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He called himself Vincent.  “Is it okay if I don’t give you my real name?  I’ve always liked the name Vincent.”

I met with Vincent on one of the many benches in Barrie.  He didn’t want his photo taken and he was a little nervous.  I asked Vincent if he was okay with our meeting, and did he realize that I was going to publish his story?  He turned his head towards me and said, “I can help others, even if just one person, then I have to do this”

Vincent has spent some time living the life.  He’s been a good son, a good friend and a great worker.  But then something happened.  “I wish I could tell you it was a girl, or drugs even.  But what it really was, was…..well……me.  I happened. I mean, there was alcohol and yeah, that happened. But suddenly I was in my late 20’s and I was like….SHIT!  What am I doing?”

Vincent had been working in the Fast Food Industry since he was 16.  Part time work turned to full time and he was good with it.  He was living at home, always had extra cash – hung out with his friends on the weekend.  He is a familiar face on the downtown strip on weekends – partying on the Dunlop.  He didn’t want more and was okay with what he had.

Know your demons

“alcohol poisoning is a real thing.  You aren’t in the game if you don’t chug when your friends are yelling at you to chug! OMG, my friends tho.  I’ve been buddies with some of them since 7th grade.”   Vincent became silent when he said this.  Since I have no pictures, let me describe this moment – He was leaning forward with his elbows on his knees.  He was shaking the fingers in his left hand, as if playing an imaginary piano.  In my own mind, I imagined a room full of guys yelling, CHUG! CHUG! CHUG!

“I did it to myself.  I drank waay too much.  I passed out.  I don’t remember much of it….I remember waking up at the hospital.  My Mom crying, my Dad PISSED.”  Vincent had his first drink at 12.  Oh sure, it was a sip of his Dad’s beer under his Dad’s watchful eye.  “it tasted like shit.”  At 13, he decided to sneak something before school and discovered hard liquor.  “Just a capful at first.  Then I’d go brush my teeth.  I felt sneaky and funny thing – I felt powerful. One capful, then two.  At one point, I was watering my parents booze.  At 16, I realized I had a problem, so I got a job.” 

Vincent’s problem was that his daily consumption of alcohol was becoming too much to hide.  He had to get a job to support his habit.  So he did.

“Most of the guys only binge drink on the weekends.  I suppose you could say I do or did (pause) the same.  I drank every day, but got wasted AF on the weekends.” 

Vincent told me that it was in November of last year when he slammed a fifth of whiskey.  (chugged a 750 ml bottle)  It didn’t end well.  His friends called an ambulance and someone texted his parents.  He doesn’t remember most of it.

That’s when I knew

“It was time to stop.  Like shit man, it was time way before this.  I got a membership at the gym, lost 40 lbs, mostly from biking.  I ride my bike everywhere, except Bayfield street. (haha) Oh and I’m going to Georgian in September!  Yeah, fast food is not the future of me.”  And neither is alcohol, I tell him.  “yeah, neither is alcohol.”

So what is Vincent’s message to you?  What does he want you to know?  “Get out before you get in.  Do things in life – play, make friends, exercise.  Experience life and I want you know that the only thing that makes you cool is the way you act and treat people.  Not anything else.  Being a dick isn’t the shit.  You won’t find answers being stoned or drunk.  You find answers when you search for them.  So get out and search!”

Thank you, Vincent.  Now that’s something I could chug.

If you feel you are experiencing Alcohol addiction issues, we have treatment centers in Barrie that can help.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Barrie Addiction Treatment Centre

Road to Recovery Health Clinic

Written by: Sharon Johnston | Images by: Stephen Elliot and Sharon Johnston

Barrie Benches, Coffee and Conversations is a new weekly feature that will highlight Barrie Citizens.  We will share the stories of locals in an effort to make our big community just a little smaller.  If you’d like to share a story of hope and inspiration, email me at [email protected] Perhaps we can sit together on a bench sometime.

Tags : Barrie life
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