Higgins gets real in new memoir

Red Deer’s Dwayne Higgins had everything — Hollywood success, a six-figure income and a loving family — and he lost it all to drug and alcohol addiction.

Red Deer’s Dwayne Higgins had everything — Hollywood success, a six-figure income and a loving family — and he lost it all to drug and alcohol addiction.

Higgins’ ambitious climb up the career ladder as a movie prop master and his abrupt fall back down are painfully recounted in his new self-published memoir, From Reel to Real.

“It was devastating, earth shattering, the stuff I did,” said the author, who described himself as “weekend warrior”-type drug user before his work opportunities dried up for close to two years.

His life imploded around the time of the Hollywood writers and actors’ strike of 2000. Amid financial worries about the lack of work, he said his growing addiction to cocaine, heroin and alcohol led to a series of police encounters, deportation, suicide attempts and numerous attempts at rehab.

His unravelling wasn’t on the horizon when the handsome, outgoing Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School graduate first moved to Los Angeles in 1987.

After landing small acting roles in Hollywood, Higgins switched to production work and built up a solid career as prop master on music videos and commercials involving Madonna, Jennifer Aniston, film director David Lynch and other famous personalities.

He recalled reaping all the material possessions his ample income could buy. He had a common-law wife and daughter, to boot. But then came the writers’ strike and a rapidly shrinking income.

As his depression grew, his drug use and drinking also escalated. After repeat warnings, Higgins said his live-in partner Janell left him, taking their infant daughter.

As Higgins was handing all his savings over to drug dealers — he also lost his best friend. Actor Glenn Quinn, who played Becky Connor’s boyfriend on the series Roseanne, and Doyle in the Buffy the Vampire spin-off Angel, died of an accidental heroin overdose in 2002.

“It was on my couch,” Higgins recalled — and the emotional effect of this was devastating.

In short order, Higgins racked up three convictions for intoxicated driving (the last one also included a charge of child endangerment as his then two-year-old daughter was in the car). He was deported back to Canada in 2003.

He recalled “hitting bottom” among drug addicts on Vancouver’s slummy east side.

After three suicide attempts and extended hospital stays, he became a Christian, worked on several missionary projects in Africa and South Asia, and tried various 12-step programs before finally getting clean (despite one short relapse) 2 1/2 years ago.

Higgins, who lives in Vancouver, hopes his blunt, fluidly written memoir will keep others from starting on the same ruinous road. “It shares information about addiction, explains what addiction is, why we do the things we do, and how we’re wired differently.”

His book’s prologue is written by his daughter, Alyssa, now a 14-year-old living with her mother and stepfather in Malibu, Calif. She recounted how her father missed every important event in her life over the last 11 years. Until reconnecting through social media recently, they didn’t even have a relationship.

“I slowly hear and find out all the stories about my dad,” writes Alyssa, and gain some understanding of his ordeal.

Higgins sees his 350-page memoir as a cautionary tale — but ultimately, a story of salvation.

Aside from the addiction information, he believes Red Deer residents will find his career track interesting, as the book reveals a lot about Hollywood and tells of his stint in local radio along with a young sports announcer who became CBC star Ron McLean.

From Reel to Real is available from www.fromreeltoreal.com, Amazon, Indigo/Chapters, and Barnes and Noble.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lyn Radford, 2019 Canada Winter Games board chair, was named 2020 Sport Event Volunteer of the Year at the Prestige Awards. (File photo by Advocate staff)
WATCH: Lyn Radford wins award for volunteer efforts

The board chair of the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Red Deer dips below 300 active COVID-19 cases

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Red Deer continued to drop… Continue reading

A candlelight vigil will be held in Red Deer on Thursday to honour the 350-plus people killed in the Easter bombing attack in Sri Lanka. Contributed photo
Candlelight vigil planned for deaths linked to Olymel COVID-19 outbreak

A candlelight vigil is being planned for those who died due to… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels forward Jaxsen Wiebe battles Calgary Hitmen forward Cael Zimmerman for a loose puck when the two teams squared off in February last season. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Calgary Hitmen shutout Red Deer Rebels

Rebels name centre Jayden Grubbe team captain ahead of Friday’s game

Bryson, six, and Mara, eight, play with puppies from Dogs With Wings Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
WATCH: Dogs With Wings introduces Red Deer program

A program that trains puppies to be certified service, autism, facility and… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Funeral for Walter Gretzky to be held Saturday in home town of Brantford, Ont.

The funeral for hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s father Walter will take place… Continue reading

A sign for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service building is shown in Ottawa on May 14, 2013. A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the judicial warrant process at Canada's spy agency — an issue that made headlines last summer — stretch back at least nine years. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Spy warrant shortcomings stretch back almost a decade, newly released audit shows

OTTAWA — A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the estimated $29 million… Continue reading

A trial countdown sign marks the days at George Floyd Square, March 4, 2021, in Minneapolis. Ten months after police officers brushed off George Floyd's moans for help on the street outside a south Minneapolis grocery, the square remains a makeshift memorial for Floyd who died at the hand of police making an arrest. The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin will begin with jury selection on March 8. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Officer’s trial could reopen intersection where Floyd died

MINNEAPOLIS — During a group’s recent meeting at the now-vacant Speedway gas… Continue reading

FILE - In this Aug. 30, 2020 file photo Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell calls for an end to violence in the city during a news conference a day after a demonstrator was shot and killed in downtown Portland. Amid protests following the police killing of George Floyd last year Portland dissolved a special police unit designed to focus on gun violence. Critics say the squad unfairly targeted Black people, but gun violence and homicides have since spiked in Oregon's largest city, and some say disbanding the 35-officer unit was a mistake. (Sean Meagher/The Oregonian via AP, File)
As violence surges, some question Portland axing police unit

PORTLAND, Ore. — Elmer Yarborough got a terrifying call from his sister:… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Just don’t call it cod liver oil

Many people swear that a daily dose of various vitamins is an… Continue reading

Email editor@auburn-reporter.com
Letter: Preserving green spaces in Red Deer

The Advocate published an article Feb. 11 about Sunnybrook residents concerned about… Continue reading

Former Toronto Argonauts lineman Chris Schultz remembered as a gentle giant

Former Toronto Argonauts lineman Chris Schultz remembered as a gentle giant

Most Read