At the Oasis Movement, we are always asking for people’s stories because, let’s face it, we can read and research a topic forever but very rarely will it capture the authenticity of firsthand experience. Recently, we were approached by an individual who was eager to share their story. This is in and of itself not unusual, as we have shared a variety of stories over the last two years. This young man’s journey however is rather unique, as he is in his early twenties and was raised in a small town by an upper middle class family. We all know that addiction and alcoholism does not discriminate because it is proven to occur among many, regardless of age, gender, or socioeconomic standing. Once people in recovery complete detox, and rehab programs, they are usually driven to move on with the rest of their lives and very rarely are willing to reminisce about their path to addiction, much less talk about their darkest most vulnerable moments. This can be unfortunate, especially since when one refuses to recognize the wreckage of their past they are unable to let go of the emotions experienced and by doing so, may end up reliving it in one form or another. It seems as though our friend is aware of this as he faces the fears of brutal honesty with us. Hopefully by telling this story, we will help him and others keep their past mistakes in perspective thus mitigating the risk of repeating them. Our new friend has agreed to be open with every facet of his life. In exchange he only asks we not use his real name. We will be referring to him as Eric. His story spans twelve long years, which we have decided to write about in a series of installments over the next four weeks.
At one point in the interview, our new friend stops his story and says “I remember being in grade seven, talking with my best friend saying “Can you believe people in our class are trying drugs?! I know I’ll never be in their shoes!” We believe it is important to explore this statement. It has been uttered by many of us at one point or another in a variation of contexts but the question still remains; why do some risk pushing the limits in situations they know will cause them future distress? In Eric’s case, why would a boy dive head first into the world of drug abuse while fully aware of the consequences? All while being raised in an upper middle class family and neighbourhood? All while his parents loved him unconditionally? Why would he sabotage himself and derail himself off the route of his peers?
On the outside, it seemed as though Eric had a childhood where most Canadian children thrive. Nothing out of the ordinary. His parents were upper middle class in small town of Ontario. He was popular and well liked amongst his peers, and was enrolled and fell in love with hockey. This all seems quite idyllic to neighbours but he feels that from an early age, childhood was very confusing. Although he felt loved and nurtured by his mother and father, the verbal warfare between them ensued in his earliest memories. His father was an alcoholic and prone to frequent outbursts directed at him and his mother. This ambivalent behaviour was his first indication of his families’ inconsistencies and he soon felt out of place.
Over the years we have heard many addiction stories and most seem to begin this way. The victim feels a strong disconnect between themselves and their environment. Being exposed to dysfunction and destruction within immediate family relationships causes fear and anxieties. Their immediate needs are not met in one form or another and their reality begins to have a detrimental effect on how they interpret the world around them. We can hypothesize that these inconsistencies paired with key life events that induced traumatic suffering are exactly what lead to his initial experimenting with marijuana and alcohol. One being the toxic divorce of his parents at age twelve where he was heavily involved and blamed for by his often inebriated father. With his family life unravelling and self-esteem at an all-time low, what did he have to lose?
Everything except his life.
We hope you enjoyed our first installment of Eric’s journey, joins us next week for Part Two.