Last month, a Kelowna man celebrated four years sober after living the life of a hardcore drug addict who’d plunged headfirst into heroin and fentanyl use. He spent time in prison, saw his friend die on his shoulder from an overdose, and came close to death, himself.
Crediting a special recovery program called “Bill’s Place” for saving him, Jacob Philp, 33, describes his new life as a “complete 180” compared with his life before recovery.
Jacob is now a homeowner and is married with two beautiful children. He works as a Supportive Housing program coordinator.
“I love the person I am today,” Jacob told The Epoch Times. “I have a new-found self-respect that I’ve never had in my life.”
But it wasn’t always this way.
He once had to steal, scam, and lie to loved ones on a daily basis to feed his habit. He was homeless and slept in construction site outhouses, for fear the RCMP would catch him if he went to the shelter.
“When I was stuck in my addiction, I was homeless, I was on the streets, I couldn’t scrape together anything,” said Jacob. “Really, it was like everything I had went to drugs, chasing drugs. I gave up everything.”
Jacob’s descent into drug use wasn’t the result of his home life growing up. Rather, he was just an insecure kid, unsure of his identity, and afraid of many things, including not fitting in with others.
When he smoked weed for the first time at the age of 12, it felt like a quick fix. From there, he tried mushrooms and psychedelics, and developed a heavy drug habit as early as age 14.
“For other people, it was just dabbling,” Jacob said. “But for me … I had no switch in my brain to tell me enough was enough.”
When he started dating a woman who used heroin, he tried it with her and soon became addicted to both heroin and meth. Within the first month, he says he started spending his entire paycheck on heroin.
Jacob’s life spiraled out of control. He lost his job, pawned off his belongings, and before long, became homeless. Eventually, he was arrested and spent several “brutal” months at Kamloops prison.
It wasn’t long before Jacob was ready to get out. His mother hired an attorney, and they learned that the best way to get out of jail was for Jacob to willingly start treatment for drug addiction.
Jacob agreed, for what he calls “the wrong reasons.” He never counted on treatment actually working.
After Jacob got out on bail, his father threatened to pull bail if his son didn’t make his daily calls to the recovery center.
But it wasn’t long before he ran into old friends, who recommended he try fentanyl, a drug he describes as “night and day” compared to heroin.
The drug was dangerous, though. Soon, his friends began overdosing and dying, and Jacob had some close calls, himself.
“I lost a lot of friends to fentanyl in that short amount of time,” he recalled. “I woke up and my friend was dead on my shoulder.”
A couple of months after getting out of jail, Jacob finally entered into treatment at a center called Bill’s Place, which wasn’t at all what he expected, though he says it saved his life.
It wasn’t your average rehabilitation center; Jacob said he could tell something was different the moment he arrived.
“I was expecting … this big, crazy place that looks like a hospital or something, full of councilors, and nurses, and doctors,” he said. “It was nothing like that, nothing at all. … It was a house! I was like, ‘What is this madness?’”
A man with tattoos greeted him at the door.
Jacob recalled: “He looked like someone that I would’ve hung out with in my previous life. But the difference here was he was smiling, he was laughing, he was happy … He had this light on in his eyes.”
Jacob thought he was a counselor, but later found out the man was actually a recovering addict. He says it was a moment that gave him hope.
“My first impression,” he said, “was here’s a bunch of guys who are struggling like I’m struggling right now, only they’re happy and they’re laughing.”
He added that he felt like he fit in; the other people in the program instantly accepted him, and for the first time he felt like part of a community.
“There was a magic in that place that saved my life,” Jacob said.
He also attributes his recovery to his parents’ support.
“They never gave up,” he said. “My parents wouldn’t sit there and support the addiction … But if I was ready to take a step or go to treatment, they were there.”
Jacob has been sober since 2017. By sharing his story, he aims to bring that same glimmer of hope to other addicts.
“It can be so, so scary to take that first step,” he said. “[But] there’s an amazing life on the other side.”
He added that the best parts of his transformation are “the relationships, the happiness, the inner peace” that he has achieved.
“That’s just daily now,” he said. “It’s a complete 180 degree turn from where I was.”