When I first started my recovery from drugs and alcohol it was a daunting task to find something to fill all my time. I had been using all my time and energy seeking my drug of choice and the rest of the time consuming it. One of the first things I picked up was an old hobby that my father tried to teach me when I was much younger, but just failed to connect with it. Photography became one of the biggest parts of my life. Starting with a small film camera and then into the digital world I would spend my early days just walking community trails and taking photos of flowers and landscapes. The idea was to just be out doing something; and at the same time fulfilling the spirituality of being in nature. After many years of tuning my hobby and then returning to university to fulfil my Step 12 in giving back; I started into the world of Addiction Therapy. Being in recovery and having the empathy to understand other addicts, it only made sense for me to start my life path of giving back. Today I am proud to be working for the Orchard Recovery Centre on Bowen Island. After several years of experience in the private sector in Ottawa and then within the Federal Government; I have landed where I think I truly belong. What does photography have to do with being an Addictions Therapist, or even for someone in recovery? For me it's almost everything. It helped me as an addict connect with nature and spirituality; as a therapist it also allowed me unravel my thoughts and feelings during the week from transference listening to the many diverse and traumatic stories of other addicts finding their way into recovery. Just being able to smell the air of nature and then capturing the beauty. It becomes a mindful task of setting the tone and emotion of what I'm feeling and seeing at the same time. This simple hobby provides meaning and purpose and allows me to release the energy from helping others.
Working in such a beautiful environment and such a therapeutic setting is a dream come true. I am now able to work and live in a place that not only gives back, but also allows me to nurture my own recovery. Having a work setting that can assist in one's own recovery allows my passion to grow and ignite other's to motivate change. My passion for being able to do what i love to do in photography and blessed with a workplace that allows me to use all my skills in assisting and motivating change to others is paramount.
Being able to provide a group session in a setting such as this allows myself as a therapist to feel like I am boundless and infinite in where we can take our clients. Clients in recovery are given the opportunity to connect with nature and work with staff that not only appreciate the setting and power that it contains, but they live and breath it as well. With such a unique staff that all share a similar mantra to the holistic healing process can only improve change and contribute to a healthy notion of sobriety. Bringing the healing power of a healthy mind, body and spirit is everything a client and a practitioner will get while working at the Orchard.
Much like photography, therapy and recovery is raw art. There is and always has been a stigma behind the starving artist and the sickness and disease of addiction. Like capturing a moment in time and then returning to the same spot to capture it again a year later we see vast differences. Whether it be a regrown forest that has come back from a forest fire, or the shrinking of a glacier as the warming earth destroys it's pristine beauty. In addiction and recovery we see the same change. The broken soul that enters recovery and finds the light and balance, leaving in a positive soul changing way; and at times struggling and fading back into the snarl of active addiction. The Orchard allows it's staff and clients to feel comfortable in eradicating the stigma of addiction and recovery allowing everyone involved to feel they can openly take steps in a non judgemental way, experiencing themselves in an honest and open way for the first time.
Photography will always be a part of my active recovery from addiction. It will continue to be my form of purpose and meaning along with a spiritual gift in capturing the natural world. As a therapist it gives me the ability to settle and process feelings from the week, allowing me to let go of stress and refuel my soul. Photography is something that profoundly changed me as an addict and keeps me in the maintenance stage of change. My blessing is that others will be able to find their purpose and meaning and work towards acknowledging and working towards sober living.