At the age of 11, I started drinking, getting alcohol from my parents. In my teenage years, I continued drinking in order to look cool and with recreational drugs, however, I did not develop an addiction and was able to stop the drug use.
After high school, I was hired by a company to drive transport trucks which continued for 20 years. I married during this time and had a beautiful little daughter named Rebecca, who is now 11½ years old. My driving career meant many nights spent away from my family. To compensate, I would spend that time drinking. Upon returning home from long trips, my drinking habit continued which took me away from the relationship in my marriage, ultimately causing it to end.
At the age of 36, I remarried. I believed this marriage would be successful, however between the demands of my job and cost of my drinking habit, my marriage ended after lasting only 1½ years. After another failed marriage, I quit drinking. This only lasted 10 months until I started drinking again with the belief that I could only drink 1 drink at a time. Before I knew it, I was drinking 3 cases of beer and a 40 ounce of liquor every week. I never believed that I was an alcoholic. Throughout my life, I blamed others for my problems, especially my ex-wife for contributing to my drinking habit.
"When I first arrived at Lyndhurst, I was completely paralyzed from the neck down.
I couldn't move at all, feed myself, scratch my neck…nothing"
On July 5th 2009, my roommate and I were having a pool party to celebrate the long weekend. I spent the majority of the day drinking and having fun. I came inside to use the washroom, on my way downstairs, I stopped to pick up a in 3 places. My C4, C5 and C6 vertebrae were shattered, and because the bone fragments punctured my spinal cord, I am now a C4 incomplete quadriplegic. Learn More
I was taken to William Osler Medical Centre, however they could not find me a bed anywhere and considered transporting me to the States. A bed opened up at Toronto Western Hospital, where I was subsequently diagnosed with my injury. That night, I went into surgery to remove the shattered bone fragments and repair my spine by placing artificial disc, screws and plates. I spent 2 weeks at Toronto Western and was then transported to Lyndhurst Hospital to begin my rehabilitation.
When I first arrived at Lyndhurst, I was completely paralyzed from the neck down. I couldn't move at all, feed myself, scratch my neck…nothing. With time, some movement and sensation started to return. The last movement to return was in my hands. During my stay at Lyndhurst, from July 16th to December 1st 2009, I was involved in physiotherapy and occupational therapy, each an hour in length. I left Lyndhurst on December 1st, walking on a high rise walker. Then, I was able to walk with a low rise walker and even take a few steps during the last few months of physiotherapy.
In August my daughter wrote me an email, not knowing how much movement I was going to get back and whether I was going to walk again. She stated, “Daddy, I don't care if you are in a wheel chair for the rest of your life. I love you regardless.”
Now, whenever I am making progress, she is the person I turn to for support. The two people who have always been there for me are my sister and my daughter.
My sister, Joan, came to the hospital the night I was injured. She vowed that she was going to stay by my side to help me through my injury experience. To this very day she is still by my side through a telephone call or in person as my strength to get through this.
It's been 16 months since I've touched a drop of alcohol. Looking back, I don't know if I could have been able to stop drinking if it wasn't for my injury. My injury was a blessing in disguise. It really gave me an attitude adjustment of what things really mattered the most to me in life. To note, 3 months after my injury, I still had alcohol in my system. I was not only dealing with a life changing injury, but also detoxing, dealing with cold sweats, moodiness and just coming down from the alcohol. That was a tough battle by itself.
Before my injury, all my time was consumed with working and drinking. Now, I have done so much in the last year that really matters. For the first time, I actually have a leisure life, doing the stuff I really enjoy. During the course of the summer, I took up sailing. I went to the cottage program at Lyndhurst, learning how to fish from a wheel chair and how to handcycle. I was able to stop and enjoy myself for the many years without alcohol being a part of the occasion.
Now, I'm involved in the P.A.R.T.Y. program explaining to youth, “when you're at a party, it's great to have a good time. Yet, the first thing alcohol takes away from you is your balance.You would no longer have the balance that you would have if you were sober. You are also subject to falling down stairs and more. It makes you believe and try things that you normally would not try. You would think that you are braver than you actually are."
Lastly, I am also involved in peer support and helping people who are recently injured. I help them deal with their new life.