Addiction’s Powerful Hold

Jay Barnard’s story of addiction goes back to age eight. Unable to cope with the effects of his parents’ separation and divorce, he turned to food for comfort. Within months he had bulged to a disturbing 200 pounds. By age 12 Jay was drinking, then drinking more.

At age 14 he bought marijuana on the street. Then it wasn’t long before he was using harder drugs.

Out of control

“I started by raiding my grandfathers liquor cabinet,” says Jay. “Then, with no fear of being arrested or ripped off, I was scoring drugs on the street. Getting high gave me a brief escape from my overwhelming feelings of sadness, confusion and abandonment.”

Eventually, the consequences of drug abuse and addiction became worse than the original problem Jay was trying to cope with. At age 18 Jay was booted out of school for selling illegal drugs—he used part-time jobs as hideouts for drug dealings—he was jailed for stealing a truck—busted with $13,000 worth of marijuana on his possession—did jail time for driving under suspension.

In an attempt to create a new life, Jay left Kenora, Ont., a small community northwest of Thunder Bay where he had grown up, for Sudbury. He found a job selling everything from trinkets and toys to kitchenware and computers. He was top salesman. His door-to-door expertise took him with the same company to Oshawa, Hamilton and Toronto.

Meanwhile, Jay was too weak to overcome his addictions. His appetite for crack cocaine increased and his drug cocktail now included the highly addictive heroin.

Following a promotion, Jay moved to Barrie, Ontario. He created a business that soon crumbled due to his cocaine binges. Devastated financially and psychologically, Jay ingested a hazardous amount of unfamiliar pills, with the intent to end his life. After a brief hospital stay, he was back to drinking whiskey and smoking crack.

Jay returned to Kenora and became a cook’s apprentice at the Best Western Hotel. It wasn’t long before he was arrested for assault while trying to claim a drug debt. He was fired and thrown in prison.

“Jail was always safe for me,” explains Jay. “I had no bills to pay—no worries. I was fed and clothed. This time was different.” Now age 27, in a moment of clarity, Jay reflected on the mess he was in. He had put the need to use drugs above everything else, including important relationships. He knew he had to get clean.

Following his release, Jay detoxed. Soon after, he enrolled in The Salvation Army’s Anchorage Addictions Program in Ottawa. Close to 1,500 kilometres away, the residential, four-month, abstinence-based treatment program for chemically-dependent men, would save his life.

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