My name is Maxwell Parfitt and this is my story. I am a drug addict, something I would only come to realize after an immense amount of suffering and heartbreak; for myself as well as anyone who crossed my path.
I grew up in Langford, British Columbia, a small town outside of Victoria. I was raised by my loving mother and father, Barb and Glenn. I have a sister named Amy who I was close with in my childhood. I couldn’t have imagined just how drastically addiction would alter these relationships. I was always kept busy with school, sports, family events and my large social circle of friends. Growing up, I was very popular and a talented lacrosse player. Despite being one of the popular kids, I never felt like I fit in; I lacked identity and was constantly switching friend-groups. I changed social circles like I changed socks. I never felt like I belonged. I went from being focused on school, to being an athlete, and finally ended up at the skatepark smoking pot and drinking beer. I had no idea how far things would slide.
While a young teenager, lacrosse had been my life. I had gone across the country playing in box and field lacrosse tournaments, winning provincial championships and feeling success first hand. People were proud of me, and I certainly relished the camaraderie, for a time. As I started to experiment with mind and mood-altering substances, I quickly realized that “I had arrived”. I no longer felt the social anxiety that used to cripple me, so I decided once and for all that I had found my community. Anything I’ve ever done, I’ve always wanted to do my best; so, the boy who was obsessed with lacrosse quickly pivoted to being obsessed with getting high.
In 2007, while I was 18 years old, tragedy struck, and my entire world collapsed. My two best friends died in a car accident after we were all up partying together. I was devastated. I felt defeated. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go on. Deep down I felt responsible for what had happened, and the guilt was debilitating. Scott and Logan, the two friends who I considered to be family, were ripped out of my life, leaving a hole that I didn’t know how to fill.
I knew of only one solution, so I embarked upon my mission of constant numbing. My drinking and drug use immediately took off from there. My passive using of alcohol and marijuana rapidly progressed to heavy drinking and smoking on a daily basis, with cocaine and ecstasy sprees every weekend.
My life as I had known it was no more. I quickly lost the ability to pretend I was happy. I was lost. I started missing school, getting arrested, lashing out and my family and consistently being defiant. My beautiful parents had no idea what to do, but one thing that is certain is they did their best to support me through these difficult times. I was convinced of my worthlessness and didn’t think that I deserved any help. All I cared about was drowning myself in alcohol, drugs and crime.
I started hanging out with the older crowd and was quickly enamoured. I was impressed by the way they carried themselves. I wanted what they had; the nice cars, beautiful women, stacks of cash, and the ability to be care-free while not having to answer to anyone. Once again, Max Parfitt had arrived! I was willing to do whatever it took to be accepted. I started by rolling joints for them and quickly started being tasked with more and more stuff. I took pride in being their younger friend who would do anything for them. It didn’t take long for me to go from doing trips to the store, to doing trips of dropping cash and other things off. The innocent young boy had grown into a criminal young man. I had found another community, and I was here to stay.
My romance with opiates started in 2010. When I started, I had no idea what I would be in store for. Opiates and the life of crime I was living would take me to a place that I had never imagined possible; they robbed me of any love, integrity or morals that I had ever had. I had experimented at 18 years old but wasn’t immediately hooked. I was the one providing them to others and only used them as a hangover cure. Doing them once in a while would eventually become using them daily. Before I knew it, I was hooked on opiates. I told myself that “it wasn’t so bad”, because I was only using a couple of pills per day. I was completely oblivious to the physical dependence one develops to these substances.
At 21 years old I was struck by a motor vehicle and suffered serious injuries. I broke my leg, ankle and foot. I severed all nerves and was instructed not to put any weight on the injuries for two months. Like always, I thought I knew better. The prescriptions that I was given weren’t enough, and I dipped madly into the street supply. Within two weeks, I was walking again. I still suffer the consequences of this foolish decision. My injuries never fully healed. The terror that I was inflicting upon my parents and sister during this time is unspeakable. I refused to tell them how or why I was run over by the car. As they suspected, I had been run over by someone on purpose while attempting to settle a score. 21 years old and people wanted to kill me.
Seeing my hopeless state, my parents decided to be kind and put me up in their spare bedroom. I took it for granted, as I had many times before. While they helped me get to appointments I wouldn’t have otherwise attended, I blatantly abused their trust; I was living a lie. I was pretending to do better, but I was still fully entrenched in “the game”. By the time I could walk again without pain, I was fully hooked to painkillers and back to my life of crime. All I cared about was making money and getting high. Greed. Power. Hunger for success. No one could tell me anything, because I already knew it all.
Opiates were my true love. I was convinced that as long as I had them, I didn’t need anything else. I certainly didn’t know how badly they’d cut me down. They would bring me to my knees. No matter how much I took, it was never enough. I had an insatiable appetite for the high. I was in a constant state of melancholy. I was incapable of responsibility and felt invincible. Slowly but surely, I declined both mentally and physically.
I would do anything for another pill. Assaults. Lies. Steal and scam. I’d cheat or straight up take what you had if I needed it. I became accustomed to playing the part of a hardened man, but really, I was a scared little boy who was dying from the inside out. I needed to be liked by others because I didn’t like myself. I needed to fit in. My entire life I had felt like there was a giant hole inside me, opiates had filled that hole. They did for a time anyway.
I soon faced a catastrophic dilemma; I couldn’t live with these pills, but I couldn’t live without them. They were making me do things that I previously wouldn’t have even thought about. I decided that I needed to quit. Surely I of all people could do it. After half a day, I realized that I was going to be in for the fight of my life. The physical withdrawals were something I had never experienced. The detox was horrific. The vomiting, sweating, shaking, blurry vision and twitchy legs felt like they’d never end. I couldn’t sleep. It took me 2 weeks to finally get through these crippling symptoms. I promised myself that I would never touch another opiate. Nothing would make me go through that again.
Within a couple of weeks, I was right back where I started. Crime and drugs, my 1-2 punch. I decided that this time would be different because I’d make sure to control my using. I didn’t realize back then what I realize now: if I’m controlling my using I’m not enjoying it, and if I’m enjoying my using I’m certainly not controlling it. Delusional. I convinced myself that I was fine with dying young as long as I lived my life to the fullest. I was insane.
This is where my generic drug addict plot truly begins: I couldn’t find the prescription opiates anymore. I had always told myself that I would never touch heroin. It took me a couple of minutes after being offered it for the first time by the drug dealer to accept. I’d try it, but just once. I used to tell myself that I’d kill myself before trying heroin. I remembered the horrific detoxes that I had been through a couple of times already but went ahead and tried it anyway. This is addiction. Why else would I do this? After my first hit, I wondered “where have you been my whole life”? Once again, I arrived!
I was now dancing with the devil on an entirely new playing field and was loving every minute of it. I felt cool: I found it exciting to be living on the edge. These feelings would change rapidly.
This was the start of many years of homelessness, despair and pain. While all of my own suffering was happening, my loved ones were suffering as well. My parents probably aged a decade from all the stress, worry and concern I put them through. That is my conservative estimate anyway. I would show up at their house, beg for money and then disappear again. I was on the news, wanted by police across Canada, missing court, on probation, the whole nine yards. I never thought it would end.
Finally, divine intervention happened, and I was offered a spot in a detox facility in Victoria, BC. I stayed at that detox facility for 7 days and afterwards enrolled in treatment at Together We Can. This was 2014, and I was skeptical I could be helped. I remember my first day like it was yesterday. I walked up the stairs and was introduced to the Intake Coordinator at the time, Stacy Wilson. He said, “I am happy you’re here brother”, and gave me a big hug. All I could think was, why the fuck is this guy hugging me, and why is he so happy that I’m in treatment?
Within a few weeks, I was back to my old behaviours. I got caught stealing something from a grocery store. I thought I’d be kicked out for sure. Instead of cutting me loose, which is what I wanted, they decided to transfer me to another one of their houses: Awakenings. When I showed up at Awakenings, I was greeted by a man I now consider my best friend, mentor and brother, Marc Dube. He tossed me into his truck, passed me a cigarette and an energy drink and asked me if I liked rap music. I replied in the affirmative, and we went for a drive. That moment, I felt safe for the first time. The weight of the world had lifted off my shoulders and I was finally able to relax. My whole life I had been restless, scared and usually in some sort of danger. I actually felt safe, and I couldn’t believe it. Amazing.
I wish I could tell you that I have been sober since mid-2014, but that’s not the case. Like many addicts, my story has seen many ups and downs. I have taken sobriety milestones and faced bitter relapses. There have been a couple of constants; TWC taking me back and the love of my friends and family. Today, I believe in second chances. The people who have gone above and beyond for me have made me realize there is more to life than self-seeking and living selfishly.
For a long time, I tried to do treatment my way. I didn’t want to fully commit or do any step work. I didn’t want to turn my life over to a higher power. It was a wild ride, and I ended up falling flat on my face every time. I finally realized that this cycle of detox, treatment, recovery houses and hospitals was going to continue happening indefinitely unless I made a change. I had to be the one to make the change. I decided to shut up, listen, and do as I was told.
I was introduced to and accepted by a group of men who had significant sober time and were living good lives. I wanted what they had. When they went to meetings, dinner, and step-groups, I followed them. I became heavily invested in Alcoholics Anonymous and the program they offered. During this time, I was offered yet another chance by Marc and Stacy; they offered me the volunteer position of cook at Awakenings. I was able to turn this opportunity into being the assistant manager and then finally the manager. I was loving every minute of it. Helping others and being given responsibility is an exhilarating thing. Through TWC and AA, I started to grow up and truly become a man.
Eventually, TWC opened a new facility, Solid Ground. These men believed in me and offered me the position of Client Care Supervisor. I finally moved out on my own and was living on my own two feet. I couldn’t believe it. I had finally become an adult. Today, I get to work with amazing people, doing important work. I am truly grateful for everything I have and hope that others will find their path as I have.
I have completed the Basic Counselling Skills course through Vancouver Community College, the Trauma-Informed Therapy course, and am a certified interventionist. I have my family in my life today. Not only do I count on them, but they are also able to count on me.
My dream is to travel the world doing interventions and helping as many people get and stay in recovery as possible. We need to show people that recovery is possible no matter what you’ve done in your past, the life you’ve lived, or where you’re at. I am proof that miracles happen, every day. Recovery is possible.