I’m 32 years old. As I make my way through each year, it becomes more and more apparent that life is full of challenges. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been very fortunate in many ways, but I’m a strong believer that regardless of your background, childhood, and the curses or blessings we’ve been dealt, we all face obstacles day in and day out. One thing I’ve come to learn is that we all need support. I am confident in making one promise; we will all go through days where we feel strong and resilient, while other days we’ll feel vulnerable and fragile.
We recently had a friend, Riley Pawliw, who went through an extended period where he felt the latter sentiments more often then the former. Riley was an incredible individual. He had a charismatic personality and silver tongue that constantly brought smiles to the faces around him and filled rooms with laughter. It’s hard to imagine that a guy, who was smiling more often than not, was fighting such an internal battle. Riley battled alcohol addiction for the better half of a year and ultimately lost that battle. For the friends and family around him, it was an incredibly difficult realization to come to, and still is to this day.
I’m not going to pretend that I understand what he was going through, but I will adamantly suggest that it is a blunt and powerful reminder that we all need the support of those around us. Whether it’s a battle with cancer, a battle with addiction or just a really bad day, we sometimes forget that everyone is going through some shit and walking through this life hoping for some happiness.
There are many statistics out there with respect to addiction. We’re not going to get into much detail there, as we’d prefer to focus on simply raising awareness then condemning a specific substance; awareness that mental health and addiction is just as important to pay attention to then physical health. Check in with those around you. Challenge yourself to have some difficult conversations if you notice something doesn’t feel right, someone isn’t smiling as often as they used to or just isn’t being themselves. Be present; ask good questions and focus on those around you, it could make all the difference. I do know that Riley had a great support system, both friends and family, it just shows that you that every incremental effort matters.
With that in mind, Mike Tate, Ray Derges and myself have decided to spend the month of October substance free; Ocsober. Not just substance free, but alert and aware of our surroundings, focusing on the people around us that matter.
If you’d also like to show your support and raise some awareness for those in similar battles, feel free to join in and participate in Ocsober with us, or donate if you can. All of the proceeds raised will be going directly to an education fund that has been started for Riley’s daughter, Jilly P. She was born on August 15th, and we have no doubt Riley’s infectious personality and legacy will be well carried by this beautiful little girl.
Brittany Harke, Jillian's mother, will be receiving the funds initially and contributing the funds to Jilly's RESP over the next four years, in equal stages to maximize the amoung of Canadian Education Savings Grant received from the federal government.
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