Each Step Leads to Another
Joel remembers growing up in Fiji as a carefree boy. But somewhere along the way, he lost touch of who he was
I felt like I was in a box. It was so hard to recognize myself and who I wanted to be.
He was introduced to alcohol years afterward, which became a form of self-medication
When I was 12 I started drinking. As a teen I started partying and smoking weed a lot. It carried me through.
Eventually, Joel started feeling trapped by his addiction, lifelong anxiety, and the pressures of gang life. That was his breaking point
I needed to get out of this rage that I had suffered from all my life. It hurt so much. I knew I needed to change.
That man accompanied him all the way to UGM. They talked to reception and Joel enrolled in recovery—but first, they had a meal
I had seen UGM while driving by, selling drugs. I always thought, “What's that place? What's that lineup for?” And now, I was there in the lineup with a meal ticket!
What truly helped Joel become himself again was expeditions, UGM's hiking and adventure program
Seeing the landscape, glacier, and rocks gave me a natural high. I was thinking, “Wow. This is what I was looking for.”
I realized while doing drugs, making money, and running after other things, I was really looking for a connection to my free-spirited nature. Because when I was young, I'd fly kites, fish, explore wildlife, pick and eat fruits. That's when life was really good for me.
Without Expeditions, I wouldn't have found that again. I could've relapsed.
Those small steps have led Joel to a life that he describes as abundant
Today, he's celebrating five years of sobriety, working in the Downtown Eastside, studying Permaculture Design at UBC Farm, and might even start coaching soccer soon!
And most importantly, Joel isn't just back to being that free-spirited soul—his heart to defend others has been renewed, too.
People come to me from all walks of life and difficulties. Just as I wasn't judged when I came into UGM, I'm doing the same thing to guide others. It's enriched my kindness and generosity.