Residential Program, 1982
Like many others I entered treatment broken, bankrupt, angry and feeling hopeless. While I had lost everything and really had nothing more to lose, I fought like hell to hang on to my empty bag of tricks and stories of glory. I began my Stonehenge journey at the Orangeville location and was part of the crew that built some of the furniture and moved the program to Guelph.
I wish I could say I left Stonehenge and lived a happy joyous and substance-free life, but that’s not my story. I successfully graduated and, with the help of Stonehenge staff, found a place to live, a small job and registered at University of Guelph, where I tried to stay clean and sober on my own. I struggled to live in a world I didn’t feel I fit into and in time, I began to drink. Sadly it was also the story of many of my Stonehenge colleagues, a number of whom have died of overdoses.
After being out of Stonehenge for 18 months, I was diagnosed with cancer. In my confusion and self-pity, I quit school and wondered why I had bothered to get straight just to get so sick. In the hospital I met a woman, re-married, started a landscape company and tried to re-build my life. While I desperately wanted to be ‘normal’, I was not vigilant in my sobriety and I drank – a lot. I did not fully understand the need for ongoing and serious recovery and in time I returned to my drug of choice. When my marriage failed, I re-connected with an old friend –a Stonehenge colleague – and began to use. I had been very successful in business but was again faced with losing everything. Thankfully I re-entered another recovery program.
At this point my story becomes simple. I literally begged for help and not only did I get it, I accepted it with a gratitude and a sense of humility that I was unaccustomed to. I actually listened and did what I was told because I knew I had failed before and I was very afraid. My fear was very real, not only because of how desperate I felt but also because I had sadly watched too many die from overdoses. I knew from experience that it would be hard to stay hopeful and clean without ongoing support carrying so much fear, confusion and desperation.
I left that program both humbled and scared because I knew what my chances would be if I wasn’t very careful. I understood that my addiction was a very real life and death issue and I began to treat it seriously.
I’m both grateful and proud to say I just celebrated 25 years clean and sober. My second serious kick at sobriety reminded me of everything I had learned at Stonehenge but chose to forget. It’s funny how I could convince myself “I never knew that“, when really I did know it but just didn’t apply it. The last thing Dr. Dougan said to me was: “You should attend AA”. At the time I thought: “Why? I’ve been cured”. I now attend meetings regularly even after so many years.
I was a street kid and a heroin addict at 15. I put needles in my arm every day for 25 years. I spent years in prison, have Hep-C, lost houses, wives, jobs and so much money. I have been broken in a thousand ways and yet here I am – able to live a good and fruitful life, be a good father and grandfather. I am also able to share my experience, strength and hope and help others who are where I have been and are desperate and feeling alone and hopeless. Currently, I am the Executive Director of The Bridge Prison Ministry working with men within prisons and hands-on post release. I have been recognized for my work with a nomination for the Order of Ontario.
Looking back, my past experiences did teach me well and for that I will always remain grateful for the lessons I learned at Stonehenge, yet sadly chose to ignore. Thankfully, I had another chance.