Jeffery Norell: His story of addiction to 18 years of recovery
As a 6-year-old child I was sexually abused. Soon after the molestation I was questioned about this abuse by my mother. My naïve pre-adolescent mind thinking I had done some something wrong, the first reaction to that fear of being questioned was to lie, so I did and said “nothing happened”. This lie triggered the onset of what would become a deeply embedded psychological disturbance rooted in toxic embarrassment and shame, and those feelings would follow me for the rest of my life.
Combining this psychological disturbance from the sexual abuse, with a genetic predisposition to alcohol and drug use disorder, and a widely adhered to cultural belief of the time that men don’t talk about feelings, brought together all the biopsychosocial ingredients to a recipe for disaster.
Looking for an escape to the anxiety associated with my condition started with alcohol, soon after lead to marijuana, and eventual cocaine, crack and heroin. My life became complete chaos and for some time I lived like an animal hunting for any opportunity to secure my escape. I was in and out of jail as a juvenile and adult more time than I can count, because crime provided the fuel for my addiction. When not in jail, homelessness, starvation, and overdoes were commonplace. This lifestyle eventual placed me in a precarious position with police where I ended up being shot in the head during the commission of a crime. After a brief hospital stay I was returned to jail for another period of incarceration.
One might think, surely this must be his rock bottom, but even after of all of this my focus continued to be on using drugs. After all it was the only remedy I knew for my now incomprehensible mental and emotional pain. However, through a professionally coordinated intervention, substance use disorder rehab, and the selfless efforts from hundreds of members of the 12-step community I was able to obtain freedom from chemical dependence and began my journey of healing.
Getting clean and having the freedom from active drug use was only the beginning. Since I dropped out of school in grade 8 my employment opportunities were limited, but I found work in the construction industry and that allowed me to become a productive taxpaying member of society. I continued attending 12 step meetings. I also got involved in doing volunteer service work to support others who were not yet aware that there was help and treatment available for alcohol and drug addiction. I went and spoke in schools, attended law enforcement and medical convention, I went into detox centers, and yes, I even went into jails and shared my story of recovery.
It was these volunteer efforts that first sparked the idea of me working in addiction services. With some considerable effort and support this idea finally translated into action, so I enrolled in college. Given my limited academic background there was a lot of basic educational requirements I needed catch up on before I could study in my chosen field. However, I persisted and eventually became a Canadian Certified Addiction Counsellor. This accomplishment allowed me to work in some of the best addiction rehab facilities in the metro Vancouver area. In these facilities l applied my clinical skills and learned more and more about best practices from some incredible mentors.
My desire to pursue best practices ultimately illuminated how substance use interventions and outpatient alcohol and drug addiction treatment could be facilitated differently. These differences afforded an opportunity to produce better outcomes in these very challenging clinical situations. This is why I founded the organization Pacific Intervention & Recovery Solutions. The goal of this organization is, and always will be to put best clinical practices first. Having now provided services for over 8 years this origination has assisted hundreds of people in achieving their own freedom and recovery.
As of January 1st 2023, I celebrate my 18th year of addiction recovery. In the depths of my illness I could have never imagined any aspect of my life today ever being possible. However, trusting in the process of recovery, taking personal responsibility and stringing together one positive action after another made it possible. All of the struggles I faced in my life were not in vain. These personal struggles provided me with an intimate level of insight into this deadly disorder. That intimate experience is a big benefit in working with other who also have this condition. There is literally no word to describe the feeling generated from aligning my personal recovery with an effort to help others find recovery as well. The only word that even comes close is, GRATEFUL.