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The day Ewan said yes, everything changed. His first experience with drugs and alcohol brought a sense of belonging and energy to his life that he would spend 10 years chasing. At 23 years old, he thought surviving to 25 would be an accomplishment. But the day he started to say no, everything changed again. Recovery brought community and opportunities into his life that were worth more than the previous high. Hear his story.
Each workshop produces a creative participant reflection – a personal take away from the story they just heard – that is voluntarily shared with the wider community.
2nd year Psychology, University of Victoria
"Hi, my name is Mike Y and I am a second year University of Victoria student. I hope to one day finish my degree in psychology. I was drawn to psychology because of how important it is helping others in society and I have personally had to overcome mental health challenges.
Mental health is an important step in helping others flourish. I hope to one day have an active role where I am helping in part to break the stigma of mental health; where as people fell more comfortable talking about it openly with others.
Hearing the speaker, (name), talk about the challenges he faced struggling with addiction and the associated problems gave to me a friendly face to the problem, and personalized how important it is to give hope to others. His story was very powerful. It also taught me how important it is accept others and seeing beyond their face value.
Attending the “The Existance Project” workshop to me was more valuable than many classes at university combined. I want to thank Marko and everyone for the experience and I hope it will give me valuable insights for the future career in helping others. "
What is the occupation/organization/life path that I represent?
I got into housing support work and counselling after a youth of instability, homelessness, and addiction. Through my experiences in this field, and listening to countless stories of poverty, substance dependence, and social isolation, I’ve discovered a powerful sense of solidarity and concern with the material and spiritual well-being of those I serve. This has given rise to a wish to explore different forms of advocacy and find out which are most effective in bringing real change in people’s lives and in the systems that affect them.
Whose story did I hear? What were the key themes of the story you heard?
When I heard Ewan’s story, I was surprised that he had no history of family trauma or violence prior to his struggles with drug use. In this way, he challenged my assumptions about substance use and addiction.
Most striking to me was Ewan’s understanding of addiction as an illness. In my own struggles with substance use, what was most damaging was the self-loathing that came with feeling unable to control my behaviour. This view of addiction as an illness helped to alleviate Ewan’s belief that he was a bad person – that his addiction was a moral failing.
This kind internalized stigma shows up in so many of the people I work with in my roles as a housing outreach worker and as a volunteer counsellor, and Ewan’s story of self-compassion and acceptance of support was a powerful reminder that social connection is the foundation of recovery. Connection itself is medicine.
I felt a strong resonance with Ewan’s experience of alienation from his own values and sense of self as he went further into addiction. For me, the respect and acceptance of others (family members, friends, and counsellors) were vital to the regaining of my own self-respect and positive direction. Also, Ewan found great mentors through his 12 Step work. While I didn’t go through formal recovery or use a 12 step model on my road out of active addiction, I am deeply indebted to my teachers and all those who showed me another way. I think Ewan’s experience shows that we learn to appreciate ourselves and have compassion for others through intimate, supportive relationships.
Knowing that many members of our community do not have these strong interpersonal networks of support, I feel even more determined to advocate for universal access to recovery support, housing, and community inclusion for those who are currently denied these forms of care, and to directly offer this support in any way I can. It is my wish that many more people can experience the kind of wrap-around love and understanding that enabled Ewan to step more fully into his true purpose and direction.