More than a year and a half into his recovery from drug addiction, Moses Totalik has a message for those who feel that there’s no way out, and for those around them who doubt their ability to ever find their footing again.
“Never underestimate a recovering addict. We fight for our lives every day in ways most people will never understand,” says Totalik, a 24-year-old who called Gjoa Haven home for 17 years and has many relatives across Nunavut.
His life is now under control and going well, he says, but it wasn’t that way two years ago when he kept turning to illicit substances to cope with pain.
Totalik was crushed when he went through a breakup. He started using marijuana to dull the agony from the relationship coming to an end. Eventually, he started dabbling in cocaine and then Xanax and fentanyl, an extremely powerful pain reliever.
Living south of Ottawa at the time, he had little difficulty obtaining these drugs on the street, he recalls.
While temporarily masking his misery, the narcotics cost him dearly in a number of other ways: he couldn’t hold down a job, most of his money was consumed by drug purchases, he gradually became very moody and he drove away relatives and friends.
“I would wake up super anxious,” he says. “I would be angry.”
He also got into trouble with the law, getting caught driving while intoxicated.
He finally decided to reach out for help after several months of a downward spiral. His case manager arranged to have Totalik move to Alberta to get a fresh start.
It was the change he needed, but it still wasn’t easy.
“I’ll tell you this, recovery from addiction requires hard work, also a proper attitude and self-discipline. Not only that, it also requires learning skills to stay sober,” he says. “It is a very big struggle.”
Meeting weekly with a counsellor, Totalik says he came to appreciate the value of life itself.
“It made me realize that I don’t need the drugs to be happy,” he says. “What matters most to me is my mental health and physical health.”
He also gets gratification from his current role assisting people with disabilities in learning to use technology, such as laptops, tablets and cellphones.
“It is very rewarding. It makes me feel accomplished,” he says.
He admits that he still occasionally feels a compulsion to turn to drugs, particularly marijuana. When the urge gets strong, he goes for a walk to clear his head, or he immerses himself in video games as a distraction.
After all that he’s been through, Totalik is glad that he sought guidance in his battle against addiction.
“The beautiful truth about recovery is that it has given me the freedom and confidence to share my story and let people know that there is a chance to become the person who you want to become,” he says. “It is never too late to ask for help.”