Everyone who battles addiction has a story, a reason why they turned to alcohol or drugs.
Today, the first 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.
“For me to be here right now is a miracle.”
Randy Dikun utters those 10 words without the slightest hint of hyperbole as he talks about the night he almost died, the night he calls ‘rock bottom’ in his battle with drug addiction.
“I probably shouldn’t be here, telling this story right now,” he insists. “A doctor I talked to afterwards told me he’s never ever seen anyone closer to death than I was.”
What follows is a story of descent into addiction and hard-earned redemption, and it starts in Lethbridge, Alberta.
It involves a heart-broken 14-year-old boy, trying to hold it together after a father with mental health issues commits suicide.
Randy’s father wasn’t perfect. He battled drug and alcohol addiction and was a deeply flawed role model. But a father is a father. Deeply flawed or not, he is a hero to the young boy who looks up to him, and the suicide leaves Randy “emotionally bent in a weird way” at a critical time in his life.
Is this alone what triggers everything else in this story? No. That’s far too simplistic.
If this tragedy is what pushes the teenager over the edge, it’s only because Randy has already been standing at the edge of the abyss for a while, looking into the void. Pushed? Jumped? Doesn’t really matter. Either way, he is destined for the darkness.
Randy believes he is the product of his environment and his chaotic upbringing, and everything only gets worse after his father dies. He and his mom struggle through days that sometimes seem hopeless.
When he starts to feel isolated and withdrawn and needs a way to ‘fit in’ with his peers, he does drugs. When he feels anxious, which he almost always does, he turns to drugs because he desperately wants to ‘feel at ease.’
Everywhere he looks inside his home and outside in his neighborhood, drugs are accessible. They are normal. Him using drugs is normal and he doesn’t have a problem, yet.
But there comes a time when a user steps across a line, so softly sometimes that he or she doesn’t even know they’ve done it. From recreational use and ‘I can take it or leave it, it morphs into something far more sinister. One day, Randy finds that he can’t do without. He no longer has a choice. He’s got to have the drugs.
Children grow up wanting to be doctors, astronauts and hockey stars. No one grows up aspiring to be an addict, but once you take too many steps down the wrong path, it’s easy to lose your way, and that’s where Randy finds himself.
At first it’s a way to escape from reality, then it becomes your reality, he says.
Randy is introduced to cocaine in his mid-20s and starts ‘dabbling’ in harder drugs like crack-cocaine and heroin. Now he’s really in trouble, because there’s no such thing as ‘dabbling’ in hard drugs. Once he opens that door and steps through, his life truly starts spiraling down. It’s as if he was clinging to the edge of the cliff before, and he’s just let go.
He is falling, falling, falling.
Randy is engaged at this point. He has two daughters and he makes good money working in the oil industry that is flourishing in northern Alberta.
From the outside looking in, he has the white picket fence life with the house and the trailer and the weekend camping trips.
He describes himself as a ‘functioning addict,’ using after work and on weekends. When his youngest daughter is born he swears up and down that he’s going to get his life straight and be a good dad, and with the best of intentions, he tries very hard to do that, but he’s fooling himself.
It barely registers with Randy that he is spending $200-300 a day to feed his addiction.
Many days he doesn’t show up at work. He spends nights in hotel rooms getting high with prostitutes, and the fact that he’s still employed at his union job, with a dismal attendance rate of 11 per cent, is amazing.
Randy wakes up every morning wanting to do better and be the father his two girls need, but the pull of addiction is so powerful that he finds himself willing to give up his family and destroy his life just to get that next high.
He does several stints in recovery programs, stays clean for a few months at a time and then relapses, sneaking around again until things become unmanageable.
Then back to treatment, carrying on a vicious cycle of highs and lows.
He tells himself ‘little lies’ to justify what he does, and so it is that the night before Father’s Day he is missing his daughters and he goes out to get a ‘little bit’ of drugs. Just a little bit is what he tells himself, but once he starts, Randy can’t stop, and this binge lands him in a detox centre.
The next morning he finds himself on the phone with one of his daughters. He is crying. He is apologizing. He’s gotten help before, but he finally accepts that he needs help.
The Adult and Teen Challenge Men’s Centre in Lake Country, B.C. is recommended to Randy in the strangest way.
He calls it a ‘God shot.’
He’s in that detox centre when he gets a call from a friend. How the friend knows he’s there and how the friend knows how to get in touch with him, he’ll never know. The friend is an addict too, and he’s talking about this place in B.C. that’s helped him.
Randy is desperate enough to try it.
He goes into it with a fundamental Christian belief in ‘something,’ instilled when his grandparents used to take him to church on Sundays. He’s met several Christian guys over the years at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and found them to be good sorts who tried hard to take him under their wing.
The idea of a recovery program centered on religion though? He’d be lying if he didn’t admit to being apprehensive.
But he’s also at the very end of his rope. He’s on his knees, crying out for help, willing to give anything a try.
So in he goes, and he is immediately surprised.
The people who welcome him say things like, ‘We care about you’ and ‘You’re important.’ One man, Brian West says, ‘You’re worth it man. You’re worth it.’
These are things he needs to hear.
For years, people in Randy’s life have been telling him that he’s no good. In their anger they’ve told him he’s a screw-up and he’ll never figure it out.
They’ve been right so far.
Their words have become a part of who he is, this belief that he is worthless. But now, someone is telling him that’s not true.
‘I’m not just a piece-of-crap no-good drug addict and I do have something to offer,’ he thinks. ‘I’ve made some bad choices, but that’s not who I am.’
The program at Adult and Teen Challenge B.C. isn’t easy, by design.
It’s one year long and Randy learns early on that there are lots of rules to be followed. Being told when he can and cannot make a phone call is tough, because he desperately wants to hear the voices of his children. He is expected to be at certain places at certain times and follow a strict dress code.
He is an addict, naturally predisposed to being self-centered, and giving up control is jarring.
He wants to rebel and test these people to see if they mean what they say.
But there are consequences that keep him in line. He doesn’t want to lose phone call privileges, because he won’t be able to talk to his kids. He doesn’t want extra classwork or no coffee in the morning. He likes Saturday movie nights and so, for the most part, he does what he’s told.
Randy does have a major problem with being late. He can’t be on time for anything, and that gets him in trouble a few times.
He has to learn punctuality the hard way, and eventually gets the message.
A huge part of recovery is being honest with yourself and others, and Randy struggles with that. He’s become so good at lying to protect himself, and it holds him back. Not until he finally comes clean about the things that he’s done and truly reveals who he is, does he start to turn a corner.
A bible verse, Philippians 4:8, inspires him.
‘Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.’
He clings to that verse like a life preserver in the ocean.
Randy is so negative in his thinking and he’s told that ‘as a man thinks, so he is.’ But do they know how hard it is breaking free from old habits and leaving those old destructive thinking patterns behind?
He perseveres though, and as he learns he feels like he is gaining ground for the first time in a very long time.
Randy starts feeling good, so good at one point that he has to fight the temptation to leave. He gets a couple months sobriety under his belt and his eyes are clear. He’s thinking right for the first time in, well, he doesn’t remember how long it’s been. He wants to get back to his family and get his life re-started.
But he remembers the commitment he made in the beginning, to stick it out no matter what trials he faced.
After trying and failing in eight or nine prior stints in recovery programs, Randy wants genuine recovery this time. He wants to walk through the challenges and not around them. He doesn’t want to run away from anything, so he stays.
And he graduates.
One year later he steps into the sunshine a changed man, ready to take on the world.
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.
To get involved as a sledder or sponsor a rider, visit teenchallengebc.com/sled.