Symbol of Sobriety
/ Author: Alison Brown
/ Categories: Guide magazine /
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Symbol of Sobriety

From struggling with substance use to successfully sober, a Local 68 member shares his story

By Alison Brown

KIT WELLS FOUGHT AGAINST ALCOHOLISM for over 20 years. He was constantly trying to overcome his addiction and build a normal life, only to relapse and destroy everything positive he had created. He found himself starting over and over again.

He destroyed so many relationships in his life and ruined so many new employment opportunities that eventually he knew he had to do something. His addiction made his life unmanageable and chaotic.

Kit finally broke this destructive addiction cycle when he admitted to himself that he had a problem that he could not fix on his own. He reached out to his family, girlfriend, employer, and union and confessed he had a major problem with alcohol and needed help staying sober. He got in touch with CLAC’s Substance Abuse Case Management Team (SACM) and explained the state he was in and what was happening. 

He had taken that first step. That first step eventually led to treatment and a recovery plan—and a whole new life.

KIT IS A LOCAL 68 MEMBER and miner employed by Peace River Hydro Partners on the Site C hydroelectric dam project in BC. His story is typical of many former alcoholics. He suffered some major traumas early in life that he never dealt with properly and started drinking at a young age. 

As he matured, his drinking quickly progressed from habit to addiction. Alcohol had become his coping mechanism

“I found myself penniless, homeless, and unemployed,” says Kit. “At times, I was rolling change, wondering where my next cash installment would come from. I attempted to quit drinking a number of times, but was always unsuccessful, and the shame of failing caused my drinking to worsen.”

In the last year of his alcoholism, Kit’s drinking had become uncontrollable. He hit rock bottom.

“I was at the stage where I realized I had to quit drinking or I’d lose everything: my job, my family, my relationships—my life. I knew I had to do something about it, and I knew from past experience that I was unable to quit on my own. With the support of my family and my union, I got the help I desperately needed.” 

CLAC’s Substance Abuse Case Management Team referred Kit for assessment by a substance abuse professional who diagnosed him and provided him with treatment recommendations. CLAC covered $2,000 of his treatment via a substance abuse subsidy, and he also received short term disability benefits while he was off work.

“The team from CLAC was very supportive and sympathetic,” says Kit. “They made me feel like I had nothing to be ashamed of, which is a huge help in recovery. I was able to immediately check into a wonderful facility in Powell River, BC, where I underwent an intense recovery program. It literally saved my life.”

Since he began his journey to sobriety, Kit has had one relapse. But by being honest with himself and his family, girlfriend, and employer, he worked through it and avoided falling back into the continual cycle of relapse and recovery that had sabotaged his life for so long.

“I’m happy to say I’ve been sober for a year now. And I feel amazing!”

Once he received a posttreatment assessment report to confirm he was cleared to return to work, Kit went back to the PRHP camp working at the Site C project. 

“At first, I was scared and anxious, but everyone was very supportive and so proud of me. I knew I had made the right choice when I picked sobriety over alcohol.”

WHAT GAVE KIT THE REASON to successfully quit for good this time around? He decided—for the first time in his life—that he was ready and willing to take on the responsibility of being in a family.

“Misty, my girlfriend, stood by me when I decided to be sober,” says Kit. “Even though she knew it would be challenging for us, she willingly accepted it. This support gave me a reason to be sober, to be responsible and accountable to myself and to her and her daughter, Nyah.”

In the months since he made the choice to be sober, Kit successfully purchased a home and proposed to Misty. 

“I asked Misty to be my wife and Nyah to be my stepdaughter on my birthday, which was also our one-year anniversary and my six-month anniversary of being sober. We got married on March 23, 2019, on the beautiful beaches of Tofino.

“I used the money I saved by not drinking to pay for custom-made rings for both Misty and Nyah. They both literally carry the symbol of my sobriety on their fingers daily.”

Kit continues to see a counsellor and has now become a SMART Recovery meeting facilitator. SMART (self-management and recovery training) is a program that helps people recover from addictive behaviours including alcoholism, drug abuse, and substance abuse. It teaches intelligence-based recovery techniques using science and modern studies to explain what addiction is and how to overcome and cope with it. SMART teaches people suffering from addiction how to change self-defeating emotions, thinking, and actions and how to build a better quality of life. 

“SMART helped me learn my self-worth and restored my confidence,” says Kit. “Instead of saying ‘I’m an alcoholic,’ I learned that I can change and become someone who is not an alcoholic. I still attend regular meetings and have daily conversations with my sober network. My goal is to implement open SMART meetings at my workplace because, unfortunately, substance use is very prevalent in the construction industry.”

With the successful completion of his alcohol treatment and return to work, Kit’s SACM case manager, Rae-anna Koenig, suggested he apply for CLAC’s Matthew Manuel Memorial Award. (See the inside back cover of this issue for details about the award.) 

“Rae-anna knew how hard I had worked to attain sobriety and how successful I’ve been. I was beyond honoured to receive it.” 

KIT’S STRUGGLE TO OVERCOME ALCOHOLISM serves as an inspiration to others struggling with addiction. His story offers hope that change is neither impossible nor too late.

“Never give up and don’t be afraid to ask for help,” he advises. “Reach out to family, friends, work—your union. There’s so much help and support out there that doesn’t get utilized. 

“Now that I’m sober, I rely heavily on my family: my wife, stepdaughter, mother, brother, sister-in-law, and nieces. They all love and respect me, so I can’t—and won’t—let them down again. They rely on me, just as I rely on them. 

“The sober life is just so much better. Absolutely every aspect of my life is better. I’m truly happy for the first time that I can remember. I’m healthier, fitter, stronger. I sleep better and have more energy. I wake up each day with a desire to live that day to the fullest. 

“I’m past the stage of cravings and urges, and I feel strong and confident in my recovery. It feels amazing to know that I’m finally free from the burden that tortured me for so long. I know I have the skills necessary to continue on this path for the rest of my life.”

Kit is further into his journey of sobriety than he’s ever been in his 20-year struggle with addiction. In May, he celebrated one year being sober. 

Together with his wife and stepdaughter, he has ended the cycle of relapse and recovery and is finally moving forward with his life. For Kit and for all those who have overcome addiction, that’s the greatest symbol of sobriety.

GETTING HELP

If you’re struggling with substance use, CLAC has resources available to help you on your road to recovery. 

SACM

In 2010, CLAC recognized the importance of supporting members struggling with substance-related issues or drug/alcohol violations at work in a more personal and tangible way by creating the Substance Abuse Case Management (SACM) program. Since its inception, the SACM program has employed skilled professionals who are trained to guide and support CLAC members needing help. Over 400 members on average reach out to the program for help every year.

The program’s dedicated case managers handle 25 to 50 active cases at any given time, with each case remaining open from a couple of weeks to a year or more, depending on recommendations by substance abuse experts that need to be completed.

The case managers personally work with members in the following ways:
1. Supporting them through referrals to substance abuse experts who assess and diagnose substance use disorders
2. Helping them access resources for treatment and recovery
3. Helping them with their application for short term disability, substance abuse subsidy, and other available funding
4. Monitoring aftercare recommendations once a member has returned to work

Members can be referred by their employer, CLAC representative, or steward or can self-refer into the program. Support is also available to people in the addicted person’s life. 

For any questions or referrals, please don’t hesitate to contact a CLAC substance abuse case manager at 877-863-5154 or SACM@clac.ca. 

EFAP

If you are covered under a CLAC Health & Welfare Trust Fund benefits plan, you can get immediate, free, and confidential help through the Morneau Shepell Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP). Access is available 24/7 by phone (1-844-880-9142), web (workhealthlife.com), or mobile app.
If you’re struggling with substance use, CLAC has resources available to help you on your road to recovery. 

WHY WE HELP

CLAC created the Substance Abuse Case Management (SACM) program when we saw that the disease of addiction was an issue for members working in the construction industry. We started seeing a lot of members struggling with addiction on sites, especially big project sites in western Canada. 

As a safety measure, many companies had started implementing zero tolerance drug and alcohol bans and robust substance use testing protocols to control site access. We participated on work site committees to protect our members’ rights and help them when they tested positive and in the cycle of treatment, return to work, and follow up.

As work on big industrial sites ramped up, more and more members were coming to us with substance abuse problems. Initially, we worked with contractors to provide informal coordination of treatment. But as the workload increased, we needed to have our own internal team dedicated specifically to helping members and created the SACM program. 

When substance abuse or an addiction takes over someone’s life, it’s a crucial moment. It can bring the person to rock bottom, or it can be the beginning of a whole new and better chapter for them. To be able to step in at that moment—when everything is crashing down—and lift that member up and provide everything they need to conquer their addiction and get their life back in order and return to full employment, I can’t think of a greater moment. And I can’t think of a greater opportunity for CLAC to demonstrate its mandate to create a better work-life for members.

—Wayne Prins, Executive Director

Q&A

With Substance Abuse Case Manager Lezlie McCall 

What are some of the obstacles people struggling with addiction face?

One of the biggest obstacles people face is prejudice and misunderstanding surrounding addiction by not only employers and society but by the person’s loved ones. This can lead someone struggling with an addiction to believe their addiction is the result of moral failure.

Another big obstacle is denial that they are struggling with an addiction. Then when they do seek help, they can struggle to get funding for treatment.

What are some of the feelings that get in the way of seeking treatment?

People with an addiction often deal with feelings of disappointment, shame, regret, and loneliness. They may experience feelings of anger and blame others for their situation.

What advice would you give to those seeking help?

Three things. First, it’s so helpful to find a counsellor who can talk with you about the importance of self-respect and guide you through your own personally meaningful reasons to change. Remind yourself of these reasons when you’re feeling down and less than positive about yourself and your potential to change.

Second, focus on what can be done in the present. Don’t spend too much time focussed on the past or on the future.

And finally, be aware of the different resources available to you such as short term disability, community mental health and addiction programs and support groups, your company EFAP, and SMART Recovery. Self-help groups, such as 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, and others, can also help keep you on the path of recovery. 

If there’s one thing you would tell someone struggling with an addiction, what would it be?

Most importantly, I would tell them to know this: you are someone with an addiction issue, but the addiction does not have to define who you are.

PUT A RING ON IT

Rings have been used to symbolize the romantic and legally binding commitment of marriage for centuries. Ancient Egyptian scrolls depict couples presenting each other with braided rings fashioned from hemp or reeds, worn on the fourth finger of the left hand because the “vein of love” runs directly from the heart to the fourth finger. In other cultures, the ring is worn on the right hand—the hand used for oaths and vows. The endless circle of the rings symbolizes the eternal nature of the union, with the open centre symbolizing a door to the future.

The ancient Greeks and Romans carried on the tradition of wedding rings, but they were made of leather, bone, ivory, and iron. Gold or silver rings were only given on rare occasions—and only by the extremely wealthy. 

With the Renaissance came the introduction of highly ornate poesy rings (gold rings with short inscriptions on the surface), while in colonial America, spouses exchanged thimbles because Puritans viewed jewellery as frivolous. 

In many cultures, it was traditional for only women to wear a wedding ring. This was also true in North America prior to World War II. During the war, many soldiers wore their wedding ring as a sign of commitment and to remember their spouses back home.

Sources: Vanity Fair, ensorings.com

 


 

 

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