'I'm able to help others now': Recovery Day celebrates stories of conquering addictions

Being able to help people struggling with addiction helps keep Ben Murray, one of the speakers at Thunder Bay's event, going.

Speakers, stories, music and other activities part of annual event

Rockin' Recovery - Recovery Day, an initiative of the Thunder Bay Drug Strategy and Drug Awareness Committee, featured stories of recovery.
People who are recovering from addictions are sharing their stories in Thunder Bay today. We hear from Ben Murray, who talks about his experience with opioid addiction. 8:23

Being able to help people struggling with addiction helps to keep Ben Murray going.

"I just like the fact that I'm able to help others now," Murray said before he was due to speak at Rockin' Recovery — a Recovery Day event at Marina Park in Thunder Bay, Ont., on Wednesday. "I've been through it."

"I can kind of give insight to the road that they can take to get to the place they need to be," he said. "That's what keeps me going."

Recovery Days started in 2012 in Vancouver and Victoria "as a public display of the freedom from addiction," organizers of the Thunder Bay event said in a written release. The goal of the events is to build awareness, challenge stigma and celebrate stories of recovery.

Murray said he began smoking marijuana at a very young age, but it wasn't until his exposure to Oxycodone, when he was 13, that things started spiraling out of control.

"The guy I would get [marijuana] from would tell me that these Percocet things were really valuable, and they mixed well with pot," Murray recalled. "So I would trade him at first."

"And then I ... ended up trying it, not knowing it was synthetic heroin, pretty much."

That led to his addiction progressing, he said. Murray started experiencing withdrawal symptoms when he wasn't taking pills, and eventually turned to intravenous use.

Sold father's instruments

But it was the effect his addiction was having on his family that compelled Murray to get help.

"My father pretty much lost everything trying to help me," Murray said. "I sold all of his instruments — he was a musician, a working musician, so he didn't have a lot to begin with."

He did have a catalogue of instruments that were untouched, part of a collection, Murray said.

"I took them all out of the case and pawned them," he said. "He didn't even find out until years later. It was horrible."

Methadone played role in recovery

Now, he credits the methadone maintenance program with helping him recover.

"It's been about 10 years now," Murray said before Recovery Day. "It's really a program that if you choose to use it, it'll work. There is no real oversight, so it's up to you. But that's the thing: as addicts, you can't really be told to quit anyway."

"If you're there for help, then you're going to get the help you need."

These days, Murray said he's started speaking to youth in northern communities about addiction.

Challenging stigmas

A big part of the reason he speaks to others about his experience, Murray said, is to help put an end to stigma. He said he speaks to the positive role methadone has played in his recovery.

"Only five per cent of ... opioid addicts stay sober for the rest of their life," Murray said. "The thing that methadone does is it gives you distance away from that lifestyle."

"So, maybe stay on it a year — maybe stay on it 10 years, depending on how bad your addiction was, or mental health issues or whatever that you need to work out — and then you can finally come off."

"You're distant enough away from that that you can kind of integrate back into society a lot easier than, say, somebody who goes cold turkey and has to jump back in," he said.