It was at the end of one of those long foggy Tuesdays in January that I sat down with TWC Counsellor Matt Rands with coffee, questions, and a few escaping yawns. Sitting across from me wearing his usual attire – a blue checkered collared shirt, black hoodie, and a focused gaze – he began to speak and I started to listen. At thirty eight years old, the words that came out of his mouth were both remnants and new beginnings but all at once an incredible view of what it meant to overcome one of the greatest of personal tragedies and to rise anew. This is a brief glimpse into his life.
How long have you been working in the field of addictions?
“Fourteen months. I began my work at Inner Visions Treatment Centre and I’ve progressed in my career to where I am today at Together We Can as a one-to-one counsellor. Simply put, I knew that I had to be at the core of the solution at all times to maintain a personal program of recovery.”
What is your main role as a counsellor?
“I assist clients in letting go of the grief and the shame they carry by acknowledging that they weren’t in control of their behavior due to their drug abuse, while still emphasizing that the responsibility to resolve and make amends for the wreckage of their past lies within only themselves. It’s a delicate line to walk, however what I believe to be one of the most crucial pillars of recovering from obsession.”
Why is this so important to you and your recovery?
“For me, the healing I sought didn’t happen until about eight months into recovery when I started to make formal amends to people. The important necessary groundwork was laid in treatment by simply being around other addicts in recovery that carried a sense of ease and comfort to them that has eluded me all my life.”
You seem to be directly referencing an experience in your own life. Where did this journey for you begin?
“There was a lot of happiness in my life long ago. I was married to a beautiful woman for three years, and seven years ago she passed away from cancer. I was a ‘functional’ alcoholic at the time, but she definitely managed to keep me in check. Losing her created numbness in my life that left me feeling dead inside and as a result I lost the ability to function outwardly as a normal human being. All of my hopes and dreams were dashed in seconds due to her passing. There was a progression in my life, but it wasn’t a healthy one. My addiction became far more formidable.”
Many addicts have their own description of a ‘bottom’ or that end-of-the-road type of experience. Was this it for you? What do you consider the ‘bottom’ to be?
“For me personally, the bottom is when I was emotionally, mentally, and spiritually admitting defeat. My way wasn’t working anymore. I ended up in Nanaimo spending my last ten bucks on a six pack of cheap beer and crying. No hope, no use, no help.”
And then what happened?
“I used the one brain cell I had left for good rather than bad. I stopped talking and began listening to a message when I had come to the realization that I was full of everything bad I had fought against my entire life. I had become a monster. Honesty used to come easily to me because of the unique and relaxed open communication I had with my wife. We shared our lives with each other easily. I knew I had it in me somewhere.”
What do you consider the most important thing an individual can do while in treatment?
“To get honest about what their life actually looks like. To get honest about who they feel they are as a person is essential to the counselling process, otherwise they are no use and true healing cannot begin. Treatment is a safe environment to do this. The delusion of reality that addiction causes is so deep that even the definition of honesty is skewed for many people. I wasn’t able to personally heal until I admitted to myself how I felt about myself. It’s that simple, but for some it is so difficult, and that’s okay. I can help with that.”
Where are you today and what do you value and take with you for tomorrow?
“Relationships are the most important things in my life. I didn’t know what I had until it was gone and they are now the only things that carry purpose for me. In my recovery, my sponsor is an incredible individual whose passion for recovery is all encompassing. He ‘walks the walk and talks the talk’ as they’d say. He’s there to counsel me when needed and draws a distinct line between us that maintains sponsor-sponsee relations rather than friends. As a result of this however, I consider him to be one of my closest friends. This is a long way from where I once was.”
Any resolutions for 2015?
“Every day is a new year for me and every day I wake up, start over, and try to do a little better. Sometimes I fail and sometimes I don’t, but both are able to teach me something. That’s redemption.”
With a nod and a handshake, Matt and I both stand up from the table and we end the formalities. It’s nearly the end of the work day and there is still coffee to be had and notes to be written. I thank him for his time and experience and he turns the corner to return to his desk where he writes tasks for tomorrow; a day where healing will begin again with a story, compassion, and a desire to stay clean.