He’s gone.” The two most haunting words I have ever heard. Those two words changed the course of my life in an instant. Those two words informed me that
my father had died of an accidental overdose and that I had become parentless. As a result of those two words, and after much thought and deliberation, I found it fitting to write my own story.
Some of you will wonder, as you begin reading this
story, " So, who are you anyway? " That is a good question. To
put it simply, I am Noah. No special titles. I have grown up allof my life in Guelph, Ontario, and gone from elementary
school to high school to university, all in the same town. All
of this seems normal; all of what I have described is what
most young people will do. However, this is far from my
whole story. At face value, the way I look does not differ
greatly from anyone else. You also would not see the story I
have written on my back, but that story is there. It is a story
of great loss and sacrifice.
I have called myself a statistical anomaly, which is
about as close to the truth as I can get when describing myself. Simply put, I should not be here today, and you should not be reading anything I am about to write.
Why would I say this? The coming pages will give
greater clarity as I share my life with you, but to summarize:
I witnessed abuse as a child, I lost my mother to suicide, I
was diagnosed with a learning disability, I lost my father to
an accidental overdose, and I have a mental illness. These are far from normal experiences, and these experiences have
altered the course and the direction of my life.
I would like to make it very clear that the decision to
write this book was not an easy or a simple one. Above all,
the goal in writing this was not to make people feel sorry for
me. This book is a tribute to my Mother and my Father. They
should be able to tell their stories but are unable.
My life has been hard. That is an indisputable fact.
However, many great people have sacrificed for, listened to,
comforted, and supported me through the difficult start of
my life. My family, friends, and past teachers have all
allowed me to become the man I am today, despite the
difficulties I faced early on.
To go back through the memories that wander around
in my mind, and to make those memories readable, is no
small task. There will be names and other details that I will
forget to include in the coming pages, and I hope that my
memory lapses can be forgiven.
I have shared parts of my story publicly and have
become an advocate for those whose voices don't carry far
enough. My Mother and Father were both mentally ill and
needed help that they didn’t receive. I have told parts of their
story to thousands of politicians and other Canadians who
would listen. I have written to members of provincial and
territorial legislatures, both houses of parliament and many
others, because I didn't want them to forget who my Mum
and Dad were. That idea of not forgetting is a primary factor
that pushed me to write this book. I didn't want those
politicians to forget that for every "number" there are real
people and real families that are torn apart from our failure
to act in a united fashion in addressing the epidemic of
mental health and addictions in this country.
I do recognize that my personal story may help more
Canadians understand the mental health and addictions crisis. It is a crisis that has so permanently scarred not only
my family, but also thousands of families across Canada. The
country has made strides forward since the loss of my
Mother to suicide and my Father to an accidental overdose,
but it is not good enough. We are still losing far too many,
and far too many families are looking for help and receiving
little from our governments.
As stated in a 1963 report by the Canadian Mental
Health Association entitled "More for the Mind: A Study of
Psychiatric Services in Canada"
"In no other field, except perhaps leprosy, has
there been as much confusion, misdirection,
and discrimination against the patient, as in
mental illness... Down through the ages, they
have been estranged by society and cast out to
wander in the wilderness. Mental illness, even
today, is all too often considered a crime to be
punished, a sin to be expiated, a possessing
demon to be exorcised, a disgrace to be hushed
up, a personality weakness to be deplored or a
welfare problem to be handled as cheaply as
This was written well over half a century ago and yet
families continue to lose loves ones day in and out. We left
my Mum and Dad to wander the lengthy corridors of their
minds, handling the problem as cheaply as possible. We as a
society minimized their illness and believed them to be a
disgrace. We as a society need to do better. We need to step
up and realize that mental illness is not a character flaw. It is
an illness just like a physical illness.
Mental health issues and addictions are a part of this
country. Families are suffering in every province, territory, city, and small town. It is everywhere. No one is immune.
Nowhere did I see mental health more than in my own
family. Behind the closed door of my family home, we dealt
with mental health day in and out, but I ended up losing the
two people I loved most in life. The challenges faced by my
family were great, and the hardships unimaginable for those
who could only look in at the losses suffered on both sides of
I, too, have had to deal with my fair share of demons. I
am not immune to the mental health crisis that took hold of
my mother and father, but I am still standing. I am still
breathing. And I am still Learning to Live. I hope that the
pages in this book not only share my life's story with you but
also help you understand the toll mental health and
addictions take behind the closed doors of our society and
describe what it means to lose those you love to this hidden
illness. I hope that my story helps you understand how you
can use the hardest parts of your life to your advantage. I
hope this book inspires you to hold our governments
accountable. All of us must call on all governments,
regardless of which jurisdiction is responsible for mental
health and addictions, to address the crisis in this country.
However, aside from the political side of this story,
most important to me is that I don't want my parents to
continue being represented by numbers. Mum and Dad were
two people who were let down and lost to a misunderstood
epidemic plaguing this country. They died once, and I hope
this book keeps them alive in your memories. In a way, this
book will ensure my parents do not die a second time.