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Chris’s Story

I came from a good family. There was no trauma and all of my needs were met. I have a brother and sister and we were all loved. There was something missing in me though, I can only explain it like having a hole inside me. This matters because even though things were good, I felt like something was missing. I didn’t understand it, I did well in school, was involved in extra activities, joined the sea cadets, went to summer camps, went sailing, graduated high school and went on to a three year post-secondary course in Marine Navigation.

The first time I drank, I got loaded. I was 13 and I can only say that alcohol fascinated me. This was not something I experienced from “seeing” in the home as my parents rarely drank and if they did it was minimal. What I remember is that seeing people drink in the media, looked like fun and I wanted to experience that.  From that moment on, the hole was gone, I felt comfortable in my own skin when I was drinking or drugging, so I experimented regularly with other substances, all the way through high school, but still graduated. In my college days, living on my own, I used drugs or alcohol daily, and still graduated.

I worked as a Marine Navigation Officer and there came a time when my drug use stopped me from caring about the safety or concern for others. I desperately wanted to stop, felt ashamed but wasn’t capable regardless of the consequences. Eventually because of an injury I was prescribed opioids and thankfully was able to make the decision to get off the ship knowing that it was a matter of time before something catastrophic might happen. From then on, my drug use became unmanageable. I began overdosing and ended up in the hospital, I was stealing medication from where-ever I could get them. I lost my house, my car, and returned to live at my parents. They did whatever they could to support me, however my drug use continued in the same pattern. I wanted more than anything to stop. It was driving the family into debt, it was tearing the family apart and I continued to be in and out of hospital. It looked like to everyone on the outside that I didn’t care or didn’t want to stop. The reality was, no matter how often I tried to stop, I just couldn’t. By now, I had no dignity, no self-respect and just wanted the pain to end.

I had a relapse, ended up in the hospital and my family couldn’t live with the pain of seeing me in my addiction anymore. I agreed to go to treatment and went to Hope Acres’ for 6 months. Following treatment I went to Saginaw House in Cambridge. I still struggled with self-acceptance, guilt, shame and the ability to take responsibility. I tried hard, but it would take a couple more relapses and hospitalizations for me to realize just how much work is involved in recovery. It would take 3 years for me to realize I cannot do recovery on my own.  This was not without consequences, however, I was fortunate the staff were able to understand this struggle and provided opportunities and expectations each time for me to get back on the road to recovery. I learned how to relate to others, how to be responsible, and how to build a community. I learned life skills which I lacked because of my inability to mature while using.  I learned I didn’t have to use drugs or alcohol to deal with negative feelings nor did I have to have drugs or alcohol to enjoy life. I earned the privilege of becoming House Monitor while at Saginaw and was able to mentor others in the house.  I continue to volunteer at Saginaw, I continue to work with my sponsor, I sponsor others and am active in my home group. I have healthy relationships with my family, who never stopped supporting me, sometimes from a distance, but without judgement.  I found employment as a peer support worker and saved enough money to start out on my own. I was able to purchase a vehicle, have my own apartment and I enjoy my family. I feel valued but I value others and in this career I am able to offer others hope. I feel called to do this work, I recognize the hurt in others, and while some may not understand it, it exists. Without going through my own experience, the help I received and finding a way of giving back, I don’t think I would be alive today.


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