Month: May 2015

Repairing Financial Wreckage

The Importance of Repairing Financial Wreckage

One of the realities of living in active addiction is the fact that our financial obligations are completely disregarded in our efforts to support the habit. Often loans are taken out from small lending establishments and bills are left unpaid until the utilities are cut off and collection letters litter the payment demands.  An unfortunate but common anomaly among addicts is serious financial debt.

One of the challenges after entering treatment is trying to dig your way out of debt and begin to establish financial security. For many of us, spending habits are compulsive and we lack the ability to manage our finances in a responsible fashion. Sometimes the debt load is so severe it causes panic and worry that can affect our progress in early recovery.

Recently Together We Can has had the pleasure of working with Mary Van Someren. Mary is the branch manager at Vancouver Community Credit Union and was more than willing to come into our facility and run a small workshop on the importance of rebuilding credit, credit management and bank account management. Mary comes highly recommended as she has helped many people clean up their financial wreckage.  This is a huge step in helping the gentlemen at Together We Can to better understand the importance of clearing ourselves from financial bondage.

TWC is pleased to have the opportunity to build this new relationship with Mary and the Greater Vancouver Community Credit Union.  We will continue to hold workshops on financial stability with hopes that it may help take the stress off the clients while focusing on their stay here at TWC.

A Parent’s Vision

A Parent’s Vision for a Bright Future

Our son Peter is far across the country from us and normally my husband and I would be anxious and concerned about him, given his past practice of alcohol abuse, but because of Together We Can, this is no longer the case.  Although his first attempt as a resident was unsuccessful due to a premature exit by his own choice, he was given a second opportunity.  It has been a long, arduous journey for all of us because of this terribly misunderstood disease.

Like all parents we had great hopes and a vision for our son, not the least of which was a post-secondary education.  We were very happy when he decided to go to college.  Our joy, however,  was short lived as we discovered he was developing a problem and had less and less regard for his future.  He struggled from one relationship, poor choice or negative situation to the next without ever considering the consequences of his actions. He had lost his way, his moral compass was askew and our vision for him seemed to be shattered. Our hearts were broken. Many years of trying to be emotionally and financially supportive through all of it, were wearing us thin.  Our efforts to get him counselling were met with roadblocks from the system and from Peter himself.

For the past seven months though, the outlook is looking very promising for Peter.  Having completed stage one at TWC and now in stage two, we have never heard him sounding so excited about his life.  We always knew he had great potential and it appears his abilities are all coming to fruition as he receives encouragement from TWC on a daily basis.  He has been given a variety of responsibilities and seems to be embracing these with a spirit of conscientiousness and pride.  He is enjoying sports again, he loves the people he works with and the residents he rooms with.  He attends the 12 step program he is obligated to attend and he does so willingly.  Life is good again for him and for us.  We are very proud of him and more importantly, he is proud of himself and the new vision he has for his future.  He is hoping to go back to school and for this we thank God and the enormous support he has received from TWC.  Our hopes for a successful future for Peter is once again looking bright.

New Found Structure

From the Military to the Miracle of Together We Can

I remember lying in bed one night while I was in Canadian Forces Service Prison thinking to myself, “If I can get through this I will never use drugs again.” If only it was that easy.  I started using my drug of choice around 18 years old and it didn’t take long before it had totally consumed me. I was losing every job that I got including the ones where I was hired by a family member.  After about 16 years of fairly regular use I decided that I would join the navy in attempt to save myself from the life I’d created. I honestly thought that the structure the Canadian Forces provided could help me stop using. I quickly realized this was not the case. I was starting to show up late and missing shifts but always managed to tell a story that got me out of the AWOL charges that came along with my absence.

On April 26, 2013 I was scheduled to set sail for Ireland and Scotland but I hadn’t slept in days. I went to my ship and finally told them what was going on. I asked for help. I was subsequently removed from my ship and put through what the military members call a “spin dry” or “coffee course.” I managed to complete the 4 week course but relapsed shortly thereafter. My admission of use to my chain of command caused me to have to follow some pretty strict guidelines. Regular urinalysis and group meetings. After my relapse I failed a few tests and was issued a notice of intent to charge. On November 17, 2013 I was charged with 2 counts of Conduct to the Prejudice of Good Order and Discipline and sentenced to 20 days in Military Prison.

The day I came back to my ship I was informed by my commanding officer that he had planned on keeping me in the military. I remember how happy I was, but it didn’t last. I went out that night to celebrate my good news. I was given a urine test the following morning and came up positive.  My CO abruptly changed his mind and I was released shortly thereafter.

I flew home to Victoria from Halifax last April with absolutely no clue what I was going to do.  Upon release from the Canadian Forces I received all my pensionable earnings and fell deeper into my addiction than I had ever been before. It got really ugly. I was lying in bed on October 29th completely broke and hopeless and contemplating some pretty dark things. I’ve heard of these things called “God Shots” since I started my recovery and this moment was definitely one of them. I’d given up all hope that I would ever be able to stop using and I had planned on leaving this world when my phone rang. It was my Veteran’s Affairs case worker giving me the number to a man by the name of Stacy Wilson. I was offered a bed in treatment.  My choices were get help or die. For the first time in my life I made the right decision. I came to Together We Can and made the choice to do everything they asked or told me to do.

It didn’t take me terribly long once I was here to realize that I didn’t have to live a miserable and isolated life. I had people that truly cared about my well being. I had friends. I put everything I had into this program and my life got so much better.  I’m creeping up on 7 months clean now and have new structure to my life. I volunteer daily at TWC and am enrolled in school. I’m happy for what I’ve been given and I owe my life to the staff and counsellors at TWC.

Fallen Warriors, Not Forgotten

To Those Who Have Fallen, You Will Never Be Forgotten

This past May long weekend the TWC Pelicans had the pleasure of playing in the Fallen Warriors tournament out in Abbotsford.  Thank you to the Weekend Warriors for allowing our team to enter into such a special tournament in honor of two very lovely people Kianna and Monty.  This was also a weekend to remember any other warriors in our lives who have fallen in the past.  It was an honor to play in such an amazing weekend of Ball.

This weekend brought together many people in recovery and helped strengthen their support groups.  Not to mention having a blast out in the sun on such a great weekend.  It was really cool to see all levels of ball being played at the same time.  This past weekend we had the pleasure of watching the best long ball hitter in Canada crush the ball out of the park in a home run derby to help raise funds to support  family.  It was quite an amazing sight to see that man crush the ball nearly 450ft.  One of the other highlights of the weekend was watching all the kids come together on the main diamond and have a little ball game of their own.  It was one of the cutest things I have ever seen!

It was pretty amazing to be able to take a group of gentlemen who are all fairly new in treatment out to have a great time playing ball and joining in the fellowship with the other teams in the Fallen Warriors Tournament.  It is really important to understand that fun CAN be had in recovery.  The brotherhood that was experienced as the weekend progressed was unforgettable.  Every game that was played brought the team closer together and bonds were formed that can not be broken.

We would like to thank all the teams who showed their support while watching us play, as well as the lovely ladies who played for us this weekend completing our team.  We would also like to thank everyone who allowed us to be part of such a special weekend.  By far this was the best Ball tournament that we have been in thus far!

Written By:

Peter C and Brad W

TWC Mascot Oliver

Oliver… You just cant be in a bad mood when he crosses your path!

During hard times a good companion of a good friend can be a wonderful thing to have.  Positive interactions are not only good to relieve the mind but can also effectively improve health conditions.  With no surprise, pets can prove to be good companions through tough times.  The affection of a puppy can help take someone out of their head and motivate them to tackle the situation at hand.

Studies have shown that therapy dogs can play a large role in reducing blood pressure as well as reducing the levels of Epinephrine and Norepinephrine. They also help to alleviate in turn reducing both depression and anxiety.  All round having the love and affection from a dog plain and simply puts smiles on peoples faces through stressing times.  I know for myself, when I am around dogs there is nothing that can take that smile off of my face.

A wonderful little guy by the name of Oliver was given in trust to one of our alumni/staff Justin Jackson because his previous owner simply could not take on the responsibility of being a dog owner.  Unfortunately Ollie was not able to receive the full attention that any dog deserves.  Justin was more than willing to step up and accept Ollie into his life. Having Oliver around puts smiles on the faces of the men here at Together We Can whenever he is around.  There is a therapeutic value when shown unconditional love from a friendly puppy that is almost unparalleled of which Oliver provides.  He has officially become the TWC mascot and is loved by everyone here at our facility.  The only thing that Ollie expects in return is that he is shown the same love as he does.  Oh, and maybe a few belly scratches here and there too!

Welcome to the team Ollie!!!

love me, love me, love me
love me, love me, love me

TWC Music Therapy Expands

Music Therapy Through Tunes

Music Therapy is a group that is going to meet regularly every Friday and Sunday afternoon facilitated by Matt Rands and Justin Jackson to encourage healing through Music.  “Music is what feelings sound like”  To be part of this program you do NOT need to be a musician or “musically talented”  All that is required is a love for music, something that gives you a sense of purpose and to enjoy, with others, an opportunity to share your own personal experience through the medium of music.

“He took his pain and turned it into something beautiful.  Into something that people can connect to.  And that’s what good music does.  It speaks to you.  It changes you” – Hannah Harrington

Our main focus with this program is to ignite or re-kindle your passions, drive, and empowerment through our love of music.  in our various  individual tastes in music we can find descriptions of us as individuals.  Our music of choice (MOC) can help aid someone in identifying regrets, hopes, dreams, happiness and strengths as these are common among us upon entering recovery.  Through music we can find the building blocks of a strong fellowship of like-minded men with whom we share our experiences as well.

“For me there is something primitively soothing about this music, and it went straight to my nervous system, making me feel ten feet tall” – Eric Clapton

We each connect with a form of music that has a unique sound, style, beat, tempo, and meaning  and it makes us feel a certain way.  That connection is completely singular to each individual and can take on a different interpretation to a different person.  That is the true beauty of this program.  Two people can find a different therapeutic value to the same piece of music.  We encourage you to take this opportunity to heal through music!  Music is a  massive accessible tool available to everyone at anytime.  Music can alter our moods drastically from bad to good to great, and provide us with a source of comfort, strength, and hope in the moments of greatest necessity.

“You build on failure.  You use it as a stepping stone.  Close the door on the past.  You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it.  You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space” – Johnny Cash

Fighting the Elixir of Life

I was raised in a large city in South Central Alberta, the second of of three children.  I had one older sister and one younger sister, one who cherished me and one who loathed the ground I walked on.  Both my parents came from strong agricultural roots and soon I was to discover that the traditional “old school” teachings I received were incompatible with the social environment I would face outside the home.

I was a very emotional and sensitive boy excelling in academics and winning many awards for my efforts. When it came to sports and the social end of school I lacked greatly.  Being a very small boy I was subject to both verbal and physical abuse, learning at a young age to defend myself with my brain and tongue. This would unknowingly impact me for the rest of my life.  It didn’t take long to foster and establish an attitude of intellectual superiority.  This became very important to me as I used it as a defense to mask the feelings of inadequacy and rejection.  Other underlying feelings of hurt, shame, and confusion were also manifesting at a rapid rate leaving me with an overwhelming sense of fear.  I would soon find out that it was these underlying feelings that would spark the fire that would eventually turn me into a full fledged “chronic alcoholic and addict”

I was nine years old when I first discovered the “elixir of life”  I was already smoking cigarettes and during one of my parents house parties I saw the half full glasses of booze on the coffee table and went for it.  I was absolutely thrilled with the relief I felt after about three or four of those babies.  From that day forward I drank whenever possible and around the age of 14 I started to experiment with street drugs.  I got married at the age of 24 and was able to put down the drugs however, the drinking somehow continued to escalate.  By the age of 28 I had lost my family, my job, and was flat broke leaving me homeless.  I decided that I needed help and entered treatment for the first time.

I went into a treatment center for for a year, working the steps and hooked in with the community of AA. On this path I was destined for great things and managed to put together 12 years before going into business for myself.  I immediately went on the road working and my spiritual principles that I had found slowly started to fade.  I found myself rationalizing certain decisions I was making for what I thought was to better my financial situation, but my EGO had returned in full and before long I was drunk again.

This binge lasted for close to 6 years, with brief periods of sobriety through short term treatment centers. After many psychotic episodes, withdrawals, and near death experiences I was able to string along another year and a half of sobriety again.  Complacency kicked in again and I was now back into the drug scene.  I was saturated in an environment that was riddled with addiction and rather than change my surroundings, I joined them.  Once again I found myself part of sour relationships, legal issues, and financial troubles which brought me back to the streets.

Riddled with bewilderment and fear the spark of my higher power remained and I was led to Together We Can where I was greeted with open arms.  I was welcomed with wonderful compassion and understanding giving me the direction I craved in a safe structured environment.  This enabled me to embark on a committed journey towards sobriety, recovery, service, and beyond.  Only God knows what the future holds for me, but I intend to approach it with honor, dignity, and diligence so I can run complacency out of town.

Thank You Very Much “Together We Can”

God Bless All

Darren J

Clothing Those In Need

Confidence Through Clothing

This coming June an elite group of alumni from Together We Can will putting on a clothing drive to help less fortunate people.  Robbie Edgar and Scott Donaldson both decided last year that this was something they felt would greatly benefit some of the regulars of Vancouver’s downtown east side.  It was such a success last year so they have decided to step up and do it all over again.  The clothing drive will take place on June 13 2015 at Oppenheimer Park between 9 am and 1 pm.  We will be looking to collect any gently used or new clothing, as well as any cash donations to help purchase new socks and items to put care packages together.  Some of the money will also be used to help feed the volunteers on June 13.

As alumni of Together We Can there is an understanding of how difficult it can be sometimes.  One of our goals with this clothing drive is to help less privileged people both men and women to feel more confident about themselves by putting new clothing on their backs.  Even something as small as giving somebody a new pair of socks can make all the difference in the world.

Please help out this June 13 2015 by donating anything you can weather it be new or used clothing, cash, or even things such as tooth paste and tooth brushes.  Help us make this years clothing drive a huge success by challenging your friends and family to get involved as well so we can clothe as many people as we can.  Any donations can be brought to Together We Can at 2831 Kingsway Vancouver BC v5r5h9 or if you can not make it here please contact Robbie Edgar or Scott Donaldson here at 604 451 9854.  We will do our best to come to you and pick up anything you will be willing to donate towards this clothing drive.  Also on a fun note there will be popcorn being served all day while we are there handing out the clothing so please feel free to stop by and say HI!

TWC’s Marathon Matt

Marathon Matt Succeeds in First Marathon

Today I had the pleasure of sitting down with  Matt Rands to get an idea of what it is like to run a marathon in recovery. Matt entered the BMO Vancouver marathon where over 5000 people took to the streets. Not only did he complete it but he finished in 4 hours 31 minutes and 53 seconds.  Only 1 minute and 53 seconds off his set goal of 4 hours and 30 minutes.  Running a marathon takes great endurance and dedication.  When I asked Matt how long he had been training for this marathon prior to running it I was a little shocked and very impressed. Though he has been running for a long time he had only really trained for this particular run for three months.

I asked Matt what his reason was for wanting to run a marathon and his response was comical. He said, “Six years ago I ran my first half-marathon and talked to this chick who ran the whole 42 km.  It sounded so ridiculously absurd that I wanted to try it!”  Finally 6 years later Matt is able to say that he has completed his goal of running a full marathon.  Although dealing with the aftermath of some sore muscles, Matt is proud of his accomplishment as are all of us here at Together We Can!

One of the key points that Matt wanted me to be aware of is the whole idea of setting goals for ourselves and following through with them.  Even though it can be difficult at times, it is important to persevere and push forward to achieve the goals we set.  I couldn’t agree with Matt any more on this as for myself I had always had a problem following through with any goals I may have set for myself while in active addiction.  This marathon for Matt is a testament to changes he has made in his life.

When I asked Matt what his plans for the future were the comical side of Marathon Matt came out.  “Oh you know, go to school for psychology, maybe sports therapy and kinesiology.”  In regards to running another marathon he is not thinking about that at this point, but may set a new goal of completing a triathlon sometime in the future.  Once again congratulations Marathon Matt, we are all so proud of you here at Together We Can and are very fortunate to have you a part of our family.

An Alcoholic Succeeds with Help

Story of an Alcoholic in Recovery

When identifying myself as an alcoholic the common response I get is, “Oh you must have had a troubled past.”  In reality my past was troubled, but only once I had started to experiment with drugs and alcohol.  I was fortunate to have grown up in a very loving home and was given every opportunity to succeed in life.   I grew up in an household that attended church weekly and I played sports my whole childhood. I was taught from a very young age the importance of self worth.  The harsh reality of the disease of addiction including being an alcoholic is that it doesn’t care what your childhood was like, what your family situation was or how old you are.  Once it takes a hold of you it drags you into a world so dark, no one deserves to experience it.  Somewhere around the age of 12 I started to get this silly idea that I needed to “fit-in” with the cool kids in school and I looked for a sense of belonging in all the wrong places.

Slowly but surely over the period of my teenage years all the moral compasses that had been ingrained in me started to vanish.   By the time I decided to go to college at the age of 21 I was in full-blown party mode and the alcoholic in me was starting to shine. I really only went to school to experience the joys of college residence and the social atmosphere.  At the time I thought that my intentions were in order but I would soon find out that was not the case.  I would spend the next ten years trying to find a manageable way to drink and drug while maintaining a sustainable life.  That proved to be absolutely impossible.  In my last two years of addiction I found myself doing things that I swore I would never do.

Never at any point did I believe, or was I willing to admit, that my life was completely unmanageable or that I really was an alcoholic.  I had this deluded idea that even though I couldn’t keep a job, I was always able to find a work and survive.  This disease had completely taken hold of me and brought me to places I thought I would never be.  Even though there were clear cut signs that I was fully engulfed in addiction, I was not able to admit it and so was unable to do anything about it.  I used to have drinking buddies that would tell me that I needed to get help but I never wanted to listened.  I even had a couple scary near death experiences due to my drinking and that didn’t stop me either.

It wasn’t until I found myself in a legal bind that brought me to Together We Can in Sept of 2013 for the first time.  I wish I could tell you that I was able to “get” it the first time but the truth is I just wasn’t ready.  Again, I didn’t want to listen, and I definitely didn’t have an open mind about going there.  The positive piece is that the seed was planted and when I was finally ready to surrender I knew exactly where to go.  Together We Can welcomed me back with open arms giving me a second chance to help me get my life back on track.  The fear of just “existing” outweighed my fear of coming back.  I will never forget the conversation I had with my mom a couple days before coming back to TWC, where she said to me, “Peter we will no longer force you to do anything, we just want our little boy back.”

Unfortunately, I will never be that little boy again, however, I firmly believe I am on my way to becoming the man I was intended to be.  This has all been made possible because of Together We Can.  They offer a safe, clean environment in which they teach you how to put your past behind you and work on yourself in the present day allowing you to strive for a better future.  At this point in my life I couldn’t imagine it any other way.  I have new- found passions and have rekindled some old ones as well.

TWC has had such a positive impact on me that I decided to stay and become a volunteer to help keep me connected, and to help the new-comer in any way that I can.  With the right attitude and an open mind this place just works.  I can attest to this as I am writing this on my 6 month milestone in sobriety.  I am so grateful to have behind me the support that I have today including my family, who I miss very much on the other side of the country.   A special thank you to Together We Can and all those who impacted my life in such a positive way.

Peter B