Rick Morton knew exactly how he wanted to spend his days in retirement.
“I’ve seen a number of people retire and do nothing,” shares Rick. “I left with a plan. I wanted to volunteer.”
And volunteer is exactly what he did. Rick took on a volunteer role at Renascent Paul J. Sullivan Centre (Sullivan Centre) – the same treatment centre that changed his life decades years prior.
Even with almost 34 years of recovery under his belt, Rick still remembers why he chose recovery. Having started using and drinking at age 14, Rick says he reached his bottom when he realized that his future would be plagued by addiction if he didn’t make a change.
“I could’ve handled the train-wreck of my life at any given moment, but I couldn’t handle the fact that I was going to be like this forever,” he shares.
Rick was among Sullivan Centre’s first clients. Having been to treatment in the early 1980s, Rick has seen the Centre grow to serve a larger number of people. It was his desire to help, that led Rick to transition from being a volunteer to part-time relief staff after just one year of volunteering.
“For me, the most rewarding part of this role is the interaction with the clients. I have a lot of experience in recovery and I came here to support the guys.”
Through his experience, Rick knows the stakes are high for every client who walks through Renascent’s doors.
“There are frustrating times. There have been guys that get sober and then they fall off the map. This disease kills people,” says Rick candidly.
“It’s not smarts that kept me here in recovery. It’s the working the program,” adds Rick.
Rick shares that he – like many who come into treatment – struggled with low self-esteem.
“Poor self image was something that I had to work on. I had to be continuously aware of it and work on it.”
Rick’s journey to cultivating self-worth required dedication. He credits the Twelve Steps, the fellowship of others in recovery, his sponsor, and Renascent for helping him.
Rick relishes in the joy that he feels when he sees Renascent alumni continuing in recovery.
“There are guys that I didn’t think that would buy into a program of recovery and they did; and they are still sober today. There are also clients who I helped while in treatment and now they work here as addiction counsellors.”
Ricks advice to anyone who is still struggling with addiction is to never give up. “I came into treatment at Sullivan Centre in 1984, and I got involved in outside issues afterwards. My dry date is in 1989. Relapse happens,” Rick explains. “When I went through Renascent initially, something shifted in me and although I didn’t stay sober, I was able to continuously seek a program of recovery.”
Nowadays, as a relief counsellor, Rick spends about 20 hours a week supporting clients at Sullivan, encouraging them in their own journey, while also sharing his experiences. He is in his eighth year in this role.
“It feels complete to look back and see the changes I’ve made. I think things come full circle. That doesn’t mean that it’s perfect, but it means that I’ve done the work to get there. I still need to work on things and I will always have to, but not as much as I used to,” says Rick.