Month: March 2015

Volunteer Aftercare – Alumni Giving Back

Organizations that deal with addiction and recovery are reliant on the community around them for their support and compassion when it comes to acknowledging that societal reintegration and aftercare planning takes time, diligence, and continued monitoring. For however long it takes a client to complete our First Stage Program and graduate either into a Second Stage house or live on their own, the spiritual principles of patience, honesty, and willingness are fostered to grow into something eventually self-sustaining.

A graduation from treatment at Together We Can grants Alumni status and the chance for personal strengths to be utilized in what we offer with our Volunteer Aftercare Program. Age aside, the uncertainties of “life after treatment” are slowly realized as our clients begin to look and feel better about their choice to stay clean and sober. The universal attitude of being fearful of what comes next is taken into great consideration when we guide a client into the aftercare aspect of their treatment experience. Sticking around and being a part of the goings-on at TWC is an experience we open to all eligible candidates unsure about their future and those that require more time to work through personal goals.

An immediate return to work, school, or family life may not be suitable for everyone. Some clients have been disconnected for such a long time that their motivation and zest for life is still diminished to the point of not being fully functional in society. Our community of volunteers provides the basis of our peer-support network and the Volunteer Aftercare Program is a structured, stable environment where Alumni are given certain responsibilities that closely resemble a career choice and comprehensive learning strategies one would encounter in the work force.

Managed and monitored by TWC Staff, duties of a volunteer can include:

1. Basic peer support and dialogue with new or struggling clients. Sharing their experience and hope for the future assists in inspiring the newcomer or conflicted clients to change their perspective on situations. When a client enters treatment, a senior client is assigned to “show them the ropes” in terms of living with their fellow peers in a comfortable and secure way. Volunteers help ease the irrationality by relating how they once felt to a current situation. This aspect of peer support is essential to a man’s early recovery.

2. Help around the facility. Treatment can be a fast-paced environment and the only way to achieve anything is to “roll with resistance.” If a bed needs making, a volunteer is designated to do that. If a room needs cleaning or the kitchen needs help (with the right certifications), a volunteer fills the gap. Counsellors often require Alumni to sit in on group and share their own story of recovery and TWC considers this to be the ultimate service of keeping the facility stable. If a client requires Food Safe or other safety certifications, TWC assists in them obtaining that document.

3. An extra hand for staff members. TWC is filled with field trips and outings that sometimes need more structure to successfully pull off. The idea is not to act with authority, but to work and play alongside clients to provide a shining example of recovery and willingness to change. We also believe in never missing a moment, and as such we always have volunteers taking photos and videos of the exciting opportunities our clients take advantage of such as Music Therapy and our Athletics Program. The greatest gift of client care is creating a joyful point of reference for clients to look back on and think, “yes, I remember how much fun I had that day!”

Volunteers are given a schedule, dress-code, and orientation that outlines their job as a supporter of TWC’s community and we take great pride in the volunteers adhering to these principles. The bottom line is that a volunteer is our front-line connection to the client and their needs, and they act as an advocate for change on behalf of someone’s personal recovery.

For more information, please visit our Volunteer Aftercare Program page here.

Step One & Friendship – Alumni Myles P. Story

The first of the 12 Steps of AA/NA, which I never had very much interest in, is simply to admit to yourself something isn’t working and that your life has become unmanageable because of a drug or alcohol problem. I personally have had this one mastered for years and it had become a non-issue for me to admit. Before coming into a treatment centre and for a brief time in treatment, I had addiction so ingrained in me I no longer cared about my past, which was at times very successful and brought me years of joy, passions, careers, and everything else deemed normal.  Unfortunately, a few years before coming into a treatment centre, I had made a decision that brought me awareness of having lost everything I had ever cared about, family included, and that I was going nowhere in life other than prison, which in turn wasn’t worried about because I firmly believed I would be dead before the police had the chance to get me there. This was a very dangerous place to be. Complete acceptance of death with no real emotions or cares attached to it was second-nature for me. For me personally it took away all morals and consequences.  Anything to help my short lived piece of heaven until I checked out was fair game: lying, stealing, selling drugs, robbing etc… Anything my intuition told me wasn’t an option in the past, no matter the situation, had ultimately become my new found way of life in the present. I never felt bad about people I hurt, only because I was high enough to justify and blame anything negative as we do. I had accepted it, I was going to be high till I die… And fine with it.

Being completely honest, I landed in Together We Can at random and with all the wrong intentions. After just another day of dishonest and completely insane work, I botched a break and enter because I was so loaded I had left my cell phone at the scene. I woke up with the police surrounding my bed once again and taken away. I was released and given a court date. I figured my best option was to do a quick “spin-dry” wherever I could so I had something positive to lie to the judge about. I used until I was taken into detox, and was planning on using in treatment once I figured out the system enough to get away with it. That never happened. I was here for a week, knew nobody, had no interest in getting better, and was miserable. I started going to my groups and talking to people, people like me, including the counsellors. I’ve always had problems with drug counsellors. My experience in the past was some grumpy person behind a desk that lacked the ability to compute anything I was trying to convey, and most likely glancing at the clock wondering when they could get rid of me and collect their pay cheque. After that week I met one that could relate, that had been through similar things. I decided I would give this a chance, a small one, with no expectations… Another week went by and I had gone from miserable to a person that people liked. I met people I liked, and for the right reasons.  Friendship was hard to come by in my previous lifestyle. Another week went by and I began to like myself, being sober. Which after five years of loathing facing reality without something to help you lie to yourself was completely foreign. I also realized, contrary to my beliefs, I was undoubtedly not more productive while I was high.  My thirty day spin dry had turned into a ninety day life changing experience. I was not only getting my emotional stability back, moving on from my years of terrorizing a city, and numbing out any feelings, I was also discovering what I am capable of. This was not planned, but it’s what took place, and today I can honestly say I am happier than I have been in a decade. I was able to get over the past and become grateful for the things that had happened. I realized while being here, even at my best, I never really knew who I was.

Second stage housing, just like the rest of the treatment experience, was never an option for me.  Once I started getting over one or two things I had deemed as weak or unacceptable for whatever reason, everything began to unravel and I chose to move there. Some of the best people I have ever met have been through this with me, there is friendship in my life and I can tell anything to my peers. I’ve begun to find new passions in life, I’ve built solid relationships, and I have a whole network of people in my life that have my best interest in mind. If this is what it took for me to wake up and put together how insane my life was it’s the best decision I have ever made. The future is full of possibilities. There are so many things I have yet to achieve that suddenly don’t seem unreachable. They seem real, and tangible. Identifying how sad and desperate I had become when I arrived here was a necessary factor in me not returning to that place. This isn’t about getting back the things I had lost, because I never had what I needed inside. This was a fresh start, to build as good a life as I am willing to create.

 Thank you to TWC Alumni Myles P. for his contribution of experience, strength and hope through the discovery of friendship and perseverance. 


The Rush – February 27, 2015

On February 27, 2015 the Rush music event kicked off and helped more musicians in recovery gain the confidence and courage to perform and blow the audience out of the water. See below for the slideshow that features the pre-concert soundcheck and some of the intimate performances. This month’s Rush was another great success and we thank everyone for performing and taking part in it. Catch our next Rush event on the 27th of March at the Vancouver Recovery Club.

Doomed to Die as God’s Biggest Joke


When I came into treatment in 2007, I had a chip on my shoulder, my face was withdrawn and my weight was a mere 164 lbs. My doctor stated if I didn’t stop using, my organs were going to be consumed by my body for nourishment. A 6’3″ bean pole of malnutrition. Crystal meth can do that to a body. My teeth were falling out and I looked 65 years old, when I was only 43 and just rotting to the core.

How I stumbled into treatment was through a legal problem. I was facing charges of robbery and break and enter. My excuse: “I just wanted my property back from my drug dealers.” How the hell did I end up in jail? My probation officer asked what was wrong with me as I kept showing up late for my probation obligations scattered and wrecked out of my mind. I told him I ‘think’ I have a problem with meth as I seemed to not be able to stop using it. From that point on, my journey of wellness slowly began to take place, but it was awfully long and painful.

Going back in time, I was a military brat. I come from a split family. Immature violence was the family dynamic and when the splitting occurred, a sense of ease and comfort arrived where I stayed with mom and my brothers went with dad. He was a drinker and she was depressed a lot. I was relatively well-behaved, did what I was told (kinda), sort of a mommy’s boy I guess. I was the oldest of three. Shortly after the split I was sexually assaulted by a man and threatened with death if I told anyone, which caused a stream of issues in my puberty years causing my mom to toss me out to the streets of Toronto at a very young age. No home meant no school as well. Things changed rapidly from there on in.

Street life, including the sex-trade, caught me by storm and I was introduced to drugs within minutes of engaging with the first client. I had no clue what was going on. I was scared; no, absolutely terrified, abandoned and desperately seeking safety at whatever the cost – but I had zero awareness of anything I was getting into. This was the year 1977, and information wasn’t really as widely available as it is now.

Yearning to return home, I found out that my mother had taken her life and now there was no home to go back to and she had left a big mess, both figuratively and literally. I didn’t know anything of my dad, recalling nothing more than punishment and rage, so I didn’t bother trying to find him. I didn’t think he cared, anyways.

There were dozens of us kids on the street. It was frightfully cold in winter and pretty intense and hot in summer and homelessness wasn’t so bad on hot days. We kids on the street all hooked in and hung out did what we thought was our lot in life. Sadly, some did not make it out: they were discovered dead in alleyways or dumpsters, beaten frequently and abandoned who-knows-where by their disturbing customers and their twisted desires. I was beyond terrified but I was also just so wasted that I stopped caring at all. No family, no friends, and no hope: I was apathetic.

I found solace in dance clubs from those cold nights. I was a minor so I had to sneak in and I did it just to stay warm in the winters. It was a game of cat and mouse, staying out of reach of authority figures as I feared juvenile detention, and I feared the sex-trade clients. It was later revealed I had multiple compound traumas to sort out from all this emotional mishap. There was no Covenant House at the time, now available to youth in the downtown area, and any safe place had some twisted desire or string attached. I hated life and hated mankind: earth was a horrible, terrifying place for me.

I remember just wishing my mom was waking me up from a bad dream that never ended, and saying “you’re going to be late for school,” but that was not to be.

In 1977 the world was exploding into women’s liberation, gay rights, disco/rock wars, and coming out of the hippie/sexual revolution. Drugs got fancier and the parties got weirder and I did not have a sober day until March 18, 2007. During my decades of drug use, I tried to be like other people, to have a home, a job, find relationships, be responsible, but I could not make it work. I didn’t understand any of it at all, so I just pretended. I did not understand money or bills. I got absolutely wrecked and always resorted to the ‘trade’ to assist. I couldn’t get anything right. I ended up with a stalker (before the term was actually coined) and this dude made a mess of my life, trying to keep me in the ‘trade’. Sex-trade work became escort, then to video to live web. Absolutely everything was warped and twisted and I realized this must be my lot in life. To be peoples’ play-thing for their uglier nature and I resigned myself to beings god’s biggest joke, doomed to die in active addiction as a degenerate of society. It was ugly and it was dark. Later in the journey paled in comparison. Jobs faded, friends became betrayals and family was truly a foreign concept. People who smiled and had happy lives became my enemy. I got caught in the Social Services net and consistently fell through the cogs of failed appointments and fiscal voids. Everything became more convoluted and I became homeless yet again. 1985 – 1987, 1991, 1996 – 1998, 2005 – 2007. I took residency in the various parks around the city. I was now officially a vagrant.

 No one seemed to care, so why the hell should I?

In March 2007, my probation officer recommended an addiction counsellor, who suggested Together We Can. The hook was the fact I would be able to eat and get off the street. It took many weeks of coaxing until I decided to give it a shot. I was skeptical though, as I was fearful of every man and trusted not one of them. I was greeted by a man at the facility who was very welcoming and explained that he knew I was terrified. I couldn’t stop crying. He showed me my room and I went to sleep. I awoke a day later and the journey began. 12 steps? Screw that. Group? Yeah sure – didn’t like it. A room full of strange men – ‘you don’t know me’ and ‘I’m not like you at all.’ AA sucked, plain and simple.

Days turn to weeks, then the first month. The work got pushed on me and I fought it every step of the way. During a group baseball game, I was not allowed to play and I was told to read the promises, page 83 of the Big Book. I read it and threw the book back to the counsellor, stating, “that might work for you, and I doubt it will happen for me”. The counsellor said I wouldn’t know until I tried and gave it 100%. If, after committing for the next two months to no avail, he would personally refund my misery and drive me back to the park to live.

SLAP! – no food, no dry clothes, no home and fighting with everyone: he had a point. So I got busy, I asked how to spell things, what words meant and had the staff check my work as I committed to trying something different. I gave it all I had. I finished the work, pages and pages of writing, as fast as I could. I just wanted out. Then I was introduced to the NA step guide. No Big Book, but The Basic Text instead. It resonated with me and seemed to speak my language. Hopelessness, despair, insanity and fear were the words I could identify with. No ‘outside issues’, it was all inclusive.

I got a sponsor who had many years in the program. He said things like “take it easy” and “everything will be fine” and “don’t stress out” as he walked me through what a recovery program was all about. There were many ways to recover and many programs out there. I was encouraged to investigate and so I did. CMA, Smart, CBT, SAA, all of it. My weight was up, I was able to sleep and started to make some alliances. These dudes cared when I took my milestones, 30, 60 and 90 days of sobriety. The first time sober for me in over 36 years. Heck, this wasn’t that bad. 104 days later I graduated but I was fearful about not having a home or family to return to: was I going to get high again? That was the plan if I left TWC. It was suggested I go to the second stage housing program. A sober place with more freedom to develop a life.

I continued developing, volunteered at TWC and the VRC. I went to Hope Bridge Services where the awesome team there heard my story and asked if I wanted to go to school. I stated I couldn’t afford it, being a reject on the street. They found me a grant and off to college I went. I moved to a community wellness environment called The Daniel House, where the people that ran it, Elaine and Kevin, encouraged spiritual development and sustainable life development. They too cared, but being Christians, I felt like a sinner being a sex-trade survivor. Elaine spent many hours explaining divinity from her point of view and she and Kevin both expanded my concept of God. The quest to define this god thing began.

I was so surprised how many people took a serious interest in my wellness and development. What was the string attached, what did they want from me in return? I asked why and they said someone did it for them so they pay it forward. If I was grateful I should do the same. And so I did, and started volunteering at TWC from 2007 – 2010. I spent many hours trying to assist men DEVELOP AN INTEREST in getting well. Sharing my story stating if I could do this, so could they, especially if they have loved ones and family behind them: I didn’t and had to work harder to do this for me.

In 2010 I relapsed and it was terrifying. All the terrible things I left behind returned once again and the reason was due to the sex-trade issue being kept a secret – my story was withheld and it took me out. After 6 months I came back to TWC and restarted everything. This time I knew what I needed to do: extra 12 Step fellowship meetings, more sincere SAA and Smart recovery. I needed to try meditations and I needed to get back into service real quick. Everything moved quickly, again I graduated after 110 days, went to second-stage and started doing support work within a week. I got back on the horse and stopped being a secretive individual – I no longer focused on my wants – it was about saving lives and giving hope: it was about getting as freaking real as I could. No more victim – I was done with drugs and everything they brought me.

I did support work paired with being a house manager. A house manager paired with administrative work which lead to program creation and implementation. I was encouraged to develop a program based on my view of recovery. The Discovery Program was born and implemented as a direct result of the challenges and wellness development I managed to sustain. Every hurdle was met with mind-expanding assignments, and the journey of reclaiming oneself began.

I graduated college, I developed social responsibility, fiscal congruency and I smile very frequently. I did the course in miracles and the master key system and I have worked 9 sets of steps from 5 different fellowships. I no longer hate life and mankind. I forgive most transgressions before they occur and I live guilt and shame-free today. I assist countless men to do the same as much as I can because, just for today, I am as God Created Me, and so very proud of that.

I am truly grateful my story is the way it was so I could develop into who I am today. I have a story, I AM NOT MY STORY. TWC and SAA have my heart. Divinity IS my soul, and that is the art of being human.

Yours, in continued service,

James O’Dea

James is currently a counsellor at The Discovery Program at TWC and is a highly respected colleague with years of experience teaching, counselling, and guiding clients through the program on their way to long-term recovery.

Justin Jackson: The Recovery Barber

The word “barber comes from the Latin word “barba”, meaning beard. Historically a barber was a member of a community most respected and considered a medicine man or a priest, and their daily functions included much more than what we consider barbering today.

In the past, barbers were also surgeons and dentists. Going way back to the time of the Romans, Greek colonies introduced barbering in Sicily around 296 B.C. and barber shops quickly became popular hubs for daily news and gossip. A routine morning visit to the “tonsor” became a part of the daily routine, being as important as a visit to the public baths, and a young Roman’s first shave, a “tonsura”, was an essential part of his coming-of-age process. Later on in history during the Middle Ages, they assumed the title of “barber-surgeons” when they unified with the medical surgeons of the time, and when a barber finished an operation, he would wrap the bloody bandages around a pole. That is the origin of the red swirled barber pole. When the barbers and surgeons went their separate ways, the barbers specialized in their own talents but kept their swirled barber poles as a remnant of the past. The pole still consists of red and white, or red, white and blue strips. Red for blood, white for bandages and blue for veins.

Introducing: Master Barber Justin Jackson

Justin Jackson has worked at high-end salons and barbershops since graduating at the top of his class from the Hairdressing Program at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, BC. After completing his education, he worked under award-winning stylists and barbers such as Kiyomi Shulz, Josh Dewall, and the prestigious Schorem Barbier.

“The eternal saying, ‘look good, feel good,’ rings true with me. Over the years I’ve found that with something as simple as a good haircut, a person’s day can be changed for the better. I offer a fresh shave, a haircut, and a set of ears. I bring this – and more – to my work with clients at Together We Can.”

Justin is now offering his services to first-stage and second-stage clients, staff members, and alumni of our facility on the weekends to not only help someone feel good about themselves but use the tools of conversation and meaningful relationship-building by having a client know that when they sit down, they’re getting more than simply a cut. He charges $25.00 for his high-quality professional work, however many newcomers cannot afford the cost and so the charge is often waived. TWC’s Alumni Association is currently involved with helping to pay for the cuts and styling of the clients, however money is the last thing considered when sitting down in Justin’s chair. Being new in the program and experiencing the emotions of uncomfortably interacting with new people, you should know that this barber service is open and ready to anyone willing who is in first-stage and second-stage. Right now he is only working weekends.

When a client sits down, they have the opportunity to talk about recovery and ongoing maintenance of their personal program with Justin who has years of experience in being clean and living his life to the fullest. As a Master Barber, Justin not only acknowledges his trade as a medium for friendship and intimacy, but a bond that can be built to help men in early recovery expand their knowledge base, their circle of friends, and network with him to help guide them to reach their goals. Instead of the usual banter with your Main Street barber, Justin talks recovery and is eager to help anyone who needs a good listener. He is TWC’s unofficial “medicine man” of recovery with a pair of scissors in one hand, a comb in the other, and a welcoming smile on his face. He is a proud Alumni and TWC considers him a great asset to the TWC community.

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“Conversational recovery is imperative to my growth and I truly believe it helps others just as much. I’ve developed the ability to listen over my career, to be an ear for a guy no matter how good or how bad his situation is. I’ve also learned how to provide insight into situations by offering suggestions or how to better a situation completely.”


PTSD, Addiction, and Neurofeedback

PTSD trauma and severe anxiety disorders have been left untreated or mishandled for decades. In regards to the military stance on it, there have been countless stories of traumatized men and women suffering from PTSD and addiction that are disregarded or even pressured to use alcohol as a release. “Hitting the bar” was a common expression and led to what we have now in our society – individuals suffering from untreated PTSD and addiction issues that are wallowing in despair.

There is a solution. Together We Can has a comprehensive PTSD treatment program that is holistic and scientific. We combine age-old treatments such as acupuncture and yoga, and we also provide Neurofeedback – am electrical non-invasive rewiring of the brain patterns. PTSD and addiction don’t have to be the final outcome of a person’s life. Happiness and long-term sobriety are available if the right steps are taken,  and TWC offers the steps to freedom.

“Less well known is that an astonishing 52% of men with PTSD are diagnosed as alcoholics and 34% suffer from drug addiction. Of the women diagnosed with PTSD, 28% experience alcoholism and 27% drug addiction. Among the treatment modalities creating some fresh buzz and attracting more research and treatment funds is neurofeedback, a process by which computerized brain data is fed back in sensory form to patients. (It is also known as EEG biofeedback, or NFT for neurofeedback training.”

– Quote from Addiction Publication,

Together We Can offers a cutting edge treatment program with preliminary holistic treatments that can be found here on our PTSD Treatment program page.

A short excerpt on how it works:

“Neurofeedback for alcoholism, and some other addictions, is a process of teaching the client first to increase the amount of alpha waves, and then to increase theta. The person progresses into a relaxed, then dreamy and hypnogogic state. Eyes are closed, and they receive feedback via sounds presented through headphones. Usually a reclining chair is used, a blanket is offered to increase comfort and the sense of security and the room is darkened or a light-preventing mask is used.”

– Quote from the International Society of Neurofeedback and Research. 

If you are interested in our services for yourself or a loved one, please contact us by email ( by telephone (1-604-940-9854) or contact us on our Facebook Page.