Hi, my name is Nim, and this is my journey to recovery. I was born in a small town in Serbia to a loving mom and dad, and I have a younger sister with whom I’m close. When I was 5 years old, my parents decided to move us to Vancouver, BC for a better life.
I went to a school in East Vancouver and started learning English. The adjustment was significant, but luckily I was young. A year later, my parents ended up buying a condo in Burnaby and I had to change schools. Just like when we moved to Vancouver, I once again had to make new friends.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was already exhibiting alcoholic tendencies. Whenever I was interested in something new, it was the only thing I wanted to do. I liked going mountain biking and it became an obsession. I would go out riding any chance I got even if it was by myself. My dad had a bird hobby, which I was involved in, so I went about learning everything there was to know about birds. Then, when I found out we were getting a dog, I decided to read a book about dogs every single day so I could learn about every breed.
I was obsessive.
By the time I got to high school, I had a good crew of friends who I would hang out with every day; we didn’t drink or do drugs, and the thought of doing so disgusted all of us. My friends and I all started playing a video game called Counter-Strike, and that quickly became my next obsession. I had the game on my home computer and would play it from right after school until late at night. I was committed to gaming.
My parents both worked from early in the morning, which allowed me to sleep in and be late for school. Eventually, I started skipping classes as well; I would go to internet cafes during the day and go home when I was supposed to be finishing school. You guessed it, once home, I would resume play and continue until bed. All the missed classes didn’t help my academic career, and I promptly started failing courses.
I failed my first class in grade 9, around the first time that I tried smoking weed. I ended up going to summer school to retake the courses I had failed, and rather quickly, I made a bunch of new friends who did the same thing. Smoking marijuana was the perfect way to make friends and feel a part of the group.
I got my first real taste of alcohol one evening at age 16 when I went out with a couple of friends; an entire mickey of whiskey ensured I was on the verge of alcohol poisoning. I certainly experienced the ubiquitous spins and vomiting that come along with over-intoxication.
The next morning, I felt like dying. The hangover was such that I couldn’t stomach even the smell of alcohol for the next 3 years.
The following year of high school, the student counsellor helped me get into an autobody pre-apprenticeship program which meant I only had to go to school every second day. On the days I didn’t have to go to school, I worked in the shop. In the summer, it was full-time work.
For the first time in my life, I was able to save money. Work I did was paid in cash, and it didn’t take me long to amass thousands of dollars. I was a teenager with thousands in my nightstand!
Around this time, my parents were going through a difficult patch in their relationship and decided to get a divorce. They tried to work together and share custody of me and my sister.
This is when I really started to get freedom; my parents were both competing to be the favourite, and I started getting away with everything. I got my drivers license and started spending a lot of time out with friends. This is when weed truly became a daily endeavour.
I started experimenting with alcohol again and quickly realized that after a few beers, I was able to let loose and get out of myself. It was freeing. I quickly got used to drinking and partying on the weekends, and smoking weed as a daily routine. Slowly but surely the cash I had saved up from work at the autobody shop disappeared. All of my hard earned money vanished.
From this point on, my ability to save money deteriorated. I was a weekend warrior, drinking excessively, and during the week I was nothing but a half-ass employee. At age 18, my father and I got into a significant argument one evening and he presented me with an ultimatum; stop smoking weed, or move out of his place.
I decided to move out.
I realize today that he just wanted the best for me, but at the time I felt like he was trying to control my life. I moved in with my mother.
I left the autobody industry and got a maintenance job at the hotel where my mother worked. I stayed in this job for 3 years. Throughout this time, my drinking an drug use accelerated. While exciting at first, I quickly became bored with my job and would often spend entire paychecks over the course of a weekend partying lavishly at nightclubs.
I would go into work hungover, late, and by the end of most days, I would be sleeping in a vacant room. I was not the ideal employee, to say the least.
I felt useless and hated my day to day existence.
Finally, the day came when a guest walked in on me sleeping; they reported me to the general manager and I was let go by the company. Another crossroads. I took some time thinking about what I wanted to do with my life and I worked for a couple of companies doing labour.
One day, my friend who had his own business asked me to help him build a fence. I went out and worked for a few weeks until the job was complete. I realized at that moment that I loved carpentry.
But, I also realized that I didn’t want to work for my friend; I found him unorganized and recognized that I could do better. I voiced my opinions to another mutual friend, who happened to be a contractor, and we entered into an arrangement where he mentored me. He asked me if I had ever considered going into business for myself. It was something I had pondered, but taking that sort of plunge is intimidating. He encouraged me to go for it.
I took a leap of faith, hoping that everything would work out. A week later, I received my first contract.
I was still living with my mom, and I still had a significant drinking and drug problem on the side. One morning, after a night out, she asked me to look in the mirror and ask myself if I liked what I saw. It hit me like a freight train, I didn’t recognize who I had become. I was literally treading water, not going in any particular direction.
I decided to give partying a break and focus on my work.
I was able to stop for a short while, got a few more contracts under my belt, and started feeling drastically more confident. I met a girl and fell in love. My early 20’s became a very exciting time. I really felt like I was doing well.
My girlfriend and I got a condo and life was good. Everything seemed to be going ahead of schedule, especially in comparison to my other friends.
After a year or so of living together, drinking and drugging excessively, we decided to split up. She kept the apartment and I moved into a friend’s place.
This was a wake-up call, and I really started focusing on getting ahead. From 22 to 26, I rarely partied, went to the gym consistently and focused on my business. But I was still smoking marijuana on a daily basis.
By 26, I had built up quite a life. I had lots of material things, which I thought made me happy. I had a nice truck, dirt bike, my finances were in order, and life seemed manageable.
I had also found another woman. She was perfect, everything that I had always wanted, and everything I had hoped for.
Unfortunately, around the same time, I found another love: Oxycontin.
It started slowly, taking a pill here and there. You know, once in a blue moon on the weekend. Eventually, it was Friday and Saturday, every weekend. It only progressed from there, and rather quickly I was taking it every day after work.
My contracting work had slowed down, so I got a job at a cedar mill.
One day, I decided to take a pill before work instead of after, and the day just flew by. I thought I had found a solution to the monotonous daily grind I was engaged in.
I moved in with my new girlfriend about 8 months later, and she had no idea about what was really going on. By this point, I was using Oxycontin from the moment I woke up until the time I went to sleep.
In the Spring of 2014, my best friend from high school was getting married in Mexico; 20 of my closest friends and I all went to celebrate. I was using 120mg of Oxy on a daily basis and assumed I would be sick for a day or two of the holiday.
Much to my shock, I was in serious withdrawal for the entire week of the wedding. A week of absolute hell. I barely slept and could hardly function the entire time.
I came clean about why I was sick after a few days and everyone was supportive. When we came back to Vancouver, I decided that I couldn’t go back to using opiates. Instead, I resumed a steady diet of weed, drinking, and brought cocaine into the equation. I tried to hide the new habit from my girlfriend, but she wasn’t dumb. She knew when I was up to no good.
I resisted opiates for as long as possible, as I now knew the pain of withdrawal. After a month, I imploded. Oxy once again became the focal point of my life.
I closed my business and got a job as a carpenter for a business I thought highly of. I moved up the ranks rather quickly and was entrusted with more and more responsibility. My employer, of course, had no idea about my drug use.
My relationship quickly started getting rocky with my girlfriend. Although I was there every night, I was never truly present. I had almost no emotion. All I could think of was wanting to get high.
I would manipulate her and everyone else. The money went out as fast as it came in, so I was constantly convincing people to loan me cash for anything I could think of. This went on for 2 years. To this day, I don’t understand how she stayed with me.
In the Fall of 2017, my company went through a change and I ended up getting a significant promotion. I became the Project Manager and was given a nice new truck and a crew of 5 guys. I was compensated well, but no amount of money could've been enough.
I was spending over $5,000 a month on my drug habit, and borrowing as much as possible on top of it. Life was becoming increasingly unsustainable.
Finally, everyone had enough, and they stopped lending me money. My house of cards began to crumble. My girlfriend thought over-working was the problem, so we took a trip to Bali.
Once again, another chance to recalibrate and fix my problems. I stopped using while I was away, and truly thought I’d be able to keep it going once back.
How wrong I was, within a week of returning, my allergy to opiates was reinitiated and I was back to the full swing of active addiction. Within a month, I had absolutely no money.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, however you’d like to look at it, I had access to the company credit card. I decided to withdraw cash to get my fix for the day. I tried to lie my way out of the barrage of questions that came, but this time no one believed me. The jig was up.
I was let go on the spot.
I sold my truck and my dirt bike to sustain my addiction. The walls were closing in. My well-paid job was gone. I used the last of my money to get high and lied to my girlfriend about why I was fired. She went along with it, but I’m not sure if she really believed me or not.
I started to search for out of the box solutions to my problem. I came across a YouTube video for ayahuasca therapy and convinced my family to pay for a trip to the Amazon. This time, I would really get clean for good! I went to Ecuador for a Wellness Retreat. The therapy blew my mind and on the way home I was completely convinced that I was cured.
Within 3 days of being back in Vancouver, I was calling my dealer.
When my girlfriend went through my phone and saw that I had picked up drugs, she had finally had enough as well. Who could blame her? She broke it off with me.
Now I had lost the love of my life.
What followed was the realization that I would continue to lose everything that mattered to me if my addiction issues continued. I was completely beaten down and broken. I didn’t want to keep playing the star character of my real life horror movie.
The thought of going on as I had been was absolutely terrifying.
Around the same time, I found out about a local treatment centre that helped men in similar circumstances to my own. I had tried so many ways to get clean. I didn’t see any harm in trying another method. I didn’t have much confidence, as everything else had failed, but I decided to give it a go.
I thought it was going to be like living in a prison; a place that you had no desire to be, but couldn't leave. Oh, how I was wrong.
I quickly realized that this was a place where you could truly change your life, so long as you wanted it. I came to the realization that I couldn't be in a rush because I was playing for keeps. I was doing this to ensure I could have the life I had always wanted. A life free from the bondage of drugs and alcohol.
Just like it had been previously, my detox was horrible. I barely slept for over a week and had little to no appetite. But an amazing thing happened; I was surrounded by men who had already been through the trials and tribulations I was experiencing. They emphasized to me that there was a way out. They told me to follow their lead.
I put my head down and did what I was told.
I got a homegroup, sponsor, and did a set of steps. I didn’t rush out after completing my time in primary treatment and instead opted to move to a 1.5 house. Before I knew it, I was 4, 6, and 8 months clean. More time than I’d ever had before.
I found myself promoted to jobs with more and more responsibility. I haven’t said so yet, but I decided to stay and work at the treatment centre I went through, Together We Can. I became an assistant house manager, and went from a volunteer, to support worker, and I am now part of the intake staff.
Today, my life looks nothing like when I came in. I have actual relationships - authentic relationships. I have friends who I don’t expect anything from. We enjoy each other's company.
My family no longer has to worry about what I’m doing or where I’m going. They have confidence that I’ll once again be able to take care of myself.
I get to be one of the people who helps the newcomer. I’ve been through the difficulties that they’re going through, and I'm on the other side.
Life is good, and it all started with a chance decision to seek treatment.