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Liberia and Liberation


An Interview with Tong Liech - Support Worker, Fresh Start Recovery Centre

Scott Douglas Jacobsen *This interview has been edited.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: To begin, was there a family background with addiction or recovery?

Tong Liech: Yes, my father was a bit of a heavy drinker in my younger years, but not anymore.

Jacobsen: How was growing up in terms of observations of a culture of substance use, at least in this country?

Liech:  I grew up in Liberia and I didn’t get into drugs or alcohol until I came to this country. It all started when I was in high school. I was trying to fit in with the new crowd. It started there. Then it grew into an addiction.

Jacobsen: Do you think that is a common story among those that end up using early on?

Liech: I think so. It plays a part because, for me, I really wanted to fit in, and the only way I could fit in was to start drinking and smoking weed, and cigarettes, just to fit in with the crowd.

Jacobsen: Having some time growing up in Liberia then Canada, do you note this as a consistent thing across cultures?

Liech: I was young in Liberia. So, I wasn’t paying attention really. I only know my father and uncle. They used to drink. I actually had my first taste of beer from my father. Substance misuse, I wasn’t really aware.

I would hear about people smoking opium, but I was a kid. Right? So, I wasn’t really registering. I wasn’t really focusing on what that was. There is a big difference there between Liberia and Canada. I moved to Canada when I was 15 turning 16. When I came here, that is when I started drinking. I started drinking and then drugs came later on. I started smoking marijuana when I was 17. Then in my early 20s, I got introduced to cocaine and the addiction sped up.

​​Jacobsen: When did you find Fresh Star Recovery Centre?

Liech: I found them in 2007. I was on the wait list for about a month or a month and a half. Before that, I had attended treatment twice. I relapsed from that program and need a long term treatment program which is where I found Fresh Start.

Jacobsen: What was the experience like for you going there? What were some key moments of realization and awakening for you?

Liech: First, most of the staff working there were in recovery. They understood the addiction first hand because they had all been there. That played a big part. They understood where I had been and what I was going through. That was a big part for me.

I mean, that was the main part. There were other parts like what they were teaching me in group and my daily routine. Things like attending AA and NA meetings a few times a week. It was helpful to me. The counsellors there are all good people.

Jacobsen: You are a support worker for them as well. What are some of the more moving experiences for you?

Liech: They staff really care about every resident. I have seen men come in and try their best to get sober but then they relapse, and they were brought back in – again and again. That’s one of the big things that I see there. These guys running the facility really care. They never give up on anyone.

If a man relapses, he’s still welcome back to treatment. No shame. No judgement. They still have faith and won’t give up on the guy. Other people would have given up on these guys. Fresh Start staff did not give up on them. They went out of their way to help the guys out with whatever they need. They have great love there. That’s what I see.

Jacobsen: For those that starting to sense for themselves that they have problems with substances, and that they likely need help, what would be your message to them? How can they get in contact with Fresh Start Recovery?

Liech: For anyone struggling with addiction and want to turn it around, they can call us at 403-387-6266. We are staffed 24/7 so we will always take your call. You can also find us online www.freshstartrecovery.ca as well as social media sites. Reach out…we are here to help. We can give you the information that you need to know to get started.

Jacobsen: Thank you for your time, Tong.

recovery, addiction, family healing, calgary treatment centre  
  

Being Where I Am


I heard a great comment at a meeting recently. The person sharing said, “I can choose to be where my feet are located, or not.”

I can choose to be where my feet are located. I can choose to be present where I am. I can choose to grow where I am planted.

Or I can fail to choose to be anywhere, which means I am nowhere, and my mind will drift around to whatever shiny thing seems to be attractive and interesting. A pleasant, but wasteful use of time and mental energy for sure. Almost like daydreaming, which is next, but more insidious because it is active and therefore seems useful and appropriate. But at the end of the day, if I am further ahead than at the beginning, it is only good luck.

ShoesOr dreaming and imagining. I used to mistake daydreaming for planning. I would occupy myself with fantasies of grandeur. Material possessions, fame and fortune, sexual conquests and even, I am ashamed to admit, delusions of spiritual magnificence. My lack of presence in the moment was astounding. It might look like I was present and accounted for, but if you could see inside my mind, I was a long way away.

Or thinking about what I am going to say next. That was a favourite trick. Listening would often mean to me “thinking about what I am going to say.” It might look like I am paying attention to you, but if you could look inside my head, you would find that I am busy composing what I am going to say. Oblivious to what is going on and what you are saying to me. My mind is not where my feet are planted, that is for sure.

Or living in fear and trembling in terror. I might look like I am in a state of comfort and ease, but again if you looked inside you would see a different picture. Inside I am imaging all manner of loss and shame arising from goodness knows what. Out of thin air, I can visualize and map out complete and unmitigated disasters. At least that is what it feels like.

So even when I am standing in my shoes, I am not there. I have mental choices and to be present and mindful. That is a choice. My mind will wander at the drop of a hat. But I can choose otherwise and bring myself back to the present. I can choose to be where my feet are located.

And for me, it starts in the morning in my preparation for the day. Thinking ahead. Looking at my calendar and mentally going through the meetings, phone calls and conversations that are ahead. Thinking about each one. Visualizing it and working through likely problems and benefits. Mindful of God during the process.

A recent conversation with Layne is on point. At my suggestion, he had read Dr. Bob and the Good Old Timers. And he noted, “back in the old days, morning preparation for the day was regarded as more important than meetings.” I think that he is right in this. For me, the morning preparation is more important than meetings. (Interesting, when I am diligent in my morning preparation I often feel like a meeting – and when I go I am more often than not giving not getting.

This sets the day up, like a ball on a tee in golf.

Just a final point and an amusing and important wordplay. Have you noticed that if you are Now and Here then you are somewhere, and life has meaning; but if you bang those words together you are Nowhere, and life has no meaning. So mind the gap between Now and Here and in that gap, be mindful for if you lose the gap, then you are Nowhere.

Andy Crooks

 

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FROM OUR BLOG

Blog post summary picture

For anyone struggling with addiction and want to turn it around, they can call us at 403-387-6266. We are staffed 24/7 so we will always take your call. You can also find us online www.freshstartrecovery.ca as well as social media sites. Reach out…we are here to help. We can give you the information that you need to know to get started.

Read more

  

Blog post summary picture

So even when I am standing in my shoes, I am not there. I have mental choices and to be present and mindful. That is a choice. My mind will wander at the drop of a hat. But I can choose otherwise and bring myself back to the present. I can choose to be where my feet are located.

I heard a great comment at a meeting recently. The person sharing said, “I can choose to be where my feet are located, or not.”

I can choose to be where my feet are located. I can choose to be present where I am. I can choose to grow where I am planted.

Read more

  
 

 


 

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