Journey to Recovery is a series of stories or personal journals from residents of Together We Can. All of the journeys we share are presented unedited, written as the author reaches milestones in sobriety, and discuss both life in addiction and life in sobriety.

Journey to Recovery: Patrick S

On August 22, 2016, I decided it was time to change my life. Although not an easy decision. I was 36 years old. I grew up in a small rural village outside Thunder Bay, Ontario. I have one brother, three years older than me. We lived with both parents. We grew up on 10 acres of property and had a large family property and cottage at a lake where I spent most of my summers as a kid. I played outside my entire childhood. Biking, fishing, canoeing, skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, you name it. It was a great childhood in that sense. However, at home, things were not the best. My father struggled with alcoholism and depression. I witnessed quite a bit of verbal and physical abuse toward my mother and brother from him. I did not endure as much as them but it impacted me. I never had a strong connection with my father, as I had always felt he never wanted children. He was emotionally vacant. My brother was constantly bullying me and there was a lot of violence between us. I grew up in a lot of fear at my home. Thankfully my mother and grandparents were very good to me though.

Around grade 7, I began to feel different from other kids. I was a “later bloomer” and this caused a lot of my anxiety and contributed to very low self-esteem and little self-confidence. To fit in with my friends I was involved in a lot of vandalism, theft, and mischief from ages 10 to 14. I had my first court appearance for theft at age 14. I started smoking cigarettes at age 12. When I entered high school, I looked quite a few years younger than the other kids my age. This was a very awkward stage. I was fortunate to have a good group of friends though. I was never bullied and managed to fit in with the “popular kids”. I did not join any sports teams as I was too small and lacked confidence. I started smoking weed and hash oil, doing mushrooms and LSD by grade 10. I started to drink booze around this time as well. I never really enjoyed it at first, but booze gave me the confidence I lacked. I was given the nickname “Three Beer Pat” because I was usually drunk off three beers. Throughout high school, I always felt different, at times I even thought I may have been gay or there was something wrong with me because I felt so strange inside. I never told anyone how I felt. I held it together fairly well on the outside, but inside I was a mess. Grade 11, 12, and 13 (OAC in Ontario) became mainly about partying on the weekends. That was all that really mattered during the week. It was about who was getting the drugs and booze, and where we were partying. I did manage to graduate as an average student.

At 19, when most of my friends were going to college and university, I decided to move to Banff and work in hotels and restaurants. This was a great experience but there was a lot of drinking. I then moved to Whistler at age 20. This was Paradise! Drinking is part of the culture in Whistler, so I fit right in. I managed to get a college diploma in Vancouver from 2001-2003 and then back to Whistler. This is when I was introduced to Ecstasy and MDMA. The parties, the people, the bars, the skiing, the girls, the lifestyle in Whistler was amazing. I was having the time of my life. But my addiction was growing its hooks. By 2003 I was introduced to cocaine. I swore I never would try it. I did not like it for a couple of years. I continued to drink a lot, and use mushrooms, and ecstasy. Cocaine found me again in 2005 and we were off to the races. Whistler was a great place to hide an addiction because so many people were drinking and using. It was a normal and accepted. At this point, I was fairly lost. I thought I had a career direction but when it did not materialize, I was adrift in Whistler in a booze and drug-fueled party. I went through many jobs and some periods of unemployment. By 2007 I was drinking and using cocaine several days a week.

In 2009 I moved back to Vancouver with my girlfriend and the party continued. However, now I was a full-blown addict. Every time I would have a few beers I would be calling dealers. I did manage to keep my jobs but sometimes barely. This was the first time someone had suggested I need help. My girlfriend asked me to try Vancouver Daytox. I went to one session and realized it was not for me. I thought I wasn’t like those people; I am not that bad. The denial began. The girl left and I was on my own. Alone, depressed, lost, with no purpose or direction. I was drinking and using cocaine now almost daily. I decided I needed to move and get a new job. The “geographic cure” would help me. Wrong. I found the drugs and party people instantly. I lived in Squamish briefly, then Revelstoke. I blew through jobs and money with no regard. I was demoralized. At this point, I figured I had a problem but did not know how to fix it, much less want to fix it. I kept running away, from myself.

Next, I found myself in Northern Alberta. Here I can make a bunch of money and go to the gym every day, eat like a king and look really great on the outside. I paid off all my debt, gained 25 pounds of muscle, traveled, and partied on my time off. Life was good! It was a disguise for how I was feeling inside. Still lost with no direction, passion, or purpose.

After Alberta was done, I had money in the bank. I figured I should spend it on school and try to become an electrician. I moved to Fernie for college, completed a six-month program, barely. I drank almost daily and still managed to get through class, thanks to my supportive teacher. Once again, I was looking for an external solution for an internal dilemma.

With my new training, it was back to Whistler! I lasted four months. I lost a good job because of my addiction. I lost more morals, and values, and self-respect.

I then moved in with a girl in Port Moody very quickly. I was still working as an apprentice electrician but hating it. My girlfriend and I partied on weekends, going to see DJs in the clubs of Vancouver. More cocaine, MDMA, GHB, and booze. I was a train wreck. I tried different types of counseling and no one indicated I may be a drug addict or alcoholic. I had a few months off booze and drugs, but I would come back to my solution time after time. Nothing seemed to work. My girlfriend got pregnant in early 2016. That final summer, I reached my bottom. I was lurking around the downtown east side looking for drugs when my dealers did not answer their phones. I would go on week-long benders. I would sleep in my car in parking lots. I was lying to my pregnant girlfriend. I could not stop. I wanted to but could not. It was then she realized I had a problem. She told me I needed to get help before our child was born. She found Together We Can and Steve Bull. I agreed to treatment in September 2016. I was very anti-twelve step and knew it would not work but I was out of options.

I remember the staff at TWC being so welcoming and genuine. I learned that many of the staff were in recovery and were all there to help. The first time I read the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous I was hooked. I finally could relate to something. The group facilitators were amazing. They taught us with so much passion, experience, and knowledge. I recall around 6 weeks of being at TWC, I was starting to change. AA calls it a spiritual awakening or physic shift. The more meetings I attended, the more I heard my story. Other people had felt like I did. I remember quietly crying in some meetings because I knew I had found a solution and that there were other people that felt just like me. I completed 90 days and returned to living with my girlfriend. e welcomed our daughter one month later on Christmas day. The first year had its up and downs. I was a new father in a new town, with no friends, no job, no extended family for support. I attended AA meetings 2-3 times a week, found a sponsor my first month out of treatment, had a homegroup, and completed a lengthy Step group. This was instrumental in helping me stay sober. I endured relationship challenges 13 months into sobriety, and I relapsed for six weeks. My last drink and drug was November 17, 2017. I have since welcomed a son into the world in 2018, became a certified Recovery Coach, and currently work as a Support Worker at two treatment centers. I still have the same sponsor and homegroup. I have friends in the program. I try to carry out the 12 Steps in my daily life the best I can. I am comfortable in my own skin and have passion, purpose, and direction now. I believe that my daughter, TWC and Alcoholics Anonymous has saved my life. Life does not necessarily get easier but to wake up every day sober, with a clear conscience and a sense of purpose is something everyone should have. There is a way out of addiction.