Addiction and Mental Health

Please follow this link: Fundraiser to access the GoFundMe page to donate or lend money to Tony. If anyone is willing to lend money, so that we don’t have to take a high interest loan, please feel free to contact me, Sara Nicholson, directly.

You can access two videos about the fundraiser here: Info about Fundraiser and Update

The following is a description of the fundraiser.

Hello Everyone,

This site has been created to fundraise money to help Tony attend an Addictions and Mental Health Recovery Centre.

The Centre

The Muskoka Recovery Centre is part of the Canadian Addiction Recovery Network. It’s a private centre that uses a non-12-step approach and is one of the top Recovery Centres in Canada.

Tony would like to attend the Centre for two months in order to give himself the best chance of letting go of his addictions and learning new ways to think, cope and live. In order to do so, we need to pay $25,000.

It’s unfortunate that the public health care system is so strained for resources and one must pay what seems an exorbitant amount of money to receive effective health care, but such is the state of our health care system at the moment.

Tony does not believe that we will be able to raise such a large amount, and that is where I come into the picture, and why I have created this site. I do believe. Whatever we cannot fundraise, we will take out a loan for the rest. However, it is not easy to get a loan for the full amount, so we must ask for your help. If I’ve learned anything over the years, it is that when you need help, you should ask for it.

And so we are asking for your help. Donations of any amount would be greatly appreciated and I truly believe that your generosity will have exponential effects in the future.

Tony’s Story

Some of you may know Tony and I, or at least one of us, or perhaps you have come across this site without knowing us at all.

So please let me tell you a little bit about both of us, how Tony got here and why I feel so obliged to create this fundraiser.

In his very early 20’s, Tony began going to casinos with his friends, as many of us have at some point or another. At this point he also started playing poker online. At the age of 22 Tony won $36,000 (ironic that this win is approximately the cost it may very well take to kick the addiction it probably began). A young 20-something winning $36,000. And so I ask you to put yourself in his shoes, or think about how many celebrities we see who unfortunately end up on the road of addiction because of early success they’re not prepared for. Needless to say he had an absolutely wonderful summer with his friends. And the gambling continued.

And it continues to this day. 11 years later.

At the age of 23 Tony fell in love, hard. The gambling had already become an issue, but he successfully quit for over a year at her request. The relationship became long distance, and just before the relationship ended Tony began gambling again. All the while, Tony and his friends spent their weekends drinking. Most of the time, heavily. Again, think of all the 20-year-olds you know who spend their weekends playing beer pong or wasting away a day hungover.

I was going to wait untill the end to say this, but I would like to say at this point, that I am recounting Tony’s entire life not out of pity and not to lay blame on a specific event or situation for what has happened in his life. Addictions and mental health are complex issues. We all gamble, we all drink, but we don’t all develop addictions. I recount all of this because it presents the opportunity for those who have been in his shoes, at some point in time, to connect.

At the age of 25, the relationship with his first true love ended. He spent 2 years heart broken and the gambling and drinking filled her place. It was also at the age of 25 that his mother suggested to him that he may have bipolar disorder. It would only be 2 years later, after another bar fight and a bloody nose that he realized there may be some truth to his mother’s suggestion. At the age of 27 he was then diagnosed by his family doctor with bipolar disorder type 2.


Mental Health

For those who know little of or nothing at all about bipolar disorder, let me do my best to explain quickly. Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression. During the manic phase, individuals experience an elevated or irritable mood. The following behaviors may ensue: rapid speech, racing thoughts, grandiose ideas, increased goal oriented activities, agitation, hyper sexuality and excessive spending. Behaviors tend to be impulsive and high risk.

The depression phase is characterized by: days spent in bed, crying, and a negative outlook on life.

Bipolar disorder is commonly associated with anxiety disorders and substance abuse disorders. It is not uncommon for individuals to exhibit narcissistic and even psychopathic traits when all of these disorders and addictions combine.

People who have known Tony, and who no longer associate with him, have spoken to me about his psychopathic and narcissistic traits, of which I have been well aware of since we first met. I understand that it is not enjoyable to be around such behaviours, and that many people fear that this is simply who he is. I have had the same fear, and so has Tony.

Even after going to gam-Anon groups, Al-Anon groups, and a few different counsellors this fear remained. Only recently did I finally come across someone who has been where Tony has been, and who was not afraid by this. He is an interventionist, and travels across Canada dealing with addicts. He has been my best counsel so far. He was able to remind me of what I already knew, but which can sometimes get drowned out by everyone else’s opinion and my own fears and doubts.

He reminded me that (I will paraphrase and add in my own understanding) personality is simply fluff. As much as human behavior is difficult to change, as we all know from our own struggles trying to lose weight, or quit smoking, or adopt a new idea, or let go of an old one, human behavior does change. It is especially susceptible to change at the neurological level. Brain tumors can switch the personalities of people on and off like a light switch. They become someone they’ve never been. Addictions and our day to day behaviors, and thought processes, affect the neural pathways in our brains and the hormones in our body. And so, addicts, after recovery, don’t always become who they were, but they always become more.

Tony pisses off a lot of people, but he also lays in bed for 2-3 days at a time, rubbing his toes raw, crying, and feeling horrible about himself.

When he is manic, he gets easily irritated. He gets mad and he yells, and his ideas seem absurd. He is impulsive and looks for a fight, sex, a drink, or a gamble. He is like this for 2 or 3 days, and then he spends 2 or 3 days in bed ruminating and feeling guilty about his previous behavior. He fights between feeling like a horrible person and trying to remember that he isn’t. (At this point I would like to point out that there are also 2-3 days where he is happy and sociable and people love him. Although recently, as the drinking has increased exponentially, these days have disappeared)

At the age of 33, Tony has been re-diagnosed, after 2 lengthy visits with a CAMH psychiatrist, as having cyclothymic bipolar disorder. It is a form of bipolar disorder where the manic and depressive phase cycle rapidly, and the phases are not as extreme as the ones seen on most TV representations of bipolar disorder (such representations more closely match Type 1 Bipolar disorder).

Why Rehab is Important

Tony has tried over and over to take things into his own hands. To figure out his ‘problems’ on his own. Tony has been in denial. He has refused to believe that the gambling or drinking was an issue. As someone who believes in moderation, I have been by his side in his attempts to curb his alcohol intake and gambling. Was I enabling? Yes, I was. But over the 2 years that I’ve known Tony I have learned much as well. And that is part of the reason why I have created this site. I would love to think that Tony can find happiness on his own, that simply a change in his environment will bring him peace. That a teaching job (because he is an amazing Teacher, and I don’t think I know anyone who would contend that point), or a dog, or a beautiful house by the water with lots of wood to chop will allow him to live the life he dreams. I would love to believe this to be true. But I believe that in order for his dreams to become a reality, he must go to rehab. We all need therapy, whether we like to admit it or not. And no amount of naltrexone or medications will do the job. Talk therapy and delving into ourselves, our fears, our doubts, our belief systems is what we all need. Unfortunately, that is the one area in which Tony always fails. Being consistent with therapy. THAT is what rehab brings to the table. THAT is why the Muskoka Recovery Centre is so important.

I have obviously set up this site as well because I believe in Tony and I want the best for him. We have been together, we have been apart, but at the end of the day he is my friend, and will always be my friend.


Believing

I think the main issue we all have is that we lose faith sometimes, we lose our belief in people, in humanity. We let our fears and our doubts put up walls between us and others. We walk away from that which scares us, or offends us, or makes us feel bad. And we should at times. We need to set healthy boundaries for our own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. But nothing is set in stone, and everything is context specific. To walk away when someone is disrespecting you is important. But keeping your door open for when that person asks for help is also just as important.

So I ask, how would you treat yourself? How would you want others to treat you if you were in Tony’s position? And to answer the question not with your own inner critic , but with the side of you who isn’t scared, who knows that everything will work itself out in due time.

When I met Tony, I thought that he was going to be either the worst or best thing that had ever happened to me. Needless to say bipolar Tony has been both. He has been a ‘worse’ person than me, but he has also been a better person. He has shown me who I do not want to be, but he has also shown me who I do want to be. I have seen Tony be more empathetic, more giving and more loving than anyone I know.

He is no angel, but his demons can be dealt with. I am not religious, but I do believe in the saying ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone’. I believe that two wrongs don’t make a right. I don’t believe in an eye for an eye, or a death for a death. It is these beliefs that create and support war.

I don’t believe that we are ever too far down one road to stop, turn around and walk the other way. The farther down the road we are, the farther we have to walk back, but there is no edge (with the exception of death), and I’d rather not let anyone, anyone, get to that point.

We all have addictions, in some shape or form, and I believe that we should all help each other however we can.


What happens with the donations?

Lastly, I’d like to point out that if ever you have lent or given Tony money in the past, please know that this time it will be put to good use. Tony has no access to the raised funds, and if somehow, for some reason, he does not go to rehab, the funds will be returned to everyone.

Please remember, that giving Tony money in the past, is like putting an alcoholic in a room full of alcohol, or a drug addict in a room filled with drugs.

We all ‘know’ better but we don’t always ‘do’ better. There is a poster in the Toronto subway and it asks the question ‘How young do they have to be before we start caring’, in reference to youth homelessness. I ask: why does there have to be an age at which we care? Can we not care for each other at all ages?

It’s hard to say no. We always want more. And that is something we all need to work on. Sometimes the best way to start is to remove everything. To be still. To be with yourself. Removing the temptation is not a solution but it is a start. Moderation is key, but it’s much easier to work up to moderation from nothing, than to try to attain it from addiction. This is what the recovery centre offers.

After Therapy

Tony will have to continue to work after this. Ther eis a great resource in Toronto called Helix Healthcare.
They offer outpatient treatment to those transitioning between rehab and returning to society. Often times many addicts relapse simply because there is a such a huge disparity between secluded and safe rehab, and day to day life.

Rehab is not the end of therapy it is just the beginning,
the beginning of something new, and possibly… the beginning of something great.