Dan’s Story

“All of my passions are falling by the wayside until all of a sudden I have nothing left.

Dan’s Story

Dan was your average teenager. His parents divorced when he was around 5, he played high school football, loved music and played in a band.

And like a lot of teenagers, he also smoked pot. No big deal for some, but for Dan it was the beginning of a life-long addiction.

“Everything snowballed from there,” he says. “My addiction started at a real young age, like I basically haven’t been sober on a regular basis since I was 14.”

A multitude of drugs were available at his Langford high school, and Dan began “experimenting with all sorts of things.”

After school, he worked in a local tree nursery before moving into the restaurant business as a dishwasher, then cook.

“At one point, I was hoping to go for my Red Seal in the culinary arts,” he says.

Unfortunately, alcohol was free flowing in the kitchens “it was almost expected” and Dan’s addiction grabbed hold with both hands.

“It just became a natural thing,” he says. “And soon the partying became more important than the work.”

Dan held on for a couple of years until the drugs took full control.

“I started with pills,” he says. “But they just became too expensive for me and hard to source. Meanwhile, heroin was getting cheaper and cheaper.”

Once Dan became addicted to smoking heroin “that’s when life started going downhill real fast.”

Heroin, he says, “fooled me into thinking that it was helping me . . . it’s easy to believe that you need it all the time. It’s a social lubricant, you feel relaxed and charismatic — and if you have aches and pains, suddenly your body doesn’t hurt anymore.”

It’s also a hunger that is never satisfied.

“You don’t notice all the damage you’re doing to yourself and your life ‘cause you keep on thinking that you can balance it . . . as I’m pawning off all the things I own.”

To pay for his growing addiction, Dan sold off all his musical instruments: 8 guitars, 2 drum kits, a cherished upright bass, recording equipment, anything of value.

“All of my passions are falling by the wayside until all of a sudden I have nothing left.”

And when there was nothing left to pawn, the rent goes unpaid and Dan finds himself homeless and living on the streets.

“That’s really when things really started, I don’t know, getting real serious,” he says.

To make his heroin purchases go further, Dan began injecting the drug rather than smoking it.

Drugs were easy to buy on the street and Dan quickly established a routine of picking cans and panhandling with every task having one goal: make enough to buy drugs for the day.

“It sucked, it sucked,” he says. “It depresses me that I spent so long just, like once you get caught in that loop you think you’ll break out, you’ll get clean, this won’t last forever, but time starts going by so quickly you don’t realize that it was summer but now you’re sleeping in the snow.”

The intravenous drug use led to a number of very serious infections that landed Dan in hospital. He was at risk of losing limbs from infection, and even his life when multiple bouts of pneumonia struck.

“For a long time, I avoided the hospitals because of the stigma, because of how drug users are treated,” he says.

But something changed during one of his last hospital stays when he was visited by a social worker and made to feel safe and secure.

It was during this stay that Dan received a visit from Le-Ann Dolan, intake and discharge co-ordinator at Our Place’s New Roads Therapeutic Recovery Community.

“That visit changed my view on what recovery could look like,” says Dan. “I always feared that I would be white-knuckling it, just pain, like boot camp or something.”

Dan was all set to go to New Roads, but he was released from hospital early and ended up going straight back to the streets and back to his addiction.

A year later, Dan was back in hospital, thinking he was going to lose a hand from infection, and this time he was kept in care until his transfer to New Roads was complete.

“It blew my mind when I got here,” he says. “Instead of white-knuckling it, the days are structured so naturally. It gives me the structure I need in my life without being daunting or intimidating.”

He adds. “On the street, you get used to not putting in any work, but there’s a lot to be said about looking after the community that you live in. You start to take pride in it.”

At 34 years old, Dan has now spent 15 months in New Roads and sees a pathway to a future that he had forgotten existed.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply