Joshua is a valued member of Together We Can’s volunteer staff. Volunteering at our facility is an opportunity that is extended to clients while they are in a transitional phase of their treatment and are looking to stay connected to the roots of recovery. On Wednesday January 28th, Joshua sat down and told his story in the hopes that someone somewhere would find a similarity and get inspired. The following is a true tale of desperation transformed into selfless passion.
I was fourteen years old when I first used marijuana and drank. At home my father was overworked and had to deal with his own alcoholism and drug addiction problems, while my mother suffered from mental illness. Needless to say, I needed an escape and at first I started with playing instruments until I began using drugs and drinking every day.
After I started “escaping” I didn’t want to go to school much. At fifteen I started selling drugs and moved out of my parent’s house. I was caught slapped with two trafficking charges.I lived with a drug dealer. I was consistently involved with the wrong people. I was an everyday drinker – there was no binge drinking for me.
I tried cocaine for the first time at fifteen. At first I thought – this is it? I mean, at first I didn’t like alcohol either but I let it grow on me. MDMA was an early drug of choice for me but it kept interacting with my bipolar mood swings. Cocaine didn’t have any immediately noticeable side-effects.
Fast forward and I was eighteen years old and living in Alberta while working a job. At this time I remember at one point going to the food bank to get food even though I would borrow money from my parents and was working full-time. Liquor came first, never eating. I was constantly sick because of it. I kept this up for a while until I had to move back home because I was broke. I was really depressed, but still I took a mixology course and worked at a night club for a while when drugs became truly easy to access – nearly free. I had worked my way up in the club and while the money was good, all of the abuse escalated with it.
I had some connections in Germany for a job and ended up buying a plane ticket to London. I was going to travel across Europe and end up in Germany at a nightlife job.
In the two weeks leading up to the trip, I spent all of my hard-earned money I saved up for the adventure on using. It drove me to the brink of insanity and I tried to take my own life. I think that was the point where I understood I needed help, and so I reached out finally to my mother and father for help and went and saw a drug and alcohol counsellor. I was considering treatment and they said I had to go to detox first. At this point I was consuming at least 26 ounces of hard alcohol a day and the withdrawal was brutal. After I was done detox, I chose to go to AA meetings instead of treatment but still used marijuana. Things did improve as I acquired a job doing excavation, I bought a car, new musical equipment, started a band and began playing live shows, although I was still restless and anxious.
I had over four months abstinent when I took a road trip to Vancouver spontaneously in the middle of the night. Along the way I picked up a random hitchhiker and I drank with him. It was too much of a temptation not to.
Fast forwarding even more time after returning for work in Calgary, getting loaded, and then moving to Vancouver, I was in an AA meeting one day where I met a TWC Alumni who recognized I needed help. He checked in with me every day and when I went through the terrible process of detox again – this time on my own – he assured me there was a spot waiting for me in treatment at Together We Can and a few days later I was in.
That was 296 days ago.
I no longer wake up every morning wanting to die. My parents don’t expect a phone call in the middle of the night from someone telling them their son has died. Through helping myself I have now honed the ability to help others. There is accountability in my life. What I’m doing right now in my life feels divine – it is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing and nothing has ever felt more right. I volunteer my time at TWC doing a variety of things I wouldn’t have done before. I’ve returned to school to finish what I had originally started and I became involved in my passions again. Music is the only thing that has ever felt pure or as good as helping others. It really is what drives me forward and without it I wouldn’t be alive. Every time I’m in my addiction it’s such a small part of my story, and I don’t want it to be like that. The years I spent in addiction I could have been making progress with my music, and now very week I participate like a client would in the Music Therapy Program. I love just being a part of it because it gives others the confidence to perform too.
If I had to give any newcomer a piece of advice it would be to find yourself a solid support group. Find people that can help you learn and grow and help you to live.