Kelly Fehr, a Vernon city councillor, shares his story of addiction, and recovery, in hopes of inspiring others. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Kelly Fehr, a Vernon city councillor, shares his story of addiction, and recovery, in hopes of inspiring others. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Vernon councillor shares story of addiction

Fehr breaks free of grips of alcohol

I am not anonymous.

Hello, my name is Kelly Fehr and I am a person in long-term recovery.

This is for the person still struggling with substance misuse who is afraid to ask for help because of the stigma and shame around addiction.

As a city councillor in Vernon, I’m very aware of the fear associated with people knowing I needed help and couldn’t quit something on my own.

My substance misuse started at the age of 16 though the precursors began much earlier. Although I was raised in a healthy family I experienced sexual interference by other minors who were older than myself and bullying in school which I had a hard time coping with.

As a teenager, I struggled with suicidal thoughts and a lack of self-worth. When I reached 16 I started using alcohol, LSD, marijuana and cigarettes all on the same day.

Self-medicating with substances provided immediate relief from my depression and lack of self-worth. I felt strong and courageous as long as I kept using or misusing substances. They worked great in this way until they didn’t.

I began establishing relationships with like-minded people who were involved in various criminal elements of society which led me down a darker path. By the time I was 19 I was able to pull myself away from the criminal elements. I believed that having negative friends were the root of my problems.

I was dabbling in harder drugs in my late teens and early 20s but was able to overcome drug use by the age of 24. I had convinced myself that drugs were the root of my problems.

By 24 I was married with two amazing daughters. Over the next 13 years, I moved from my home of Surrey to Vernon and started a rewarding career in the social services field.

This line of work has been extremely gratifying as I had similar life experiences as many of the people I have provided services to and have been able to give back to my community. Over this 13-year period, my substance misuse via alcohol was not in any way a daily occurrence. It was not until finding recovery that I was able to recognize the binge drinking that had occurred. The issue was not that I had to drink every day but rather when I do drink I was not able to stop once I started.

At the age of 37, my marriage had ended. I had the delusion that I was now free of some type of shackle and was able to enjoy my life. At this point, I believed the cause of my problems was my ex-wife. Even then, I was unable to see the root of my issues.

It was at this point in my life that challenges with alcohol misuse progressed at a very quick rate. Alcohol consumption quickly became a daily occurrence. If I wasn’t going for beers with friends after work I would certainly be having a couple of beers at home just to unwind.

To save money, or so I told myself, I began to brew my own beer at 40. This way the fridge would never be empty and it would be better for the environment. I can say without a doubt that was one of the worst decisions I have ever made. It was not abnormal for me to polish off six to 12 beers a night, every night.

At 42, approximately six months before I quit drinking and found recovery, my substance misuse stopped being fun and began becoming very scary.

My liver enzymes were very high among other health issues and I began lying to my doctor about how often and how much I drank.

I was telling myself every day that I was not going to drink when I got home from work, but I could not help myself alas I was an alcoholic.

I didn’t know what to do.

I was a city councillor after all and what would people say about me.

READ MORE: Vernon community champ declares council candidacy

If people knew I was having substance misuse problems it would ruin my career in the social service field and nobody would trust me to be their public servant for the city. How could my substance use have progressively escalated to this point? All sorts of ego and pity-driven thoughts raced through my head the last few months of my drinking.

In early February 2020, a friend and co-worker had the courage to be raw and open with me.

This was my rock bottom, realizing I was no longer the person I had strived to be. On Feb. 6, a family member reached out to me stating they were in trouble due to substance misuse and desperately needed help.

That was the last day I used alcohol.

I have had the joy of being sober since Feb. 7, 2020. I called a friend I knew was in recovery and he put me in touch with a support group of people with shared experiences. Having worked closely with people battling addiction for the past 14 years, I knew there are many paths, programs or methods for people to find recovery. For me, I knew abstinence was the only way I could be free of the crutch of alcohol and start to heal my mind and soul.

I had to acknowledge that I was powerless over alcohol and my life had become unmanageable. Having tried to quit drinking on my own I knew I needed support, thankfully I found that support and accepted it with open arms.

Part of the healing process was to conduct an internal inventory of my regrets, fears and the harms I had done to others. This was the only way I could address the true roots of why I used substances as a coping mechanism. I was able to talk to trusted acquaintances about my past, process my experiences and move forward, free of regret and animosity.

One of the key factors for me in this journey was talking with the people I felt I had harmed or mistreated so that I could make amends.

To this day, I routinely take a daily inventory of how I conducted myself and when I see that I was wrong, I admit it and learn from it.

Today, I cope with life by processing my emotions rather than dimming them with a substance like alcohol. Today, I am not afraid to love and be loved.

If you are like me and find that alcohol or a different substance is a crutch used to cope know that it is OK to ask for help.

It is not a moral failure, but rather a symptom of a deeper-rooted problem that you can work through. There are many people, just like myself, here to root you on.

One of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves is a life free of emotional turmoil and regrets.

Love yourself enough to take that first step and reach out to someone who will walk with you on a journey of self-discovery and hope.

Resources:

Interior Health Substance Use Services 250-549-5737 or 250-503-3737 https://www.interiorhealth.ca/YourCare/MentalHealthSubstanceUse/Pages/default.aspx

Vernon AA 24hr direct line: 250-545-4933 vernonaa.org/find-a-meeting

Vernon Residential Recovery 250-549-61443 https://turningpoints.ngo/continuum-of-care/addictions-recovery

READ MORE: More action required in fight against overdose crisis: Vernon councillor


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Kelly Fehr, of Turning Points, chats with a fellow 
recovering alcoholic at Bill’s Place, a sober living facility. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Kelly Fehr, of Turning Points, chats with a fellow recovering alcoholic at Bill’s Place, a sober living facility. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)