Aug 5, 2016
This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.
I’m on the path to a happy recovery. I’ve taken strength from my pain. I’ve found resolution in resiliency. Today, life isn’t perfect – it’s just the way it is and that’s all right. Why? Because I’m sick-not weak.
My story begins 31 years ago out East where I lived with my two parents and brother. Growing up, I lived in a strict household and stressful environment; some might even say functionally dysfunctional. But this story isn’t about them.
Well before the time I was old enough to play organized sports, I started off with 2 skates, a hockey stick, and a dream – like any other kid my age – male or female. However, this dream came to a halt 2 decades later, when I was blindsided by an authority figure in hockey that I trusted.
It’s as the classic line goes, “it’ll never happen to me,” until it does.
In a span of 3 days I’d gone from your “average” 21-year old aspiring hockey coach, to a sexually victimized, segregated, family-less, self-isolated, self-harming, guilt ridden, soulless “human.” Or at least that’s what I thought and was made to believe about myself. It’s as the classic line goes, “it’ll never happen to me,” until it does. Until you find yourself walking into your apartment with your supposed new employer and with the turn of a lock you suddenly become a victim of sexual assault. I had no coping mechanisms or tools emotionally or socially, and I consistently found myself in financial holes – what was I supposed to do? I was not taught how to deal with life on life’s terms; my parents never spoke about sex, and certainly not sexual abuse or mental illness.
“If you have a problem you shove that down and you don’t ever let it come out.”
But that was the reality of my time and the nature of my parents. Needless to say chaos ensued instantly. What I didn’t recognize then as a form of strength and self-empowerment, but do now, was the 1 phone call I made that changed my life and the likelihood of millions of others.
Strength From Pain was my new life motto.
My life started flipping upside down worse than the Fresh Prince, except I didn’t have an uncle and an auntie in Bel-Air. Social drinking eventually turned into alcoholism, in an attempt to shut off my nightmares, but like any drug I spiraled out of control rapidly. In a matter of 5 years I was a habitual user of crystal meth and cocaine in a false attempt to mask the pain of what I now know as social anxiety, depression, and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder.) At the rock bottom of my disease, I had managed to stay alive through 7 drug and alcohol treatment centers, 3 suicide attempts, unemployment, and homelessness. Strength From Pain was my new life motto.
After a pretty wild night of drinking, and a Honeymoon Suite concert – what a way to end it, eh? I had really no other option in my life; get sober, deal with the problems head on in an attempt to alleviate the chaos inside my mind. It was with the desperation of a drowning man that I wanted to stop the continuously worsening symptoms of my disease.
32 months ago, however, I entered into recovery with no expectations as to my results and since then I am proud to share that I have not felt the need or desire to take a drink. Suicidal ideation became a common contemplation and though I had tried before, there is evidently good reason as to why I am still here and sharing my story is a huge part of that purpose. I knew I had to do whatever I could to get my life back on track. And I did!
To date, I’ve spoken to over 100,000 people across Canada about my journey of Strength From Pain. It’s not about my “unique” story though, as much as it is being able to identify with our fellow suffererss, with a common voice for action. That people who go through pain can and will in fact, become “whole” people again. That some one can say “Me too,” and they can rid their shame and guilt of holding it in, in fear that they were alone. I’m Paulie, I live with mental illnesses, I’m sick, I’m not weak!