February 11/ 2013, was the day that changed my life. I was a member of 4 platoon in Bravo Company with 1RCR. (1st Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment). Our company had gone on exercise the week before. My platoon was in the LAV barn doing vehicle maintenance. I was on top of a LAV (light armoured vehicle), lifting part of the main gun down into the turret. As I was doing this, I felt something pop in my back and suddenly experienced some of the worst pain of my entire life. It was all I could do to not drop the part I was lifting on top my platoon mates head in the turret. All the guys around me knew something was seriously wrong. My section commander told me to see my Warrant and then go to the base hospital, which I did.
I was examined by a medical officer who suspected that I had a serious spinal injury. I was then sent for x-rays and he confirmed his suspicions. Spondylolesthesis at my L4-L5 (a slippage of the discs causing serious nerve pain). He explained my condition to me and how serious it was. He also said that I should transfer out of the infantry ASAP because of how intense on the body that trade is. The MO prescribed me some muscle relaxers and put me on a T-CAT (temporary category), which means modified duties.
From that day on, I have had intense back pain! When I was on full duties, I would do everything that my platoon was doing. Playing sports, go on exercises, go to the range, close quarters combat, navigation exercises, etc. Being on a T-CAT, I couldn’t do any of that. From my experience, when a soldier is broken (injured), they are looked at differently. I wanted to do everything my platoon was doing, but I couldn’t. I still went to the gym and kept myself in good shape because that is something I HAVE to do for myself! Even with the pain I deal with in a workout, I always push through because the gym is my ultimate therapy. I felt my platoon mates distancing themselves from me. That hurt! I was also harassed by my chain of command because of my injury. They knew I was in the gym and staying in shape, but was on a T-CAT and not allowed to do my regular job. I can see their perspective, however, they had no idea what I was feeling and what I needed to do to keep myself mentally stable.
My chronic pain, useless feeling at work and harassment from my chain of command all took its toll on my mental health. Unfortunately, I would take it out on my x wife at the time, and our kids. I just didn’t have the healthy coping tools that I do today. I was not an easy person to live with. April/2014, my x- wife moved out of our military housing on base in Petawawa and moved home and took our kids. The day they left was one of the hardest days of my life! Not long before that, I was happy and healthy. I had a wife and two amazing boys. I had a good career with some very big goals. All of a sudden, that was all gone.
June/2014, I finished my three- year contract and moved home to Hepworth. A couple days after my move, I started working for GardaWorld. This is an armoured car company. At first, I enjoyed the job. But that didn’t last long because of my back pain. Anyone with chronic pain will tell you that it sucks the life out of you. There was a lot to learn at that job and I just wasn’t catching on. I consider my chronic pain to be a learning disability because I just can’t focus on anything while my back is flared up. Which it was all the time on that job. I simply was not retaining any information. The more pain I experienced, the worse my anxiety got as well as my depression. The worse my mental health got, the worse my back pain got.
I had a new family doctor when I moved home. Our first appointment, I explained my injury and she prescribed my Hydromorphone. When I got home from the pharmacy after picking up my prescription, I took one pill as prescribed. Not long after that, I can remember starring at the bottle and wondering what it would feel like to have two more. I remember a feeling inside saying “this is not a good idea”, but I popped a few more anyways. That is how my addiction started. Before I took those pills that day, I had major back pain, bad anxiety and was depressed. A half hour after those pills kicked in, all that was gone.
I kept on working despite my pain and mental health, but things kept getting worse. Things got so bad with my addiction, I would pick up a prescription that was supposed to last me three months and would be done it within 4-5 days. Life was good during those days I had the pills. But, when I run out, it was a nightmare. Withdrawals, extreme anxiety, major depression, isolation, irritable, insomnia, stomach pains, and zero motivation. That same cycle continued every time I would pick up my prescription. This lasted for about two years. In between my scripts, I would steal pain pills from my dad or buy from the street to ease my physical and mental pain. Again, I just didn’t have the healthy coping tools like I do today. Self- medicating was all I knew.
I went into the ER several times because I was in crisis and thinking of suicide. I didn’t want to die, I just wanted the pain to stop. Suicidal thinking was a daily thing for me in my active addiction. I had seen a psychiatrist the day after my first ER visit. We discussed my mental health and back pain. We come up with a plan together to get me back on track. Part of the plan, was medication adjustments. Lyrica was then added which would later become a whole new nightmare.
I did make some temporary improvement, but it didn’t last long. I kept abusing pills and my problems kept getting worse. July/2015 is when I stopped working. I was not catching on like everyone else because of my back pain and mental health. I just couldn’t concentrate and remember things. I made some pretty big mistakes and knew I was not a good fit for that job. So, I resigned.
Even though that was a good thing because I wouldn’t have to deal with all the stresses of that job any more, I spiralled even more into a black hole. That is when I lost my purpose in life.
My cycle continued not knowing that I was the cause of all my problems. I had done physiotherapy, massage, chiropractic, a four week pain clinic, and just about everything else I could do for some relief from my back pain. Nothing worked, so it was time for surgery. February/2016, I had major back surgery. A spinal fusion is where the vertebra is fused together with rods and screws so the spine will not slip anymore. It is stabilized. The surgery was a “success”, according to my surgeon. But that did nothing to reduce my pain. After five days in the hospital, my operating doctor sent me home with 400 pills of oxycodone.
I remember the excitement I felt when I picked those up from the pharmacy. I also remember thinking “Wow, that is a lot and this is going to be trouble”. That is when my oxy Hell began. But this time, much worse than the hydromorphone experience. The same cycle repeated. Only this time, I had a new DOC (drug of choice). I kept hitting rock bottom after rock bottom. I had zero purpose in life. I was so miserable, I would have to be high around my kids just to put a smile on my face. I knew I had a problem, but was ashamed of it. So, I didn’t reach out for help. I did nothing. I just kept getting high and would isolate myself in my house. My anxiety was so bad, I wouldn’t even go outside for days at a time. My depression was so bad, I wanted to die. If I didn’t have my boys in my life, you might not be reading this.
I can’t remember if I had any oxys at the time (memory is seriously affected by addiction), but I was curious about my lyrica. This is not a typical drug that gets abused like an opiate drug. However, it WILL get you high. I took a handful, and sure enough, a half hour later, all my problems were gone. I got a new family doctor then who has been amazing ever since. The doc I was assigned when I got home from the army, just wasn’t a good fit. I felt that she judged me and didn’t listen to me when I spoke. With my new doc, I felt comfortable with her. Because of that connection, I opened up to her and was honest.
The new plan was to taper off of my oxys and start rebuilding my life. Gradually we reduced my prescriptions. Addiction is sooooooo powerful!!!!!! I would sometimes grab my bottle from my cupboard and hold it in my hand fighting the temptation to take a handful. The odd time when I would do that, I would put them back in my cupboard only to return two minutes later to take a handful. Other times, I would dump some in my hand and stare at them fighting the urge. I would put them back in the bottle and in the cupboard only to return minutes later to give in and pop a bunch. Sometimes I would put a handful in my mouth, but not swallow. I fought the urge and spit them back into the script jar and back in the cupboard. But again, I would lose that battle and return and swallow a handful.
At the end of my oxy addiction, my prescription was reduced to two 15mg pills a day. I was picking them up weekly, so I would only have access to a smaller quantity rather than a month supply. Tuesdays were my refill day. I would get to the pharmacy at 8:15am and go inside the clinic and sit down and wait for the Rexal doors to open up at 830. As soon as I would hear the big medal security door open, I would get a rush because I knew I would be “feeling great” soon. I picked up my bottle and would head back to my truck. First thing I would do, was swallow all 14 pills. 15 x 14= 210mgs of oxycodone all at once. That is a lot! With addiction, tolerance builds quickly.
Finally, when the opiates were stopped, my DOC was replaced for a third time with Lyrica. This was the worst one of all. Many times, I would think to myself that I could easily overdose and die because of the amounts of drugs I was taking. But, I just didn’t care because as long as I was high, nothing else mattered.
My life started deteriorating when I injured my back in February/2013. I hit rock bottom after rock bottom many times.
August 11/2018, is the day I finally had enough. I will never ever forget that day. I was doing DBT (Dialectic Behavioural Therapy), and counselling with Canadian Mental Health Association. I was high most of the time when I was in my sessions and just wasn’t’ ready until that day in August. My caseworker with CMHA, gave me a DVD from the mental health library to take home and watch. “Cake”, starring Jennifer Aniston was this DVD. This is a movie about a mother who is in a horrific car accident and loses her child. She is also very badly injured and becomes addicted to pain pills and struggles badly with her mental health. She had given up on life and lost her purpose. Just like I did. She overcomes her addiction and finds purpose again. That movie made me cry like a baby because I related to it sooooo much!!!! That planted a seed in me. This was a few days before my brothers race in Wiarton, which was on August 11/2018.
It was a typical nice summer day down at the park by the bay. That was where the finish line was for the race my brother was in. I showed up earlier in the morning to see my family and hang out. I was not high then. I ran into an old friend who is now a trauma counsellor. As soon as I seen him, without even talking to him, I could tell there was something different about him. We used to “party” together once in a while. I knew how bad he was once into the “toxic lifestyle”. We chatted for quite a while. He explained all the changes he had made and what he was doing with his life. I was very inspired and he continues to be one of my mentors to this day.
I had gone home to grab some lunch and to “get my fix”. I returned high, and cheered my brother on as he crossed the finishing line. I was very inspired by my friend’s transformation and my brother’s commitment to enter and finish very high in a 100km multi -sport race. As I stood there admiring my brother, I had a spiritual awakening and it was like a punch in the face. I said to myself “F#CK THIS! I have had enough of wasting my potential”.
That was the last time I got high. The first week was very rough from the withdrawals of the lyrica! Which, were even worse than the oxy withdrawals. I did a facebook post a couple weeks after my clean date about my mental health and addiction. There wasn’t much thought behind it, other than being proud of my accomplishment and wanting to show some close friends that change is possible. Within minutes of me posting, my phone started going crazy with messages from people. Some who I have never even met. People were telling me that I was inspiring and thanking me for being so brave. I was pretty shocked because that was not my intent at all.
A few days later, I did another post and the same thing happened. I thought to myself “Wow, this feels good” That is when I seriously started thinking about my life. That is when I found my purpose. Around that time, I started watching a lot of Youtube videos on recovery, addiction, mental health and motivational speakers. I continued with my social media content and was talking with many people. They would ask for advice about how they can improve their own lives because of their struggles. And, how to cope with a loved one who struggles. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was doing peer support.
I was making a lot of progress with the help of CMHA. Along with DBT and WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan), I also did CATS (Community Addiction Treatment Services). My drug counsellor and I were also making good progress together. Now that I was fully committed to change, I was really trying to get the most out of our sessions. I always left his office feeling on top of the world. I was always studying him and applying what I was learning. I remember sitting in my chair and looking at him and picturing myself doing what he was doing. That’s when I looked into going back to school to get some education to get into the mental health field. I went back to Georgian College for the second time. I felt awkward going back to school in 2007 for Police Foundations because I was “old” at 27. This time I felt even more awkward because I was 38. But, that didn’t stop me and I felt great doing upgrading and preparing for more education.
Once again, my chronic pain took its toll on me. Being in class even for just a few hours a week was very difficult. Focus and memory just wasn’t there because of the back pain. Not to mention, the discomfort of sitting at a desk for hours at a time. I had been “supporting” many people through my FB content and personal contact. I was acquiring a ton of knowledge from just talking to people! That is when someone suggested I become a motivation speaker. I also was looking into becoming a life coach because I definitely had the “life” experience. I kept watching my motivational speakers on Youtube. Some of my favorites are David Goggins, Tony Robbins, Eric Thomas and the Rock.
I had another breakthrough one day watching one of those videos. I said to myself “if these guys can do it, why the f#ck can’t I?” The next day, I did my very first video on FB. I had a panic attack right before I did it because of my anxiety. But, it was well worth it! I got even more positive feedback from that first video than my written posts. Again, at the time I didn’t know it, but I was building myself up and preparing for where I am at today. The videos I did were for education, inspiration and to help break the stigma attached to mental health and addiction. Every video I did, gave me confidence, self -esteem and communication skills. Most of all, the more I spoke openly about my past, the more I healed inside. I no longer had to run and hide because of my addiction. I was free!!!!!
I got certified as a life coach and dove into personal development. I also started attending Narcotics Anonymous. This fellowship has and always will be a very big part of my life! I had to distance myself from some of my old friends. Several of my very best friends that I grew up with since I was in Kindergarten. That was very hard and I do miss them! However, I would not be where I am at today if I still hung out with negative people. “If you hang out at the barber shop long enough, eventually you will get a haircut.” Not that I ever need one LOL. I hope one day my friends get clean and sober and healthy. Only then will they truly understand why I have made these decisions.
I had become obsessed with personal development to a point where it became unhealthy. I was struggling to find balance in my life. I am not talking negatively about the life coaching world, however, from my experience, some people will just try to take advantage of you. I did life coaching, because I am passionate about helping others and trying to make this world a better place. It was not about the $ for me. I have worked with close to a dozen coaches. Some “claimed”, they did it because of passion and to inspire and help make a difference. From what I experienced, that was not the truth with some. Just a way to build confidence in a client and get paid. I learned from every coach I encountered good or bad. They all helped me shape who I am today. I learned to spot the fakes and how not to conduct myself. My own morals and values were strengthened because of what I seen. Integrity more than just about anything.
January 4/2020, I was working in my bush doing firewood with my chainsaw. It was close to the end of the day and I knew I was past my limit. But I kept going. My back pain was intense, I was hungry and very moody! I should have listened when my spider senses were going off telling me it was time to stop. I got careless. My saw skipped of a branch and cut into my boot 1’’ above the steel toe. I felt a very intense burning sensation! It took a second to register with me, but I knew it was bad. I looked down at the cut and there was blood everywhere. I dropped my saw and started walking back to my house. I could only put weight on my heal. I felt myself very close to passing out. Luckily, I wasn’t far from my house. If I was way back in my bush and went into shock, I easily could have bled out and not been found for a while.
I called 911 and they said to take my boot off to inspect the injury. I didn’t want to because I thought I cut half of my foot off. After a few minutes of sitting on my porch waiting for the ambulance, I removed my boot and sock. Blood started spraying everywhere. I was definitely in full shock and very close to passing out. It was very traumatic! At least my foot was still there. My big toe was almost completely cut off and my second toe was cut about halfway off. I seen a Doctor at the Wiarton Hospital and had x-rays. The original plan was to be flown to London for surgery, but ended up going to Owen Sound instead. I had another major surgery there and more screws and hardware put me back together.
I was in a cast and on crutches for ten weeks. That really sucked!!!! I didn’t work out or eat healthy at all during that time. I was not in the mind set to do any personal development. Life got pretty dark again for a while. I was always curious to see the jobs that were hiring within Grey Bruce. One day I come across a posting for a part time Peer Support Worker at CMHA. I knew exactly what this job was because I had done WRAP and that was facilitated by Peer Support Workers. I used to sit in our groups and picture myself doing what they were doing. I didn’t hesitate to apply.
At this point, I had already been volunteering with The Drug and Alcohol Strategy which is part of CMHA, as well as with the Opioid Working Group. Looking back at everything I have gone through, I don’t regret anything! I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. All my struggles were building character and preparing me for where I am at today. I am very proud to say that I am a Peer Support Worker with Canadian Mental Health Association. I LOVE MY JOB!!!!!!!!
I am one of the lucky few who are truly passionate about what they do. I wake up excited to go to work and help serve my community.
Everyone in recovery has their own ways of staying well. This is what works for me- I try my best to be as positive as much of the time as possible. My team I am surrounded by at work are amazing! My recovery friends are also very important to me! They truly care about my well–being and are nothing but positivity. I cut out negativity very quickly when it comes into my life from someone or something. This includes setting healthy boundaries with friends. I found my passion and purpose in life by serving others. The more I serve, the better I feel. Also, the more I serve, the more I know my life experiences are helping make a difference. I don’t hide who I am anymore or what I’ve been through. On a daily basis, I use healthy coping tools, I eat healthy, workout, read, meditate, journal, reach out and connect and enjoy nature. Honesty, openmindedness and willingness are three very big words in recovery that we use a lot! I live my life by those three words at that keeps me accountable. As long as I can stay positive and productive, even though my back pain is still intense most days, I’m still moving forward. I have the self- awareness to know that when I slow down, that’s when the mental pain kicks in which is 100x worse than the physical pain. “Idle hands do the Devil’s work”
A few life lessons that I have learned through my journey are- anyone who struggles with addiction must be ready on their own terms if they want to succeed in recovery. Until then, it won’t matter who or what is forcing them to get help. When one becomes ready on their own, that’s when the words honesty, openmindedness and willingness start to work their magic. People with addiction don’t do drugs or drink because it’s fun or enjoyable. They do it just like I did to cover up pain. If you have a headache, you can take a Tylenol to help it go away. The same logic applies. If one wants to get clean and sober, they must address their struggles from early in life and deal with them. Knowing what I know now, the toxic environment I grew up in, was a very big contributing factor to the way my life turned out. As well as, the person I used to be. I AM NOT pointing fingers because I am accountable for my own actions. However, this is very true. Shame and guilt are very powerful struggles in addictive addiction and in recovery. I used to feel both very intensely because of the way I was. Especially with my X wife and kids. I no longer feel negatively about myself for the way I used to be. I am not that person anymore. I did the best I could at that time. Judgemental people are not happy and healthy. I used to be one of them. I see judgement all the time which can make me very frustrated! However, I remind myself that I used to do the same to make myself feel better. I no longer need to do that because I like who I am and am very comfortable with who I am. Compassion and understanding goes a very long way!
I have been very fortunate to travel around and tell my story through public speaking. I am able to do this because I am very secure with myself and I just don’t care what others think. If you are passing judgement on me by reading this, that is your problem, not mine. I saw the opportunity after I got clean to help make a positive impact in my community with something much bigger than myself. I want to help break the stigma around mental health and addiction. As well as this pandemic we are in the middle of, there is also an opioid epidemic going on around us. Overdoses and deaths are happening very frequently! This fentanyl and carfentanil that is being cut into these street drugs is EXTREMELY dangerous!!!! Your first or next use, could easily be your last.
My name is Corey and I am a recovering drug addict. Along with addiction, I have also struggled with depression, anxiety, CPTSD, ADHD, binge eating, body image and anger…………………………. Does that change how you feel about me?