My experience at Our House was truly life changing. I grew up like any other kid in a small town, with old fashioned parents. We never really talked about anything serious, or anything emotionally related at all. My family does have a history of mental illness which we found out about while I was growing up. My mom was diagnosed Bipolar and as teenagers we helped dad figure out what to do initially as we had no clue about anything mental health wise. At around 16 I found myself becoming quite depressed and due to some relationships, which weren’t very healthy, and I ended up starting to form quite a few negative core beliefs about myself. I wasn’t even sure what was going on with me at the time and I just went about my day and faked a smile, but when I was alone in my room at the end of every night, I found my depression hitting me hard. I initially turned to music for support in a sense and found that if I could listen to stuff that would make me cry, I would feel a bit better the next day. So, a cycle began that lasted several years where I would pretend to be okay during the day and was crying myself to sleep every night. Then I’d wake up and repeat. Around 17 I tried alcohol for the first time at some random bush party and found I liked it quite a bit. This was the starting of my using alcohol to cope with life.
I graduated high-school and ended up going to university. There I found myself fall into the party/binge drinking crowd that so many do. Just tons of drinking games to get as drunk as possible every night. I also tried Marijuana for the first time during those years in university. I found myself blacking out or having pretty rough nights drinking and found I liked weed more than alcohol, because of the lack of hangover and the fact that alcohol could be unpredictable at times. I decided not to finish my post secondary at university and at that time was smoking weed daily and was in my own mind a proud stoner. Then I ended up having to find a job. Went the oilfield route and started an apprenticeship. I found that this path in life ended up turning me towards a culture of drinking and getting high every day, before, during or after work. It seemed everyone was doing that and I went along with it. This is also when I accepted that driving under the influence was okay because everyone I knew from work was doing it. I was coping with my issues using drugs and alcohol but didn’t realize how badly it would turn out for me.
After a couple of years working, I went to go to school to continue my apprenticeship and got close to finishing it, but I found myself in a sense chasing the high with weed and as soon as it started to fade, I would smoke again. I ended up getting something from an unreliable source and quickly ended up in a drug induced psychosis, which led to me not finishing school and eventually put me in a psychiatric hospital for a few months. After trying many medications, they eventually got me sorted out and I was back out in the real world. Even though I was told smoking weed again would lead to similar issues I still dabbled with it here and there but found I didn’t like how it made me feel anymore. So, I turned back to alcohol and was drinking heavily every day, and this made me very unreliable both job wise as well as when I tried to go back to post secondary.
I did not stay sober for several years even though I was told to not drink or do anything while on the medication led to me in and out of psychiatric wards quite frequently. Eventually I ended up taking a job working up north and that decision changed my life forever. While working up there I quickly got into using cocaine and binge drinking. I found out how well those two went together and it sent me down a path that would eventually lead to me destroying my relationship with my fiancé as well as craving and seeking out cocaine as soon as I started drinking. I recognized that problems were piling up after a few rough and sketchy nights. I tried to quit drinking and was successful for a couple of months, but eventually had a night where I had one drink and then of course I was back to drinking heavily every day. Around that time Cannabis became legal for recreational use and I ended up giving it another try and found I liked how it made me feel again. When I look back now, I had been warned and warned about what it could do to me mentally, but I loved that feeling and continued to smoke it daily. I also continued to drink as well. This led my brain to be so messed up I honestly believed I could not get through a day sober, and this is when the addiction that had continued to progress throughout my life started to become more noticeable by others around me, especially my family. I started stealing money, selling things, and doing anything I could to make sure I had something to use so I wouldn’t be sober that day. I also started to isolate myself more and then it all came down to one day when I got into an argument with my family, and they tried to help me see that I was addicted and throwing my life away. However, I was convinced that drugs were helping me and that I needed them. I ended up running out of ways to steal and things to sell and felt like I had no other option, so I tried to overdose on my medication, by taking handfuls of everything I had. I was brought to the psychiatric ward again and was honest with them about all the drug use and my family had also mentioned to them how bad I was getting. My psychiatrist mentioned Our House and I said I was willing to try anything at this point.
I made it into Our House, and I will admit that my first three months were very difficult. I still believed I wasn’t an addict and that I just had bad coping mechanisms. I was holding on to the idea that if I learned to cope normally, I could still go back out and drink and smoke socially. I had very rough days for those first few months, but the staff and counselors were extremely helpful in getting me through every day as well as making sure I knew that I was safe and belonged there. I was a mess mentally when I first came in and was so fortunate to have the right people be there for me when I needed it most. Not only staff, but clients as well. This struggle continued and I found myself having daily breakdowns or needing to be talked through situations and then one day I was so desperate for things to get better that I went into my room and noticed I had an NA (Narcotics Anonymous) basic text sitting on my shelf that I had bought years ago when I first noticed my drinking and coke issues but had never even opened the book. I decided to start reading and that decision changed not only my outlook and perspective, but also my path from there on out. I read 4-5 pages in the front section called “Who is an Addict” and even though I had read and heard the little blurb at NA meetings before I didn’t find it described me. In fact, at that time, I was holding onto this little section they have in the AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) big book where they mention that there are some who are unable to be honest with themselves due to mental illness and because of that are unable to recover. I was convinced that was me, and that I wouldn’t get better and regularly debated leaving Our House because I didn’t think I should be there. In all honesty I was looking for any excuse to allow me to go back and do what in my mind I had to do and wanted to do, which was going back to using again and chasing that feeling of what I thought was happiness. While reading that little intro section of “Who Is An Addict” in the NA text, I noticed that as I went through those pages I couldn’t help but feeling like they were describing me. Lines like “we used in order to survive”, “many of us didn’t think we had a problem with drugs until the drugs ran out. Even when others told us that we had a problem, we were convinced that we were right and the world was wrong”, “we used this belief to justify our self-destructive behavior. We developed a point of view that enabled us to pursue our addiction without concern for our own well-being or the well-being of others”, and “It seemed that we were at least two people instead of one, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. After having some of those and many others hit home or seem to be describing me perfectly, by the time I finished that short section in the NA text, I realized I had been lying to myself the whole time. That day I truly surrendered to the NA program and accepted that I am an addict and that I have problems with addiction. That day I threw out all of the previous step work I had done and started from scratch with this new perspective and clarity about who and what I was. I also made sure I finished that whole basic text and read it all. I would often go back and re-read it afterwards as I found the more times I read it, the more times I picked out parts that applied to me or helped me. That day at Our House and the days, modules, meetings, and counseling sessions following helped me get to where I am now.
I graduated from Our House in 2021 after being there for 13 months and by truly buying into the NA program and the ideas of “playing the tape forward”, and “one is too many and a thousand is never enough”. I was able to bring myself to a state of mind where I was comfortable telling myself and others that I am an addict choosing to stay sober, that I may want to use still, but cannot anymore. With the help of my counselor and the staff I was able to get to where I am today and can be comfortable around my family or friends when someone is drinking at a dinner, while camping or whatnot, because I know I cannot do that anymore. I am comfortable telling people that I cannot use and explaining why. It took practice and being very safe early on in situations to make sure that if I felt tempted, I had a way to remove myself from the situation and get somewhere where I could recognize the triggers and work my way through them. I often would keep my NA text with me and when those times came up I would always read that one section of “Who Is an Addict” and It helped me keep my perspective and mind focused on the fact that yes I may want to use, but I can’t anymore because l am an addict and I cannot use socially like others around me can. That being said, I do not recommend trying to throw yourselves to the wolves. I avoid bars/clubs, except for lounges once and awhile, but I go there with people who support me and know my situation. I had to recognize and figure out who my real friends were and who is willing to support me. I needed to recognize the people I knew who were in connection with using were/are only drinking/smoking/using friends. As hard as it may be, I had to cut ties with people I thought were good friends, but my sobriety must come first.
In our community, it’s often said that recovery is a selfish program, and in that sense, I agree, because I must put myself and my sobriety as my top priority. I have found that trusting my gut has helped me often. If I am considering going somewhere, whether it be a concert, family event, sport etc., if I feel a bit iffy about it and worried, then I will not attend and will be 100% honest with whomever about why. Life outside Our House is difficult for someone in recovery. There are not many places I can go where the isn’t the possibility of being around someone drinking or doing drugs, especially now that recreational weed has been legalized, but in my experience, you have to be prepared for those times, because they will come. They often say that while you are in a rehab or detox that your addiction is outside doing push-ups waiting for you and that is an incredibly good analogy. You want to be prepared and setup to succeed in life. Our House helped me get to a place where I was prepared and knew techniques and ways to manage myself and continue to stay sober while out in the real world.
I am coming up on 2 years sober and life has completely turned around for me. When I look back at the man I used to be and the things I did and believed I can see how quickly life got so messed up for me and how bad I ended up. I regret things I have done and the amount of pain, stress and grief I put those closest to me through, but by continuing to stay sober I can help rebuild certain relationships and gain that trust back or find ways to make amends for what I have done and that is definitely worth it. I cannot take back what I did but can learn from it and do my absolute best to stay sober and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Even a relapse can be a way to learn and recognize something I missed or weren’t prepared for. The clients, staff, and atmosphere in general at Our House helped me turn my life around. I will admit I had tons of help throughout my time there and without the support of my family and friends both in and outside the house I would not be where I am today. I was telling my story to someone the other day and kept saying how fortunate and lucky I felt, but in my mind at least I know God has helped me throughout this journey as well. I happened to have an old friend reach out and ask if I wanted to go to church with him, and I just happened to be working on my step 3 questions at that time. Step 3 in the NA program is based on making the decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God as we understood him, and I thought to myself what are the odds of this happening at this exact time? Through my friend reaching out I found myself reconnecting with God and starting to believe that He was working in my life and helping me. He became another support for me, and I would pray regularly, not always just for help or support, but also for forgiveness and for help for others I knew who were struggling.
It is funny, when I first was at Our House I was afraid to say I was an addict, because I believed I wasn’t one and I felt like saying that and confirming/accepting that I would be labeled in this life as an addict where I would never succeed or have that stigma follow me around everywhere. However, now I am not only okay with it, but I would say I am proud to be an addict and I am sober and that being an addict doesn’t make me less than or a worse of a person. From my experience, people struggling with addiction have some of the greatest potential in life. If you can be an addict and fight those inner demons and stay sober, even if it’s a day at a time or a minute at a time, staying sober and continuing to do so takes so much strength and if anything, it shows just how much we can accomplish and endure. Addiction is a lifelong battle, like the mental issues I have, but I have found that as long as we can continue to stay sober and work the steps and be open, honest and willing to learn, we have the ability to prove others wrong about us. Addiction, similar to mental health, has a stigma around it, which is unfortunate and often addicts will suffer from mental illness or at the very least symptoms of some and while awareness seems to be slowly getting better in society it takes people being willing to tell their story and help others become knowledgeable about these things in order for the stigma to continue to shrink. It’s true that someone who has never been addicted to something cannot truly understand an addict, but they can be pointed in the right direction to at least help them realize why it isn’t as simple as just saying no. I found the groups and modules to be very beneficial at Our House. You learn about addiction, but you also learn so many beneficial skills and concepts that in all honesty I wish more people would understand who aren’t in the recovery world. Being at Our House and completing all of modules and learning not only about addicts in general, but more importantly about yourself and who you are and why you are that way can help you so much down the road and help you set yourself up so that you are prepared when you leave there and go out into the real world. I sit here now a couple of weeks shy of 2 years sober and I have gotten back into working on my apprenticeship again and am currently attending school and doing so well it looks like I will be finishing early and will be progressing into a second year soon.
I did make some changes though. I do not work oilfield jobs or put myself into environments like that. I was also fortunate enough to have a boss and coworkers who are supportive and want me to succeed in life. I play on a recreational ball hockey team, which was one thing I used to love but hadn’t played in years until I arrived at Our House, and we started playing while there. I am currently moving into a place with a girlfriend who is incredibly supportive and a great match for me. I am getting back into old hobbies I used to enjoy, but while in addiction I found I could only enjoy them while under the influence of something and eventually the drugs took priority and I stopped doing them all together. Life is good! And it is getting better and better. I know none of this would have been possible without my experience at Our House. For those considering going, I will say it’s not easy and you will have rough days, but it is worth it! If you want it and are willing to put in the work you can complete this program and come out knowledgeable about yourself as a person and possibly have found out what it was that led you to turn to drugs/alcohol in the first place and also how to deal with living life on life’s terms and stay sober. Focus on getting through your day sober and use the supports that are in place when you need them to help get you through that day and you’ll be amazed at how quickly they can add up. If you are wondering about yourself or if you have a problem, try going to an open meeting somewhere and if you feel like it makes sense buy a basic text and read it! Remember one is too many and a thousand is never enough. That first drink or drug could be your last. Stay safe, stay sober and know it is possible, “We Do Recover.”