“A second chance at life”

News / Patient Care
By J Pereira

From prison and overdoses, to now living a life he could only have dreamed of, Jason Mellon shares his story of addiction and recovery

Jason Mellon has battled addiction for nearly his entire life. In fact, he had his first drink in 1986 when he was just 10-years-old.

“I came from a broken home where I experienced verbal, physical and sexual abuse. I was sexually molested starting at 6-years-old by a family member who was living with us. I was told not to talk about the abuse, so I turned to alcohol.”

It didn’t take long, soon Mellon was experiencing full blown addiction. As an adult, it wasn’t uncommon for him to consume 15 drinks and use cocaine by the time he started work at 8:00 a.m.

“You name it, I’ve done it. From marijuana to methamphetamine. PCP to angel dust and everything in between. I went from smoking pot in my basement to being homeless and doing heroine on the streets of Vancouver. I’ve been incarcerated three times in federal prison as a result of my addiction. I experienced seven overdoses, during the last one my heart stopped for 35 seconds before they revived me.

“Addiction felt like an itchy sweater that I could never take off. I never felt comfortable, loved, needed or accepted. It was a restless irritability and discontentment and nothing could fix it until I had a drink or drugs. Drugs and alcohol numbed those feelings, they made me feel better and made me feel like I belonged.”

But Mellon’s life changed dramatically in 2008, during a tragic alcohol related car collision that claimed the life of his best friend. Mellon too suffered significant injuries.

“Addiction took everything from me. My wife, my kids, my job. In the end I didn’t want to do this anymore, I would cry when I was drinking or injecting needles because I couldn’t stop. But, I had to get honest with myself, I spent eight months in therapy and joined a program to support people who are sexual abuse survivors.”

He also sought treatment through Kingston Health Sciences Centre’s (KHSC) Detoxification Centre , also known as Detox. The 22 bed (reduced to 14 beds to enable distancing during COVID) non-medical service is located on Brock Street and offers 24-hour support to individuals who are intoxicated or in severe withdrawal, require a preventative admission to remain sober, or for short-term residential support for people waiting to access a long-term treatment program. 

Detox, a no-fee service that supports about 800 people per-year, not only supported Mellon through the first difficult days experiencing withdrawal symptoms, but also connected him to various mutual help group programs like Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous.

“I went through Detox a number of times, but they never gave up on me and I owe them a debt of gratitude. It took 10 years for me to recover from my addiction and on May 17, 2017, I decided to make this the focus of my life, to help other people with drug and alcohol addiction.

“We have a progressive and incurable illness, and I volunteer my own time to help. We have an epidemic in our city with methamphetamine and fentanyl use and I feel like can’t get to everyone quick enough. I have 25 people that I sponsor now. I’ve seen them go from doing drugs in alleyways, to getting back into the community and working and volunteering.”

He has also seen dramatic changes in his personal life during his road to recovery.

“My life is amazing now. I have been with my wife for seven years, this is the longest I have been with the same woman and this is the happiest I have ever been. My kids are back in my life, my family is back in my life.

“It’s not been easy, but for me Detox has been a safe haven, it’s a saving grace and a refuge. It means the world to me, they trusted me and Detox is a large part of how I am the way I am today. Without them I don’t know where I’d be. Detox gave me a second chance at life, a life I could have never envisioned having before.”

September is National Recovery Month, if you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and would like more information about the KHSC Detoxification Centre, click here. For more general information and resources please visit www.camh.ca.