the most important investment in my life.

For want of a better term, I got lucky. Fort McMurray had just returned almost 90,000 residents from the evacuation due to the Horse River Fire. Part of the response to that return outside helped in the form of trained counsellors to deal with the overwhelming volume of emotional trauma from the event. One of those counsellors, whose name I regretfully do not remember, told me she had heard good things about Sunshine Coast Health Centre.

A little more research and a few phone calls later, I decided that this was the right choice for me. The company I worked for congratulated me on the decision to get help, but there was not a penny provided for the treatment itself. I cashed in my RRSPs, packed my bags, and was on my way.

I was greeted at Vancouver airport by an eccentric little man who helped me collect my bags and drove me, with an unparalleled faith in automotive braking systems, to Vancouver South airport and stayed and chatted with me until I boarded the flight to Powell River.

At Powell River, I got off the plane and was greeted by Rick who drove us back to SCHC I got checked in and was introduced to Abe, who was my mentor buddy, and he showed me around the facility.

I spent a month at SCHC and during that time I was treated with acceptance, respect, and loved by everyone, from the cleaning staff, nurses, fellow clients, the wonderful people who prepared our food, and the highly trained counsellors. All of the counsellors have an intimate knowledge of the path we were on. It was a month of education, sharing, introspection, and brutal honesty. I found myself in the company of the most intelligent, creative, and empathetic people I had ever experienced. It was without a doubt, the best decision I had ever made in my life.

When I returned to Fort McMurray, the real work started. I no longer had the crutch of alcohol to help me walk the path of life.

I started practicing yoga and very soon noticed the benefits to physical and mental health. I started eating better and looking after myself.

The job I was doing was a management position and elements of that job were compromising to me morally. After about six months of so-called normal and without the numbing effects of alcohol, there was a crisis situation and I finally had enough of this and refused to do the things that were being asked of me.

This was the most difficult time of my recovery and I suffered from depression and anxiety. In my opinion, the company I worked for viewed me as no longer useful for their purposes. There was, again, in my opinion, an attempt to have me quit so they would not have to pay a severance package. When I was fit for work again, their offer after I forced their hand was to offer to go from the third-highest position in an organization of eight hundred people to menial labour in the yard at applicable rates under the collective agreement, which would leave me susceptible to immediate dismissal without recourse. Several trips to the lawyer later we came to an agreement that I would have suitable alternative employment that would not compromise my integrity anymore and I would continue to receive the same pay I had received previously.

It was also about this time I decided to try painting. It seems I have some aptitude for this and I have worked very hard to develop the skills and knowledge that I hope one day will allow me to become a professional artist. I find great comfort in painting and it fulfills some of the purposes that I need in my life. I have received a lot of support from the community in this endeavour and I am very grateful for it.

I write this reflection of my most recent circumnavigation of the sun in total sobriety with the hope that you may share it and that it may help someone else to know that it is possible to recover from addiction. I have shared two photos of me: one in August 2016 (not sure if that guy is going to have a heart attack or die from swollen ankles) and the other in August 2017. When I arrived in Powell River, I was morbidly obese. I was on three medications for blood pressure, one for gout, another for acid reflux, and one to slow my heart rate. My resting heart rate at that time was between 97 and 100 beats per minute. Since that time I have lost 90lbs, take none of those medications; my blood pressure is 118 over 80 and my resting heart rate is 65 bpm.

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