“I spent three birthdays in jail – my 16th, 19th, and 28th,” Paul notes matter-of-factly. He sits back in the couch, ready to once again, share a little piece of himself hoping it’ll help others move toward self-acceptance and healing in their own addiction journey.
Early in his life, Paul experienced significant chaos and instability. “My mom was a single mother of three – I’m the oldest. My mom was actually the one to sell me my first joint as a young teenager,” Paul begins, readjusting the baseball hat he was wearing.
Paul grew up in a small town, “It was small town life, not much to do,” he muses. As a result, his foray into experimenting with drugs and alcohol began at a rather young age. In grade seven, he and his friends were attending school dances drunk. At this age, while he had started smoking weed, he was just smoking with his mom.
While Paul and his mom shared their time getting high together, their relationship was a rocky one, and she kicked him out at 15 years old.
“I just had to try to make my own way,” reflects Paul.
Paul’s partying continued, but he was able to stay in school until grade eleven. To stay afloat, he spent a lot of time crashing at friends’ houses, couch-surfing; and in nicer weather, Paul and his friends would often go out into the bush over weekends and party while camping outside. Through all of this, his friends became his family.
In grade eleven, he rented an apartment on his own and went on Ontario Works (OW), but that wasn’t enough to cover rent, utilities, groceries, and other life expenses. To be able to afford living on his own he dropped out of school and became a career roofer. He continued working as a roofer up until the beginning of his stay at Quintin Warner House.
When Paul was in grade eleven, he entered into his first relationship as well. Drugs, alcohol, and partying defined a lot of their time together before they had children. They were together for ten years, and had two daughters before the relationship ended due to infidelity. When they found out they were going to be parents, his girlfriend was able to discontinue using drugs with no lingering addictions.
Paul was not so lucky.
Paul had been selling weed since high school for some extra cash, but his forays into selling drugs to pay for rent, and for his habits, escalated. “I went from selling joints, to ounces, to having a grow room, to cocaine, to spending my 28th birthday in jail,” he summarizes succinctly.
Since he was living with his girlfriend and his two young daughters at the time of this arrest, Family and Children’s Services (FCS) stepped in after his criminal conviction; this was when Paul entered into a recovery program for his drug abuse for the first time.
The program was a 28-day outpatient program that ran from 8am-3pm. It was a co-ed group that included life skills training like anger management, self-care, and budgeting alongside more therapy-based healing techniques like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This program gave Paul some insights that helped him move forward for a little while, but soon, the benefit started to slip away like a worn bandage on an almost-healed wound.
Paul was also spending weekends in jail for the drug-related charges. During his time there, he was served papers. At a period in his life that was already filled with lots of upheaval and stress, on top of everything else, his relationship of ten years was ending – and she wanted full custody of the children.
Due to his present circumstances, and his history with the police and drugs, Paul lost custody of his children. While he stopped using party drugs, he was far from being clean and sober. Paul began to abuse pain killers, namely Oxycontin (brand name of the drug oxycodone), which all began after receiving a prescription for them after experiencing workplace falls from rooftops. His need escalated beyond using them for temporary pain relief and, while the falls he experienced all happened on Fridays, he would always return back to work on Monday. The oxy helped him work through all kinds of pain, and he needed the money for his life expenses and for his habit.
What followed for the next decade was a repetitive series of self-destructive and traumatic events.
“I didn’t know my father, my mom kicked me out at 15, a ten year relationship ended with cheating – I felt like a victim. And it kept me sick for a while,” Paul describes.
He had entered another long term relationship, this time for six years, producing his third child – a boy – and the relationship ended, once again, in infidelity. The police were called when he drank too much when confronting her about the cheating. And right after being charged, he left his hometown, which was where he was living with his now ex-girlfriend, and entered a detox program where his sister lived in North Bay. Paul informed the police in his hometown that he was seeking treatment and would return to face charges once he was done. The police noted that it was a good decision on his part to seek treatment and would await his return to complete charges.
Just a couple of days before he was supposed to start the treatment program in North Bay, he felt alone, the urge to use arose, and without much consideration, bought cocaine and brought it into his sister’s house. Sitting alone in the guest room he was staying in at his sister’s house, he used. Even when he did enter treatment, he eventually got kicked out for horseplay because this centre had zero-tolerance for hands-on behavior.
He couldn’t tell his sister he got kicked out – it was too embarrassing, and he didn’t want to disappoint her again. So he lied to his sister about getting kicked out and went back home to talk to the police and face his charges.
“I don’t want to run from cops. I’ve made bad choices but I’ve always taken responsibility for things that I’ve done,” expresses Paul, “that relationship was my last for a while. I moved to the city, out of my home town, and went back to the very first counsellor I had seen. I was on my last leg at that point. I was feeding a $300 a day habit, and was close to being on the street.”
There is no exaggeration when Paul mentions he was on his last leg. He was constantly engaging in risky behavior and knew that his habits were going to kill him. But that didn’t stop him; there was a larger drive of needing to feel a warm, satisfying loving feeling that Oxycontin and hydromorphone provided. Paul used alone more often than not. Even “going under” (meaning experiencing a small overdose), after using part of a supply did not stop his use; Paul would go back and use the rest of the drugs he had from that supply because he needed the satisfying, warm, comforting feeling to feel good – to numb himself.
“I would always get asked, ‘why would you go back and use the rest’, and I don’t know. I guess I just didn’t care,” Paul explains.
Before entering into Quintin Warner House’s program, Paul overdosed four separate times.
“I was lucky to be around people at those times, since I usually used alone,” he reflects. The people around him were able to get him the help he needed so he didn’t “go under” for good.
But since he reconnected with a counsellor he had a history with, she knew what he needed at this stage in his recovery and recommended Quintin Warner House as an ideal option; Paul was ready to move on from his addiction and move forward with his life in a healthier and more life-affirming way.
“Everything needed to happen in this order to get where I’m at today. This round, I finally learned what it took to be sober. I did the opposite to what I did before,” Paul explains.
This round, he fully participated in his recovery. He stopped lying; he began talking openly with every staff member at the House because he found each of them was able to offer helpful advice and a unique perspective.
When Paul arrived in London in July 2018, when he made the journey to a new city where he didn’t know a single person, he was afraid of meeting new people. It was hard to make connections, especially at that time because he was still caught in the cycle of lying to others and to himself.
“I felt socially awkward, and that was probably from being around sick people for so long. So I figured, whatever’s making me uncomfortable is where I should go,” he notes.
Paul was ready to challenge and confront his fears – he no longer wanted to run or numb himself into oblivion. Through Quintin Warner House he was able to work through and move past those fears because of the genuine kindness of the staff and the life-affirming structure of the program.
“The Quintin Warner House staff greets you with compassion. And with group activities like rec day, the gym, it has been good to spend time with the guys outside of the house, doing something normal,” with a peaceful smile Paul elaborates, “At Quintin Warner House I lived rent-free, had good shelter, I was fed good food – they did everything so I could do the work.”
Quintin Warner House helps men reconnect with themselves and with other people while teaching healthy ways to interact with others, life-affirming ways to spend their free time, and methods to maintain positive, healthy relationships. Through government funding and generous donations from the community, the program is able to help men focus on their progress to recovery and long-term sobriety. Along with the main program, annex housing is available as transitional housing so they can stay connected to Quintin Warner House while they continue their journey forward.
The Quintin Warner House program is one of only two programs in Southwestern Ontario that offers live-in treatment, and it is the only program in the same area that provides supportive housing post-graduation. The Quintin Warner House program structure allows men to focus on recovery, and the transitional housing allows men time to focus on their new journey – whether that means moving to a new city, reconnecting with family, applying to school, or getting work – all while apartment hunting. Not having to immediately worry about finding an apartment or applying for work or school while in-program are incredibly helpful to the goal of long-term sobriety and stability because it allows men the ability to focus solely on recovery while in treatment.
“I only get what I put in. Now I’m learning to co-parent. I’m looking forward to spending time with my daughters and son; I want to be there now, I don’t want to be like my father. I feel prepared now with what I’ve learned at the House. I know I’m responsible for how I react and I feel more prepared to handle emotional situations. I’ve really changed my perspective – instead of seeing myself as a victim, I know I’m responsible for how I conduct myself,” Paul summarizes, “I’m turning 39 and I’m just starting to grow up.”
Paul is incredibly thankful for the help and skills Quintin Warner House provided and instilled in him. When he left treatment in the past he would go out and party, thinking he could control his habit, but he’s not doing that this time. Paul is busy building a solid foundation, and staying connected to others, before continuing into the working world once again.
“My new job is staying sober,” Paul explains. And for the first time he isn’t working himself ragged or disregarding his feelings or what he needs to do to be healthy; he’s focusing on himself, his kids, and building a solid foundation to build the rest of his life upon – “I can’t do it by myself, the community aspect is important. I’m working on making connections and not being shy about what I need.”