A Soldier’s Story: Veteran Finds Home


By Drake, Recovery Life News Posted: Feb 14, 2017 2:23 PM PST

TWC Alumni and Veteran Paul Owen Speaks His Truth

Paul is a Veteran of the Canadian Forces, proudly serving our country for ten years. I could get into detail about what Paul did during his time in the military, but I believe there is far more value in sharing his extraordinary experiences getting sober at Together We Can. 

Paul Owen with Tucker, his service dog
Paul drank heavily for twelve years to cope with emotional stress, unwanted memories, and a debilitating sense of emptiness that seemed to steadily and insidiously envelop his life. He could always rely on alcohol to give him a temporary reprieve from feelings he worked so desperately to cover up. The military expected a certain version of Paul, one which required him to constantly wear a mask and let everyone know that "nothing was wrong." Eventually, the injuries he suffered in the Canadian Forces led him to be medically discharged from service. 

This was a pivotal time in Paul's life, the darkness and emptiness he felt only became amplified. He fell deeper into depression and suicidal ideation. Alcohol was not enough anymore and Paul began to use drugs for a faster, stronger effect. He found himself in a downward spiral, burdened by demons that dictated his every move. 

Paul found himself meeting with Maureen Pridgeon, an (OHN) occupational health nurse on Vancouver Island, who immediately put Paul in touch with Trevor Franklin, Together We Can's Vancouver Island Operations Manager. The fact that he had a service dog to help with his operational stress injury was a point of contention with some of the addiction treatment centres that Maureen had been in contact with, but when Maureen told Paul that Together We Can would love to have Tucker, and would be the best fit for his needs, it was set. All Trevor simply asked Paul was, "would you be ready to go as soon as a bed became available?" Paul said yes.

It is now February 14th and Paul is officially 97 days clean and sober.

Michael Cain (on left)
Paul cannot say enough about the staff at Together We Can and all the wonderful services that were offered to him during his time here. Michael Cain, one of the resident services managers, accompanied Paul to an OSIS (operational stress injury support) group every week where he met with other first-responders, military personnel and police. Paul started to relate with these men and formed bonds quickly. The feeling of being alienated and alone subsided quickly as the group shared problems, solutions and stories. 

The days started to add up and Paul moved from "junior" to "senior" status as a resident. He began to find enjoyment in life again and saw value in helping others see the miracles that take place at TWC on a daily basis. Staff began to ask Paul to help chair meetings at night and "shadow" other veterans who came into TWC.

Filled with purpose and a sense of motivation, he began to see how he could be of help to others who were beginning their journeys. He even worked with Michael Cain, also a veteran, and started attending a weekly support group for military personnel held on property. This group is a check-in style process group led by Michael and Courtney Nichols, our registered PTSD therapist, where men are able to find their voices and become comfortable honestly communicating thoughts and feelings. Matt Rands, TWC's Reporting Counsellor, put Paul in touch with some wonderful people at Vancity who showed him some healthy financial strategies for debt consolidation, budgeting, and proper planning. 

Paul not only suffers from substance misuse, but also PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), depression, and anxiety. Before arriving at TWC, Paul believed he was the only person in the world who felt the way he did. After he left the military, he felt like the brotherhood he once enjoyed had been "ripped away from him." He now has new brothers in recovery and a place to call home among those on a common journey, with a common purpose. 

PTSD Therapist and Registered Clinical Counsellor Courtney Nichols
The most tumultuous times for most men in our programs are entering and leaving Together We Can. Saying your goodbyes can be satisfying and exciting, but moving onto the next phase of recovery can be fraught with unforeseen challenges. The clinical staff at Together We Can tailored a specific, highly comprehensive aftercare plan for Paul which outlines a daily routine and tasks he must complete. Paul is required to continue meeting with his Veterans Affairs worker in Vancouver Island, attend weekly support recovery meetings in the community, and maintain a healthy relationship with a step work sponsor. The clinical staff have also arranged for Paul to continue with his OSIS groups on the Island and explore his role as an Veterans Outreach Worker for Together We Can.

It is truly inspirational to see someone so lifeless and utterly defeated become awakened by the need to spread a message of hope and strength to others.

Paul will be 90 days clean on February 9th, 2017 and we could not be more pleased with his progress. All of the staff, residents and alumni at Together We Can had a part to play in helping Paul sift through the wreckage of his past and find himself once again. Despite a complex situation that required some careful navigating, Paul received the help he needed and is paving the way for other veterans seeking a new life in recovery. 


 TOGETHER WE CAN'S PREMIERE FUNDRAISER


Supporting New Construction • Current Facility Upgrades • TWC Athletics Programs
& The Together We Can Fallen Sons Memorial Fund
~ In Memory of John Nichols ~

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

The Imperial Theatre • 319 Main Street Vancouver • Tix $125

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