“I knew I had trouble with alcohol for a very long time,” Larry says. “First as a teenager, then in college, through university, and into my working years. I wasn’t necessarily a heavy drinker every time, but I drank often and with every drink I ran the risk of getting out of control.”
Eventually, Larry’s drinking did get out of control. “I have three young daughters, and the day after my third was born my wife asked me to leave,” he recalls. “My drinking had become unmanageable. It wasn’t allowing me to show up as the person I wanted to be.”
A family member put Larry in touch with Renascent, and a week later he was in treatment.
Immediately, he says, “Renascent impressed me. Walking through the door, I knew I had made the first decent – and possibly the best – decision of my life. I just knew something about it was right. I put in 28 days of work, and I haven’t had a drink since.”
If he makes it sound easy, however, Larry’s experiences beg to differ. In recovery, his resolve has been tested on nearly every front imaginable.
“After I left Renascent, I spent the next 18 months taking care of everyone else,” he recalls. “My grandmother was diagnosed with a brain tumour, my mother was battling cancer, my grandfather had dementia. Within a year, I lost all three. I had three children to support and a nasty divorce to navigate. I had a lot of different jobs. I moved across the province. I often say I was so busy, I didn’t have time to drink.”
Developing healthy coping strategies also became essential.
“Working in sobriety was difficult,” Larry recalls, “because working to supply myself with booze had been a motivator for me.” Without alcohol as an incentive, he had some work to do.
“I had to learn to like myself again,” Larry confesses. “Substance abuse disorders affect the way the brain functions. My brain is my problem, and alcohol had been my solution. I needed to educate myself and retrain my brain to understand that impairment makes it work worse, not better.
I do believe in seeking outside help when you need it,” he continues, “and education is really important. Learn how alcohol affects your body and your thinking, then use that information to make better decisions. Resources are available to you, so don’t just rely on one thing. Doctors, therapists, meetings … get as many tools in your toolkit as you can.”
A survivor of childhood trauma, Larry also advocates for sharing personal experiences with a trusted counsellor or friend. “In the process of talking it out, you can begin to sort through the problems and feelings,” he explains. “It doesn’t matter if it gets worse along the way, because you’ve got the tools to deal with that, too.”
This year, Larry marks an incredible 30 years in recovery. He’s helped grow Toronto’s agnostic support community, prides himself on being kind, is active in his daughters’ lives and, in a family come full circle, has helped his father in a way he never imagined.
“My father was a raging alcoholic,” he shares, “and when I was four years into recovery, he asked me how I did it. I brought him to Renascent and, years later, he called asking me to give him his ten-year medallion.”
Three decades into recovery, Larry likens his experience to unravelling a ball of string.
“It takes time, patience, help, kindness. Your life, including all the traumas in it, is one continuous string. All the parts of your life are important, all of them are connected. If you’re ready, it’s time to start making sense of it all.
The journey is shorter by being started.”