Jacob’s Story

by: Carole Fawcett (www.wordaffair.com)

Jacob grew up in a middle class family and was 12 years old when he started smoking weed and drinking.  He said he believes his brain is wired for addiction and explained that anything he did, he did it to the extreme. He shared that he smoked an entire bag of weed when he was 12 – not being able to stop.  At ages 14, 15 and 16 he used a variety of drugs and also sold weed at school to earn money so that he could support his drug habits.

At one point he was in a four year relationship with a woman who overdosed on methamphetamine and heroin and who died as a result.   Jacob says he could have died that same night, as he also had tried the combination of meth and heroin. 

 He was very involved with music and was a well known DJ, running the music for many large festivals and events in the Okanagan Valley.  “I had what appeared to be a good life – from the outside looking in”  he said.  He had a nice vehicle and all the material things he could want. 

Then it was all gone as his drug addiction took over.  He was brought back to life with Naloxone several times in one weekend.  He lost his job, his assets (including his vehicle) and any self esteem he did have, plummeted lower.  “I lost everything. I borrowed my Dad’s car so that I could drive drug dealers around, helping them to deliver their drugs so I could earn some money. Dad didn’t know I was doing this.”

He began to steal from family and friends, committed fraud with banks and was involved with other crimes in order to support his habit.   When he was 27, he was sent to jail for six months in the Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre. 

Jacob shared  He said there was no difficulty in obtaining alcohol or drugs while he was imprisoned. He asked his parents for money so that he could buy personal necessities  from the canteen while in prison and they sent him $100/week.  Unbeknownst to them, it allowed him to continue to keep himself in drugs and alcohol.  He said he came out of jail just as addicted as when he was originally incarcerated.

He was released and then was mandated to phone Bill’s Place (treatment centre) daily as he waited for a bed. He stayed with his Dad and his Dad had agreed with the Court’s request, to observe and listen to him phoning the treatment centre every day.  During this time six of his friends died of overdoses of drugs that contained fentanyl.  It was a difficult and challenging time for Jacob.

Eventually a bed opened up at Bill’s Place and Jacob said says “I went for the wrong reasons – but I was lucky, and it worked.”  He shared that he detoxed cold turkey and it took “three weeks of hell.” He shared that the people at Bill’s Place “were there for me in every single way.”  He said he was taught “emotional fluency” at Bill’s Place which was “one of the keys to why I am who I am today.”

In March 2017 he had to return to Court .  “I  received one of the many gifts of recovery.  When I was standing in front of the judge, and got sentenced to remain in treatment instead of going back to jail, I realized that by trying my best to be good to myself and others, and trying to live life as a better person, good things come back to me. I realized that if I got out of my selfish ways and tried to be selfless as often as I possibly could, not only would good things happen to me, but I would feel better about myself and what I was doing. That was probably the tipping point that lead me to being the person I am today. That was the start of my shift of perspective.”

He learned how to ask for help, realizing that while help was available, he would still have to do the actual work himself.  He apologized to his Dad and to others he may have hurt.

He stated that “Treatment changed who I am.  I am a totally different person now than I was and I learned to ‘just do the next right thing’, as it leads to a path of where I needed to go.”

After being in treatment for eight months, he found his own place to live.  He said it was difficult to be on his own at first, but he knew that he could phone Bill’s Place and speak to anyone whenever he needed too.

Jacob plans to help others on their journey of becoming free of their addiction as his goal is to become a program coordinator within Turning Points Collaborative Society.  . Currently he is employed at one of the shelters run by Turning Points in Vernon, BC.

He is in a relationship that includes being a step-dad and is looking forward to getting married this summer to his girlfriend of two years. 

Naloxone Training

by: Carole Fawcett (www.wordaffair.com)

There were ten of us on a January Wednesday night at the Library where I took my Naloxone Training.  I consider it an extension of the first aid and CPR training that I have, allowing me to potentially save a life with this additional training.

I learned a lot about the opioid crisis and how to help someone who may have overdosed. 

Naloxone (Narcan) is the antidote medication that temporarily reverses the life threatening effects of an opioid overdose.  This is a good thing to know considering the increase in deaths that have resulted from this crisis.

Opioids are frequently (but not always) prescribed medications, used for pain.  They may include the following:  Heroin, Fentanyl, Morphine, Methadone, Percocet, Dilaudid, Codeine, Oxycodone, Suboxone, Demerol and Opium.  They are also used illegally and mixed with other drugs, such as the drug fentanyl.

These drugs effect the part of the brain that regulates breathing, so when an overdose happens, a person can stop breathing entirely.  Not everyone who overdoses will die, but it could leave them with brain damage (due to lack of oxygen).

86% of the overdoses that occurred in BC happened inside and 58% of those occurred in a private residence. It was not uncommon to find that people were alone when they used. 

This drug crisis impacts all socio-economic levels of our society.  It can detrimentally impact those who are well educated, (white and blue collar workers), students (in University and High School), people who are unemployed and those who live on the street. 

Naloxone training is free of charge and it may be part of our civic duty to know how to help someone who has overdosed.  It can happen anywhere.  If you see someone exhibiting the following symptoms, please call 911 and if you know how to administer Naloxone (Narcan), don’t hesitate, as it will not harm anyone if they are not using opioids.   

Symptoms of opioid drug overdose: 

  • Not Responding to stimulation or sternal rub (briskly rubbing the sternum);  breathing is very slow, erratic or not at all;  fingernails/lips are blue, dusky grey or purple; deep snoring/gurgling sound; cold or clammy skin; pupils are tiny or eyes rolled back; person cannot stay awake

For more information, please check out the Toward the Heart website.

You can help to save a life.

The Employer

by: Carole Fawcett (www.wordaffair.com)

The first thing you notice about Grant is his friendly smiling face.  The second thing you notice about him is the fact that he has a tremor.  It is the tremor of Parkinson’s disease.  He drew the early onset straw apparently, but shares that there is much progress being made with this disease.  His optimism is well worn and contagious. 

But that is just the kind of guy he is – optimistic.   The point is, Grant, who owns a successful business has made a huge difference in the life of one of his employees. His understanding may go deeper, due to his own life challenge…..but in a different way.

As the Owner/Manager of a large management company, he refers to all those who work for the company as being part of a team……almost like a family. His management style is to empower his employees by acknowledging their input in a positive manner.

It was brought to his attention that an employee was struggling.  Not showing up for work on time, losing weight, exhibiting erratic behaviours and generally having some life difficulties.  Other employees were expressing their concern.  The grapevine was spreading some information about the employee having had addiction challenges earlier in life. 

It seemed that the employee had relapsed and was once again using opiates.  Grant shared that the employee was a good human being and a valuable employee. Grant held no preconceived notions and only wanted to help the person find the answers and make the changes to ensure his life was happier once again.

So Grant reached out to a friend who was able to put him in touch with people who work with addictions.  With a deeper understanding and armed with knowledge, Grant was then able to broach the subject with the employee, asking how he could help and assuring him that he wouldn’t lose his job, nor would he be judged.  He opened the door to communicating honestly and clearly.

Grant wants other employers to know that the system works if they are willing to search for the resource supports in their community.  He believes that it is his responsibility as both a Manager and a human being, to be helpful to his employees in any way he can.

Jordan’s Journey

Jordan’s  Journey

by: Carole Fawcett (www.wordaffair.com)

He was barely 13 when he first experimented with drugs.  He tried marijuana, LSD and methamphetamines (speed).  It allowed him to escape, helping to numb the pain from his abusive Father. 

In his childhood home he learned that he was never good enough.   His dad was away a lot for his work and used speed to stay awake in order to work longer hours.  It left his dad angry and frustrated, so the slightest misstep by his children when he arrived home would result in a beating.  Sadly, it was as predictable as the sunrise.

When you grow up in a home where abuse is your “normal”, (verbal or physical) or on the flip side, being ignored or treated as though you are invisible – becoming angry, or feeling suicidal is a typical response.  With Jordan, it created a hidden rage.

Jordan self describes as being a softy, a person who does not become violent at the least provocation.  He doesn’t like violence. 

But opioids change who you are. They can turn you into someone that you don’t like.  This makes it difficult to walk around in your own skin, when whoyou are, is not someone you would want to be friends with.  But yet you walk alongside yourself daily, helping to carry the shame, blame and guilt.  Hard to overcome any challenge when self doubt is your daily shadow.

It seems he picked up where his father left off, self abusing with drugs and on occasion being physically abusive to others. 

We become what we are taught. 

Jordan’s journey was a roller coaster ride of using and being clean.  At one point, when he was clean, he broke his ankle and was put on morphine in the hospital and sent home with dilaudid.   This started the cycle all over again, as he gave in to the toxic self talk of his own mind. 

He shared that he believed he could just use a bit and still function.  But he found out that this was not true.

He was on the methadone program in 2009 when he started to sell drugs. After a disagreement with a dealer, he was beaten badly by a group of tough guys.   He decided that selling drugs was not for him.  

So the roller coaster swooped down and picked him up again and he tried to become clean and free of drugs.

Then it dropped him off again on Canada Day in 2016, when between Friday to Sunday he overdosed four times and was given naloxone – saving his life each time.

He joined Narcotics Anonymous, then used heroin again, going in and out of treatment at Bill’s Place and Howard House.  A good friend of his died by overdosing and Jordan relapsed once again and was using methamphetamines. 

It was in a methamphetamine induced psychotic rage where he believed his hallucinations to be true and came face to face with his demons, realizing that the only one who could change him was the face he saw in the mirror. 

This realization came after he seriously hurt someone and damaged property. 

Jordan was arrested, taken to the hospital and was subsequently jailed.  He shared that the RCMP Officers were very understanding and kind to him – even picking up his methadone from the pharmacy.  He said they visited him in the hospital and when he woke up he saw friends, family and people from Narcotics Anonymous sitting around the bed.  It was then that he realized he had people in his life who loved him.

He said that the chip on his shoulder fell off when he felt this love.  He wants to give back to the community and help others now.

He believes that if we can educate and create awareness concerning drug use that we will help to bring about understanding, compassion and eventually, love. 

His journey was horrific, but yet he has the courage to stand up and speak his truth with the hope that it will help others.  He said he wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for NA (Narcotics Anonymous), CA (Cocaine Anonymous) and AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). 

Thank you Jordan for sharing your story – you are inspirational.  

About Vernon Shares

Reprinted from Community Dialogues on Opioid Use, UViC The BC Ministry of Public Safety & Solicitor General has provided funding to The University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research of BC (CARBC) to support community dialogues in response to the opioid crisis in British Columbia. CARBC has extensive eperience in the addictions field in building bridges and bringing people together. CARBC is committed to supporting communities in understanding dialogue and planning and implementing strategies to promote dialogue in their unique contexts and settings. Vernon has been identified as a priority community regarding the provincial overdose response. A quickly growing gap exists between the downtown business community and their customers, and the service agencies and their clients. There is a disconnect between these groups which contributes significantly to tension and divisions in our community. There is a real and definite need for information and understanding so our community can make better choices and demonstrate respect for all members of our community. https://www.uvic.ca/research/centres/cisur/about/news/current/opioid-dialogue-call-phase-2.php