I craved alcohol years before I had my first drink. My Father would get angry with me because I was constantly asking him what it was like to be drunk, what whiskey tasted like, what was vodka like?
At 13 I got black out drunk for the first time; I had no idea the darkness I had unleashed. I pissed myself, and bragged about it on Monday to my friends. I was all in. My whole life became about Friday night. Worked for my money, made damn sure I had someone old enough to buy it right after school. I couldn’t tie into it fast enough.
At 15 I tried weed. Loved it the first time but it wasn’t long before all it did was give me crippling anxiety. I kept using anyways, all day every day. Anything to escape myself. At 17 I started dealing.
Weed man Dan.
I barely graduated high school and immediately started working as a welder. I ended up obtaining my journeyman ticket but I don’t remember much of those years. I remember we could get away with smoking weed in the welding booths at school, they really did have excellent ventilation.
In 2008 I was laid off from my job in Fort McMurray Alberta and ended up back in my home town of Saskatoon, SK full time. I had recently met a woman whom loved to do drugs as much as I did and we dove in head first. Cocaine turned to meth, turned to oxy and then Fentanyl. We spent 5 years on Fentanyl. Until She learned she was pregnant. We got on the Methadone program and things got stable. I was able to hold down a job and she took good care of herself. Six months after our son was born, we went back at it.
On December 1st, 2016 after years of toxic substance use, 2 social workers and 2 police officers entered my home, saw the disarray, and took my son from my partner and I. They laughed as they did so. He had just turned 3.
On December 16th, 2016, my partner left me and turned to a life on the street.
Terrible things happened in the months to follow. Betrayal, gang violence, and then one day everything went quiet. Going from successful business owner to hopeless drug addict had taken its toll on me. I had nowhere left to run. No family, no friends, my dealer even quit coming around, he was afraid of the gang members that were watching my house. Death threats, hostage situations, oblivion to escape the terror. I wouldn’t shower or even change my clothes for months, dumpster diving daily to support my habit. “Have you had enough yet? Please lock your door Daniel” my mother would plead. All she could do is watch, desperately pray, and wait for the phone call.
On February 12th, 2017, with my home in the final stages of foreclosure, filled with garbage, gas turned off, all my vehicles wrecked, wearing clothes my mom bought me from Walmart, I walked through the doors of Thorpe Recovery Center in Lloydminster, AB.
After 10 days of detox, I was cared for by my family, and taken to Pine Lodge Treatment Center in Indian Head, SK. where I successfully completed a 28-day intensive inpatient treatment program.
On my completion I returned to my home town, Saskatoon, SK. And immediately began engaging the ministry to gain access to my son. Case planning, mandatory meetings, sober living facilities, weekly tox screens, and supervised access was my life now. And on July 31, 2017, my 3-year-old son was returned to my care. For the next year and a half, I was a full-time single dad. And then his mother showed up. She was clean and pregnant. A vicious court battles ensued, the hardest part of my life so far. The final decision was 50/50 custody.
Time went on and fences slowly mended. I started school to become a safety professional in the midst of COVID and one day, an idea was given to me from a place I don’t yet understand.
Hard Knox Talks.
Within my first year, I went from a laptop at my dining room table to a $12k streaming studio in my home, living on student loan and nothing more. I kept grinding, funding opportunities, sponsorship deals, new relationships, new friends. With the analytics and community support laid out Infront of me, On January 13, 2022 I made the decision to drop out of school as an Indigenous Social Working Student and chase my new found dream.
Today, I spend my time building a non-bias platform for the voice of lived experience and those who advocate for it. It is my intention to unit likeminded organizations with each other, and community, and gain nationwide attention to bring down the stigma that is killing people like me faster than the toxic drug supply they have access too.
Today my son’s mother and I have reconciled. We chase this dream together and life is not easy, but what a wonderful ride it is. Mountains to climb, dragons to slay.
If I have learned anything from this life so far, it is to honour the struggle and know that no time is wasted. Every day we learn, every mistake a lesson, and with these scars come the invaluable gifts of lived experience. The ability to save lives with my words makes my life an education, second to none. Thank you for giving space for my story, I hope it hits. If you would like to keep up with everything, we are doing you can find it all starting at www.hardknoxtalks.com
Now go slay the day everyone,