Alumni of the Month May 2011 The Real Don M

Don MI started using drugs at 12 and entered detox for what I have every expectation will have been the last time at 37. That’s a quarter century of suffering for myself and my family members. I sometimes say that drugs seemed to be the solution for a while ….. and that while was all of about two weeks ! Everything I did in all those years, what I considered accomplishments, were lessened because everything was tainted by drug abuse. Relationships, parenting of my children, scholastic and professional achievements, all underscored and eventually destroyed by my use of drugs. By the end I was in a revolving cycle of detox, treatment, relapse, seemingly over and over…. I always thought I could study from a book as to how to be a person in recovery. I was good at studying and ended up with a reputation within Narcotics Anonymous as one of those guys who could quote you the book at length but never seemed to achieve any clean time. The cliché was “paralysis by analysis”. The last few months of my active addiction, I lived as a homeless person in Vancouver downtown eastside. The memory of my children coming to visit me down in that neighbourhood is a memory I choose not to forget.

While I was in detox that last time, I was surrounded by staff who insisted that if I loved my children as I professed I would take a more drastic step and kept mentioning the Last Door. It had long been on my list of things not to do, I had seen those guys in meetings over the years looking happy and was intimidated by it. They certainly looked like they would mess with my misery if I ever got involved with that. Eventually, I had that proverbial moment of surrender and made that phone call. After what seemed like a dozen of those calls, the late Michael Pesut came down to the old Maple Cottage detox to interview me. As he was packing my luggage (garbage bags) into his car he told me “we’ve been waiting years for you to show up”

My life of course changed from that moment. I spent the better part of a year at Last Door and learned a completely new way of experiencing recovery through the 12 steps of Narcotics Anonymous. Instead of just book knowledge, I was shown how to live and apply spiritual principles into my life and to lighten up a bit. Ok…a lot ! For a period of time I wasn’t allowed any writing or reading material until I learned to lift my head and draw actual people into my life and to ask for what I needed. They asked in group once what I liked to do for fun and when I replied I didn’t know how to have fun, I was on a jet ski up Indian Arm, literally within an hour ! Things like that didn’t happen at other places I tried to get clean at. I ended up building relationships with other recovering addicts in the house that I still depend on today. We had and still have a pact amongst ourselves to not be the weakest link and turn our back on each other by returning to ways of old.

My life today is better than it has ever been. Freedom stopped being just a concept and it now feels like a way of life. I always say that recovery allows us to find our passions and I’ve found a few of my own. When I lived in an alley, my favourite band could be playing around the corner and I couldn’t seem to be there. Now, if that band is playing anywhere on the planet and I want to be there, I’m there. Those kids of mine who suffered along with me, know where I am at all times and a day doesn’t go by where I don’t take the opportunity to tell them I love them. I have 3 grandkids who have never seen me loaded and perceive me, not as an addict but only as Grandpa (or the old guy with the wallet!) I’m able to at long last be a son that my Dad says he’s proud to know. Being 13 years without a cigarette, I was able to show my Dad how to do something! I returned to the downtown eastside at a couple of years clean to work professionally within the addictions field and those emotional rewards are beyond compare or words.

Whenever I think it can’t get better, it does. I continue as an active member of Narcotics Anonymous and I stay connected to Last Door in all kinds of manner. I still drop in for direction, both personally and professionally. My sponsor of 14 years still works there and there is always a new guy willing to go for coffee or hit a late night NA meeting. My gratitude to what the Last Door has done for me and my family never ceases to amaze me as I live this life without limits.