Manitoba·Point of View

'I cannot fail': A former inmate and recovering addict on his hopes and fears as he leaves prison

After completing a nine-month sentence for crimes he committed to fuel his drug addiction and participating in a long-term addictions recovery program, Jason Walmsley was released from Headingley Correctional Centre in May.

'Never have I been so scared': Jason Walmsley was released in May, after participating in recovery program

Jason Walmsley agreed to diarize his journey to recovery after being released from Headingley Correctional Centre. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

In May 2019, Jason Walmsley was released from Headingley Correctional Centre in Manitoba, after completing a nine-month sentence for crimes he committed to fuel his drug addiction.

Walmsley spent his days behind bars taking part in the Winding River Therapeutic Community, a long-term addictions recovery program offered inside Headingley.

Walmsley has agreed to share his journey on the outside for the CBC in regular intervals.

The following was written just hours before he was released and sent to a residential treatment program in Winnipeg.

Soon I will be released from prison and given another chance to recover in the community.

I've worked hard to be given this chance, but never have I been so scared in my life.

With another chance comes another choice — the choice to work hard, show courage and be a willing recipient of the support and love others have shown me.

But then there's the other choice — the choice to fail, to prove the non-believers right and burn to the ground my last and final hope of recovering and finding happiness.

This is the pivotal point in my life, the make it or break it moment for me — I cannot fail.

God help me, I cannot fail.

Jason Walmsley at the start of his nine-month sentence in Headingley in August 2018, while in the throes of drug addiction. (Submitted by Jason Walmsley)
Jason Walmsley in April 2019, after eight months sober. (Jason Walmsley/Supplied)

I always knew there would come a day when I was faced with the choice to either begin my life or end it.

To either face my fears with courage or hide from them with shame — there was never an in-between scenario for me.

I always thought when faced with the choice it would be an easy one, that enough would have been enough and rock-bottom would have been found.

I want to believe that the only direction for me to go from prison is a positive one.

'Rock-bottom doesn't always end at the rocks'

But in the world of realities and truth, there is still the weight of a shovel in my hands — rock-bottom doesn't always end at the rocks. 

The truth is, I am not destined to do well and make an impactful difference, but nor is my fate to fail miserably and let everyone who cares for me down.

The outcome of my battle with addiction will be a reflection of the work put into my recovery; nothing more, nothing less.

I am committed to doing what needs to be done, to confront my demons and work through the underlying issues that feed my addiction and self-destructive behaviours.

It will be the most difficult decision, getting and continuing to get help, but worth every sober second from this day forward. 

My name is Jason Walmsley and I am an addict.

This column is part of  CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.


Winnipeg-born Jason Walmsley, 32, has spent more than 18 years learning first-hand the desperation associated with the addicted life. He believes finding a solution to addiction must begin with addressing the root causes and offering long-term residential treatment, at little or no cost.