An Interview with Pat Cole
By. Scott Douglas Jacobsen
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What is your own background with Fresh Start Recovery? How did you find them and become involved with them?
Pat Cole: FS actually found me. I met with Stacey after a couple of calls from Bruce H and from there forward it has been 8 years come September
Jacobsen: When you reflect on your own life, what lead you in an interest and life involvement with Fresh Start Recovery?
Growing up as a young girl, we moved to a small town and the first thing my dad did was to find the local drug dealer and threatened to break both his legs and arms if he sold to his kids. Well that was my first initiation and I never had much to do with drugs so my knowledge was limited, but not to alcohol. Bruce and I worked together a few years prior to me joining the FS Team. Initially it was just a job, but after being part of FS family, I realized how much my own family history is reflected in and part of the addictions/recovery community. I have seen the most beautiful changes in both my personal life and the friends I have. I recently lost a family member to this disease and all I can think of is the daughter he leaves behind and what the future would have been for him if he had found recovery.
Jacobsen: Regarding your own position as the financial administrator and human resource administrator, what tasks and responsibilities, and difficulties and enjoyments, come with the position?
Tasks/Responsibilities - ensuring we have funding for the men who come for treatment. The difficult part is working through red tape with some funding programs, but once they understand how our program works, they are more engaging and want to try and have funding available for not just this one individual but for others who may come later. We have men with different backgrounds and with that comes a variety of funding resources. We have some that absolutely, due to family obligations, can't cover the cost of treatment but you can see how bad they want it. When we decide to waive the fees for program, the look of disbelief and relief on the individuals face is the most amazing thing to see. The facial transformation is the same as if you told someone they won the lottery! It is that much of a stress reliever. Their whole attitude changes both internally and externally. Responsibility of the job is knowing what part of a mans program I can help with and which part I can't. My enjoyment comes from watching families come for gratitude ceremonies or birthdays and celebrate the accomplishment of their loved one, the family reconnection. The part I love most about doing my job is when men come to sit and just have a chat and tell me about their day. They will try to figure out if I am in recovery or not which is funny. I tell them it doesn't matter the only difference is the decisions and life choices we made in circumstances that changed our paths.
Jacobsen: What are some ways people can become involved and help out with Fresh Start Recovery?
Cole: We do a variety of fundraising and friend raising events throughout the year. We have our annual motorcycle road rally and are always looking for volunteers. This year’s ride is August 25th. Taxes are one of the biggest needs that need to be done for the men. Some have just one year but others come with ten years worth of history to be processed with Revenue Canada. Volunteers with experience in filing taxes for either an individual or an individual who has had a business would be a great help to us in helping men who struggle in this area.
Jacobsen: What are some of the heartwarming stories that you have come across in your time at Fresh Start Recovery? What has been one of the most drastic, positive life turnarounds that you have seen in your time there?
Cole: I can name a few stories I have seen since I started with Fresh Start. I am so amazed at the determination, strength, heart and talent that each man brings with them. We had a gentleman come in who lost his brother to the disease. He had already been with us a few times but left each time thinking he was there. This time his thinking, his heart, emotions, all were put on the table for everyone to see. He celebrated a year of sobriety and it was the most amazing experience to watch as his family stood there with so much love and pride.
Jacobsen: Any final thoughts or feelings in conclusion?
During my time with FS I have met men that they vary in age, so walking through the front doors of FS, whether it be the first or the tenth time, takes so much determination and courage.
There are some who walk through our doors and they look so lost, scared and imitated while others are glad to be home, you can feel and see the tension leave and the body relax, knowing they are somewhere safe. After 16 weeks of group, gratitude comes and we are like proud parents who see their children filled with a new self confidence, stand tall, hear the sound of laughter as it comes back to them, we see them form bonds with both staff and their fellow housemates.
Just to watch and see the growth is something I am grateful to be able to experience and share. Someone once looked up the definition of "Recovery" - a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength. Then he had to define "normal" - conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected. I believe we are all in Recovery from something AND we are all also normal, it is the path we follow which ultimately brings us together and allows us to see how much we can accomplish with a little love, sometimes tough love, and always friends.