Everyone who battles addiction has a story, a reason why they turned to alcohol or drugs.
Today, the second in a two part series chronicling Randy Dikun’s story, as he tries to overcome addiction with the help of Adult and Teen Challenge B.C., a recovery program with locations in Chilliwack (Yarrow) and Lake Country.
Randy Dikun thinks he’s finally got it figured out.
He’s back in the world after a year in the Adult and Teen Challenge B.C. addiction recovery program, ready to rebuild his shattered life.
He’s just invested 12 whole months into getting better, and now he’s heading home to Lethbridge.
Maybe the last place he should go.
Randy thinks he’s slayed his dragon and he can walk back into the den, but there are so many triggers here. His drug dealer’s house is still right down the street. Everywhere he goes and everywhere he looks he sees reminders of the life he used to lead, the life that still calls to him.
He tells himself he’s put it all behind him, but if that’s true, why can he pull out his cellphone and still find all the numbers of people he should never talk to again?
He hasn’t been completely honest with himself and this isn’t going to end well.
Driving around the old streets, the walls he’s built to keep the demons out start crumbling around him. Deep down he knows addiction is overtaking him.
On Dec. 23 he finds himself in Kelowna. He’s missing his daughters, so he decides to go have a drink. But Randy knows by now that he can’t stop there. He gets a girl and a hotel room. Most important of all, he gets some cocaine.
Rational thought has checked out.
He does the cocaine, and finds himself in such a heightened, panicky state of anxiety that he needs something to calm him down. In the past, he’s used small doses of fentanyl, so he leaves the hotel and goes back to the place he’s staying at in Lake Country. He remembers taking a hit of fentanyl off a piece of tin-foil in his bathroom and then, nothing.
Well, almost nothing.
He has vague memories of regaining consciousness in the ambulance and being fully awake on an operating table at Kelowna General Hospital.
Everything else is pieced together afterwards.
Because he was passed out in his bathroom, he didn’t show up on time for work. His co-workers were concerned. Randy is always on time – one tangible benefit from his recent stint in recovery – and they knew enough about him to think he’d relapsed. They went to his place and literally kicked the door down.
They found him on the floor, blue and unresponsive. While one called 9-1-1 another gave him a shot of Naloxone and performs CPR.
He was still unresponsive when paramedics arrived.
Back at the hospital, his life now hangs by the thinnest of threads. He hears doctors and nurses shuffling around the operating room and someone says, ‘He’s going into cardiac arrest.’
He feels sharp pain as an IV feed is inserted directly into his jugular vein and then, nothing. Again.
At some point, a phone call is made to his mom in Alberta telling her to expect the worst. The doctors don’t expect him to make it.
Later he’ll marvel at the timing of it all. If his co-workers find him a few minutes later, maybe a few seconds later, he’s not alive to tell this tale.
Randy wakes up in the ICU, attached to various beeping machines, and that’s where he stays for seven days, giving him plenty of time to think.
Was this another God-shot?
‘Guess he’s not done with me yet,’ Randy muses.
When he’s released from hospital, you’d think he’d made a run straight to the door of a recovery centre, wouldn’t you?
This is certainly his ‘rock bottom’ moment, and he thinks he’s ‘scared himself straight.’
But this is how powerful addiction can be.
What does he actually do? He goes back to the Lethbridge where he has a small relapse. Only then, finally, does he head back to the Adult and Teen Challenge B.C. in Yarrow for another year.
‘Screw this,’ he thinks. ‘I can’t do this on my own.’
It’s day one in recovery program, the sequel. Only 364 to go and it’s not going to be easy.
But Randy really, really, really wants it this time.
He’s had a taste of freedom from addiction and knows he can get back to that place again, so he dives into the bible studies and does all the things he needs to do.
For the first time in his life, his focus starts to shift away from himself.
The ‘poor me’ outlook that’s dragged him down for so long slips away, replaced by a strong desire to help others.
Randy’s face is the first many newcomers see when they walk through the doors of Adult and Teen Challenge B.C.
He is there with encouraging words and guidance as they struggle through those crucial first few weeks. After years of aimless wandering, Randy finally has purpose.
He gets stronger every day, using past failures as opportunities to grow.
‘What could I have done differently in that situation?’ he asks himself as he reflects on all his mis-steps. ‘What could I have learned from that?’
He becomes an open book, sharing his experiences with anyone who will listen. He focuses on being completely transparent and honest, and most of all accountable.
Randy knows that constant vigilance is required to avoid a slip.
It can get away on you so quickly. One minute you’re feeling fine, and the next moment those old impulses are dragging you down. The dark thoughts are still there, popping up at the weirdest times.
He no longer keeps them hidden in the shadows. He voices them to himself and others, like his friend and mentor Brian West, bringing those thoughts into the light to diminish their power.
Vulnerability can be scary, but Randy has found it can also be joyful.
When he is vulnerable, he sees other people following his lead, creating an environment of honesty – people being genuine and real.
Everywhere he goes, he sees people putting up walls around them.
Being vulnerable is scary, but the end result is good, and Randy’s experiences give him a level of authenticity that others might not have as a mentor.
Some people can talk to an addict and give that person the best advice in the world, but if the addict doesn’t respect their opinion, none of it matters.
‘This person hasn’t been where I am,’ they think. ‘They can’t possibly know what any of this is like.’
Randy has been where they are. He does know what all of this is like and he’s been through the Adult and Teen Challenge B.C. program twice.
When he speaks, he speaks with authority.
When he goes to places like Ruth and Naomi’s or The Portal and talks to people struggling with addiction, he can see himself in their faces and sense where they’re at emotionally. And when they hear his story, they see proof that there is a way out.
But it’s tricky, trying to get someone to take that path.
Randy is a huge believer in the healing and transformative power of Jesus Christ, and believes that’s what makes the Adult and Teen Challenge B.C. program so effective.
If he could, he’d point at people and say, ‘You, you and you, let’s go,’ and take them away to recovery.
But he knows some people shy away when religion enters the conversation.
So he doesn’t preach and he doesn’t judge. All he can really do is show them he cares, because he knows you have to ‘be ready’ for it.
Some people are trapped and don’t even know they’re trapped. They’re in a box and they don’t want out because it’s comfortable. It’s killing them, but it’s comfortable.
Hanging out with friends at the shelter all day sounds better than going somewhere to ‘work hard’ on recovery. It’s easier to give up and stay in the bad situation.
All Randy can do is plant seeds and let them know he’s here and Adult and Teen Challenge B.C. is here.
Some days bring wins. Many days bring losses and sometimes it feels like trying to empty the ocean with a bucket.
He lays awake in bed some nights thinking about where he’s been and how someone else needs the same help that he received. But they won’t accept it. He talks to someone one day and they’re dead of an overdose the next, and things can seem so bleak.
Does he stop caring? Or, does he push ahead with work that needs to be done, helping himself while helping others.
Randy chooses to focus on the victories.
He‘ll see people fail, like he did, but he knows they can pick themselves up, dust themselves off and try again, like he did.
The path to their redemption might start with something simple, his hand on their shoulder and four encouraging words.
‘You are worth it.’
SLED FOR ETERNITY SUPPORTS CHILLIWACK MEN’S CENTRE
Adult and Teen Challenge B.C.’s annual Sled for Eternity fundraiser takes place March 28 at the Coquihalla Summit.
Registered participants collect pledges in advance of a 10 kilometre trek into the snowy wilderness.
Sledders start at 10 a.m. at the Britton Creek exit on Highway No. 5 and end up at a cabin near the Manning Peak Trail. The day ends with a wrap-up dinner at the Hope and Area Recreation Centre.
The top fundraiser takes home a 2019 Polaris RMK 850 sled equipped with GPS.
A similar event at Hunter’s Range in Enderby on Feb 29 raised $51,000 for the Okanagan Men’s Centre.
The goal for this one is to raise $50,000.