Young in Recovery By Robbie Edgar
I grew up in Coquitlam. My father was a carpenter and my mother worked at the bank. I got good grades and I played soccer because that was what society seemed to expect of me. I admired my dad for getting home from a hard day of work and having a few beers. I thought it was cool to drink. Somehow I never connected drinking to the DUIs, or the family arguments or the hangovers. The first time I drank was with my grandma, she would always let me have some of her vodka tonics. I remember how cool I felt having drinks with my grandma. I became accustomed to drinking with her at an early age as long as I promised I wouldn’t tell my dad about it.
I forget how old I was, but I had these crazy stomach pains and my dad told me to go see the doctor. At first, they gave me a non-narcotic medication that did nothing for the pain. Later, I was hospitalized with appendicitis and it was then that I was introduced to opiates. The rush was unlike anything I had felt before, way better than grandma’s vodka tonic. I didn’t become a heroin addict right after that but I always remembered how good it felt to be on morphine.
As I got older things began to progress; I remember those sips of vodka tonic turning into beers with the soccer team and getting drunk on weekends. In the 12 step program they talk about the unmanageability in the first step but at that time I thought things were still manageable. I didn’t consider the times I came home so drunk I could barely function. It was at this point I began to separate myself from the more forward-focused crowd because they didn’t drink on weekdays. The friends I began to associate with were those who weren’t as driven to do well in school and wanted to drink during the weekdays like I did. I wanted to have people in my life that would co-sign my drinking.
I went to Centennial high school in Coquitlam and my friend and I would pool our money and stand outside the John B. Pub in Coquitlam to get someone to boot for us because we were underage. My addiction progressed and I started using other drugs to keep me up from excessive drinking. One of my low points was when a new Eminem CD was released. My friend had just got his license and a new car and we wanted to cruise to that album but couldn’t afford the CD. I decided I would steal it from the Walmart and after grabbing it from the shelf I headed out the door where I was tackled to the ground by a security guard. My friend just took off running, those were the type of friends I had acquired. I injured my shoulder when the guard tackled me and to ease the pain I was given Tylenol 3 with codeine. The Tylenol gave me the same feeling I had in the hospital on morphine. I was left feeling ashamed and it was easier to escape my problems with opiates and alcohol than it was to face the feelings.
Entering grade 12 I was young and lost. My dad had labelled me a junkie and my mother was quite disappointed in me. I remember having decent grades but lacked motivation to continue and ultimately decided to stop attending class. I was using drugs but had a full time job, and was determined to show my family that I could successfully use drugs and maintain a good life. I was not going to be one of those kids who ended up in treatment. Unfortunately, things did not play out as I had planned.
The reason I got clean was not some magical moment. I never had that cloud-parting moment where suddenly I realized I needed to change my life. It wasn’t my mother’s tears or when my sister had to point me out on our high school camera for stealing MacBooks. I decided to get clean because I was dope-sick and didn’t want to feel that way again. I didn’t know how to move forward so in desperation I called my mother and asked for help. Her friend worked at a treatment center on the Bowen Island and I was admitted shortly after. The experience was great, I was so young in recovery and most of the other clients were older. I did make friends with one of the counsellors and he set me up at a place in New Westminster where i was able to meet people of the same age. The first centre on the island introduced me to the steps and the second centre showed me how to apply the steps in my life. It was an amazing experience to get that taste of recovery. Unfortunately it didn’t last; I stopped practicing recovery and was asked to leave the center. Instantly, I went back to being the Robbie who was going to show everyone that I could do it on my own.
I remember working on a construction site with an old friend from the centre in New Westminster and I remember he was drinking a beer. The way the sunlight hit the beer can captured me and I drank with him that day. From there things went downhill quickly. I felt ashamed because I had failed in my efforts to prove everyone else wrong. I had learned so much in recovery but i wanted to do it all on my own, it was a bad combination. My life became about work and drugs; I had nothing else going for me. One day I overdosed At Insite around 3:00pm and was woken up on a respirator around 10pm that day. You think someone would want to quit after an incident like that but I still had dope in my pocket so I used it.
I learned about Together We Can while at Cordova Detox. I spoke with Stacy Wilson who told me he would get me into treatment as long as I was willing to do what it takes. I was ecstatic to come out of detox. It was hard to believe I wound up on the downtown east side; I was still young in recovery but that pain motivated me to do what ever it took this time around. I did exactly what the staff at Together We Can told me to do and I so desperately wanted to get to the one year mark.
Following treatment I began volunteering in the upstairs office through the Volunteer Aftercare Program and it was the best decision I ever made. To see guys come in and beaten by addiction reminded me why I wanted to stay sober and it motivated me to help in any way I could. It gave me purpose. Service is one of the most important pieces of any individual’s recovery and it saves my life every day.
In my sobriety I have learned to treat myself to all the things I never could while in addiction. Since I have been clean and sober I’ve made a point of going to concerts with my friends at work and taking trips with my girlfriend. It is so rewarding when I look back at where I came from. My life today is something i could not have imagined a year ago. Today I reap the benefits of living clean and sober and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
If there is something I can say to help other men find what I have found it would be:
“Follow the direction found in meetings, treatment and the literature and do your absolute best to implement it into your everyday life. Don’t worry about being perfect, it isn’t possible. Be the best you can be, strive to better yourself every day and always make sure to have fun and laugh a lot.”
Robbie has worked with TWC since 2014. Robbie is a mainstay of the office and his dynamic duties range from answering phones, to driving clients to and from detox facilities, and doing peer support around the facility. Robbie also manages one of our first stage treatment homes, helping the clients with step work, and teaching the skills needed to live a clean and sober life. Robbie can be seen in his spare time dirt-biking and being an active member of the Greater Vancouver Recovery Community.