A recovering addict wants those struggling with mental illness and addictions to step out from the shadows and use their voices in times of need.
Addictions counsellor and professional speaker Allan Kehler will sign his new book, Stepping Out From the Shadows: A guide to Understanding & Healing From Addictions, at Chapters between 6 and 8 p.m. on Thursday.
Kehler began speaking and writing as part of his own recovery from his gambling and alcohol addictions, and to deal with his mental illness.
He said he remained in the shadows during his journey.
“I lived in that world of shame, embarrassment, guilt and then I realized our voice is really our tool. (It’s) so empowering people to use it in times of need,” said Kehler. “If you want to change, it has to come within.”
Kehler said his book does not delve into his life story but is more a tool for others as a deeper insight into addictions, self-induced behaviours, suicide and healing.
Now 32, Kehler said his downward spiral began in Grade 11 and lasted for about a decade before the tide turned about six years ago.
Doctors told him that unless he changed his behaviour, he would only have a month left to live.
“That wasn’t enough to stop me but it slowed me down a bit,” said Kehler. “You get to the crossroads where you realize you are going to be six feet under unless something gives.”
Kehler said he came to that crossroads at an addictions meeting when someone asked the question: how do you want to be remembered? It became the catalyst to try a new life.
Kehler said his book addresses ways that people can get help through accessing the resources available, seeing yourself as a fighter and changing the internal script. He said the book has a lot of tools that can assist people, including those with addictions and those with loved ones who are struggling.
“The way I view recovery is lifting the blanket and taking an honest look at what lies beneath,” said Kehler. “I think addictions by definition for me is just any way of living outside of yourself, through self-medication.”
Kehler said one key message is for others to see the person, not the disease.
“It’s a person with an addiction and I think what happens as an addict we do some pretty horrific things,” said Kehler.
“If people can see the person who is pure, who is innocent, and that the person is still in there but the disease consumes and takes over.”
The Saskatoon-based author shares his message at high schools, conferences and businesses in North America.
Kehler will also be speaking at the Central Alberta Teachers Convention Association at Red Deer College on Friday.
Kehler said speaking is part of his continued recovery process, as is helping others through education.
Kehler is an instructor in the Addictions program at the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology in Saskatoon. Find out more about his book at www.outfromtheshadows.ca.