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(Introduction by Babz the Navigator)
June 30, 2019
A friend recently lost a close friend to an accidental fentanyl overdose and according to his mother, he had been contending with his mental health issues for a long time. I encourage you to take a few moments and read their story. Ask questions, be vigilant, reach out.
The summer is upon us. The visibility of the homeless, the less fortunate, people with mental health and addiction issues becomes more acute.
Two police officers recently saved two young teenagers with Narcan who had been doing cocaine laced with fentanyl.
The fetanyl crisis is going to get worse. These deadly crystals are expanding by being mixed with a widening range of recreational drugs. From heroin to now even marijuana and everything in between.
We just want everyone to be vigilant, safe and aware of family members and friends.
Don’t be silent – help in whatever way you can… Communication is the beginning and most important 1st step.
Last year, I lost a close friend in Ben, 22 yrs old and a terrific young man to an accidental fentanyl overdose. We are still grieving and dealing with the loss, as are his family and friends.
Here is what Ben’s mom wrote:
(Originally posted on the Stella’s Place website: https://stellasplace.ca/whatwouldbensay/)
Ben died in Toronto on April 16, 2018 at 22, due to accidental Fentanyl poisoning.
Ben had no drug or alcohol issues in high school in Halifax, was an honour student, took music lessons, had part-time jobs and then went to Ryerson’s Media Production program on a scholarship. He worked weekends at the Toronto YMCA as a lifeguard and swim teacher. He loved staying fit. He was handsome, funny, smart and charming, but also impulsive and at times, tempestuous.
We now know from Ben’s notebooks, browser history and his friends that he experimented widely with drugs in Toronto. There is no evidence of addiction, but he tried LSD, cocaine, MDMA, opiates, mushrooms, and was a cannabis user. Once or twice a month, an acquaintance provided a pill from a parent’s Percocet prescription. He and a buddy bought a jug of Etizolam. These substances were just a click or text away.
We saw no sign of any of this.
We are a loving, stable family with close ties; he came home to Halifax three times a year, and we visited him in Toronto. When he had a problem or worry, he shared it and could count on our love and support.
But in the last year of his life, he was searching, and became less communicative. He left school to try his hand at music and art. Then he left the YMCA to work in a downtown restaurant. He told us he hoped a busier job would help with his growing anxiety.
He had tried traditional counseling but ended it when he left school and was off our health plans. He didn’t want us to pay, but then did not use his own YMCA health plan. He assured us he had all the tools he needed, that he was meditating and exercising.
But having the tools and using them are two different things. According to his phone history, in late March 2018, Ben bought an opiate via text. He bought from the same individual 4 or 5 times between March 23 and April 14. Even close friends had no idea he was doing this. The final purchase killed him. He was alone in his bedroom, with headphones on.
How could this happen? We’ve turned ourselves inside out to figure that out, and what we missed as parents. Maybe because he was anxious, because he was searching, because he was adventurous and creative, because drugs were common in the social group and music he loved. Perhaps just because it was available: he was vulnerable and could easily satisfy an impulse. Or maybe experimentation had evolved to something else.
When he was a teenager in Halifax, Ben was independent and responsible. In Toronto, he never missed work and paid his own bills. Days before he was poisoned, he proudly texted his dad that he completed his own taxes for the first time, and “felt like an adult.” He was in touch with an ex-girlfriend; he told her he was tired of his anxiety running his life, and would explore counselling options at Stella’s Place. He bought a money order for first and last month’s rent on a new shared apartment.
Things were looking up, but he then bought a drug that he had no idea was laced with Fentanyl. The coroner told us he didn’t have a chance; the drug had 7 times the lethal dose of this poison.
Ben’s story is important because he wanted to go to Stella’s but never got there.
His death tells us that anxiety, mood disorders, and substance abuse can affect anyone. And yes, tainted drugs stole the opportunity to work through a difficult phase of life. The risk for vulnerable young people is so high in the Fentanyl age. No second chances.
But there’s something else: He lied to the people he loved.
We believe he was trying to protect us, but really we just lost a chance to help. On a Skype call one night, he told us: “I carry a lot of guilt and shame.” He said the reason was that he felt he should have been working harder on his music, should be more focused. He told us, without telling us.
He texted a close friend a few weeks before he died. He said he was going through a rough time and was tempted to self-medicate. She offered love, help and support but he laughed off his previous text, said he was just fine.
This was a pattern with friends. Reach out, mention drugs or anxiety, and then say he was just joking, that he was okay.
Guilt and shame, and perhaps pride, kept our son from getting the help and support he needed. He was so very hard on himself.
Ben did not make it to Stella’s and it breaks our hearts. We want to help other young people access these resources, and to encourage them to do so. Most of our Stella’s donations came from Ben’s own bank account. He worked hard for that money; he would be so proud to help others.
We think he would tell them:
Please reach out. Please accept help and support, and don’t wait.
June 10, 2019
The final Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls report has finally been presented, with an extensive set of critical recommendations. Over the last week, I’ve had many discussions and debates on whether the violent actions targeted towards Indigenous women was a genocide or not. People seem to be focused on that issue rather than the reality of the specific, targeted, racist, fatal violence, strategically targeted on these women. I believe it’s a genocide. It’s time for the current government to do an immediate apology as the government in Australia did and needs to immediately set up a fund to assist the living victims. The government must also implement all of the recommendations of the report.
All violence against women is totally unacceptable. Write your local MPs and Prime Minister to make your views known in advocating the necessary changes.
Blog with Babz #6 – RtP Career App
We’re surging ahead with our educational Road to Possible Career App. Through a diverse collection of video interviews, the intention is to provide an alternative resource for high school students / youth on knowing who you are and providing guidance on how to discover what you love and want to do.
RtP is working with a downtown high school as a beta site. Students and teachers are watching the selected video clips from RtP’s extensive profile list. These videos illustrate the process each person followed in determining their career. We’ll be getting a lot of feedback from them in order to improve and create more complete resources.
We’ve got an extensive selection of people that accurately represent the North American population. It’s completely inclusive. The objective is to create an accessible resource for dialogue, growth, discovery, inspiration and self-awareness.
We’ll keep you posted! And remember, you can add your thoughts, experiences and responses on our blog. We want to engage in dialogue with you, not just a one-way monologue… So let’s all hear from you!
Blog with Babz #5 – Moving Forward
Adversity is faced by all of us. None of us escape those confrontations with obstacles.
Sometimes it’s people or institutions, even objects. Always an interruption or block. Sometimes seeming insurmountable, overwhelming defeat… But we usually find a way through or around or over / under. Our will to move forward always seems to get us through… Always with support, always with resources. Never alone.
RtP’s profiles share some of their adversity. We don’t want to exploit or be melodramatic. So far it seems to be working… Finding the right balance of depth without invasive exposure or indiscretion.
We hope that these profiles provide a source of positive motivation, humour and above all, empathy.
December 30, 2018
Mental illness. The phrase has only recently taken on the weight of its significance, and even more recently have we begun to understand the complexity of the many conditions. It’s become so glaringly obvious that so many of us have or will experience a mental health condition to some degree and in some form in our lifetime.
A dear friend of mine who has worked closely with individuals suffering from mental health conditions, and even has a son who navigated through his own conditions, once said:
“I have learned through my life experiences and my profession that I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have some type of mental health condition and physical disability. The difference is only degree. That’s what determines obvious or subtle behavior – degree. What type should be treated, what shouldn’t. What should be marginalized, avoided and shunned, what should be accepted. What is ‘normal’, what isn’t. Stigma is a learned judgment that builds walls and maintains inequality.”
Working on Road to Possible has allowed me to listen to and share a space with some amazing individuals that have experienced and dealt with, or continue to deal with varying mental health conditions. No two stories are the same and no two outcomes are the same. However, it’s the support, understanding and patience of the people around them that allows for the path to healing.
Mental illness is only a stigma as long as we are ignorant to its prevalence.
Blog with Babz #2 – Growing on the Journey
December 30, 2018
Road to Possible has been quite a journey to say the least. There have been a few rough terrains, but I can honestly say this is a trip worth taking again, and again, and again.
There are so many stories to be told and so many special individuals behind those diverse stories.
The best part about this experience has been meeting with these remarkable people, listening to their stories, watching their Talkies and their follow-up interviews.
It’s amazing what you can learn about an individual when you engage in the right conversation and “listen” to their responses, and believe it or not, what you can learn about yourself.
I’ve learned so many lessons throughout this process.
So many of the experiences at the heart of all these individual stories and journeys are so easily transferable to our own personal lives.
It reminds us how connected we as human beings truly are.
Often times, who we are as human beings is boiled down to a weak reduction of name, nationality, gender, sexuality, and occupation.
Road to Possible dives deeper and explores the experiences that truly make a person who they are, what defines their personality, how they interact with the world and the space around them.
Why certain choices are made and not others, and what attracts human beings to certain passions and not others.
We spend so much of our time contemplating our own lives. I’ve learned while working on this show that it is possible to learn and grow more when I take in other people’s experiences. The truth is, we might actually be able to make better sense of our own journey when we allow ourselves to experience other people’s.
RtP (Road to Possible) is all about the human experience, joining these different humans on their own road to possible. Hopefully it pushes us and encourages us all to work harder in the pursuit of our own goals and ambitions…
Blog with Babz #1 – Your GPS
November 1, 2018
Road to Possible is all about taking you on a journey – a road trip, if you will – through the lives of some incredible individuals who are pursuing or living their own dreams and ambitions. Imagine, if you will, driving across the country and stopping frequently at new and interesting destinations along the way. You’ll be entertained, intrigued, and you’ll even learn some lessons and learn more about your own personal path along the way.
As your Navigator, my role is simple: I’m here to navigate you through the journey. Your… GPS. However, unlike a GPS, I promise not to steer you through any dark alleys, into dead-end streets or force you to make any unwanted U turns. I’m so excited to continue getting to know our profiles and help share their unique stories with you.
EDITORIAL / ANNOUNCEMENT: Bonus Talkie with Arys Dejan
October 5, 2018
There’s been a change in plans with today’s scheduled Talkie…
We were going to begin our Talkie Series with nutrition student, Neesa McRae-McNicholls. However, she decided she doesn’t want to make her interview public. We fully support her decision. At Road to Possible, we do everything we can to make sure our profiles are comfortable.
So instead, tune in after 5 PM today for a Bonus Talkie of Arys Déjan performing his spoken word poetry:
SOMETIMES ART IS NOT ABOUT MAKING ART – by Carlos Delgado
December 12, 2017
Originally posted on Carlos’ website: https://www.artcarlosdelgado.com/blog-1/
The holiday season may be upon us. For me this time of the year always makes me think of how we can give back. I have always felt that artists have a social responsibility to give back through their art. I have throughout my career always tried to find ways to do this, because art isn’t always just for the sake of doing art.
A few years back when the refugee crisis started on a large global scale we saw large number of people leaving their homelands, putting themselves through treacherous trips to bring a better future to their families and themselves. Coming from a country that has the second biggest number of internally placed refugees, this had a huge impact on me. In response to this, I wanted to find the humanity within it all, and not have it just be numbers of people. I wanted to find hope that we can find in the darkest hour. So, I created a series called Travelers Under the Moon. Pics below:
This year before I left for my trip to Colombia, I decided to donate some of the pieces in the series to a local agency who works with supporting refugee every day, FCJ Refugee Centre. I am honored for them receiving me and my artwork. Thank you for your conversation, the delicious lunch and generosity. Here are some pics:
I still have two large (4’x’5 ) pieces from this series that I would love to donate to someone who can put it up somewhere and show hope, show human connection, show the energy of love and family. If interested feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org