British Columbia

Former CFL player recalls isolation of addiction

'Addiction . . . pushes away the people that you love the most," says former B.C. Lion

July 02, 2017

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Addictions counselor Moe Elawonibi works at Edgewood Centre  8:45

Moe Elewonibi says every "rock bottom" looks different. For him, it was the day his mom found a crack pipe under his bed.

"She was terrified," Elewonibi told Gloria Macarenko, host of CBC's Our Vancouver


The former CFL and NFL player had turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with the pain of an injury he sustained while playing for the NFL's Washington Redskins in 1991. 

Today, he works as an addictions counsellor at the same treatment centre his mother turned to when she sought help for her addicted son: Nanaimo's Edgewood Treatment Centre.

Elewonibi said he's dedicated to connecting addicts and their families with the resources they need to get clean and manage their addictions.

He urged families to use all resources available to them.

"If love was enough, places like Edgewood wouldn't exist and people wouldn't be dying," he said.

Moe Elewonibi is now the father of two teenagers. He makes sure they are in contact with school counsellors and other drug information resources. (Chuck Stoody/Canadian Press)

B.C.'s overdose crisis has claimed more than 1,400 lives since the beginning of 2016.

The provincial Medical Health Officer recently urged schools and parents to talk to young people about drugs, something Elewonibi said is an important piece of a multi-pronged approach to arm youth with the tools to stay safe.

'Addiction isolates'

As a father of two teenagers, Elewonibi said he understands the importance of communicating about drugs.

He advises parents to reach out to school counsellors, treatment centres and local 12-step programs if they find themselves unprepared to speak to their children about addiction.

Elewonibi said his mother helped him piece his life back together and he feels lucky to have had her support.

"Addiction isolates, that's what it does, it pushes away the people that you love the most," he said.

Edgewood Treatment Facility offers a monthly bursary program that provides an addicted person with a bed in the centre and the opportunity to participate in inpatient, extended care and aftercare programs.

This month, three people were given spaces in the program.

'It's just too difficult for the centre's management to turn people down in the midst of a public health crisis,' said Elewonibi.

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