VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – From the depths of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to becoming an in-demand speaker on B.C.’s opioid crisis, Guy Felicella has overcome so much to get where he is today. Our look at the recipients of this year’s Coast Mental Health Courage To Come Back Awards begins with Felicella, the winner in the Addiction category.
Drugs first entered his life at age 12 as a means to cope with the trauma of physical, mental, and emotional abuse he suffered as a child.
“The drugs were really a way for me to cope and if I didn’t find those drugs as a young child, I would have ended my life, there’s no doubt in my mind,” explains Felicella. “And yet, those same drugs later on in my life that particularly saved my life with the same drugs trying to end my life.
“I had undiagnosed ADHD and a mild comprehension disorder so you know carried a lot of shame inside and it really developed into anxiety and depression and self hatred, and the drugs were really a way for me to cope,” he adds.
The 51-year-old became sober eight years ago, ending, what he calls, four decades of isolation.
“I survived five osteomyelitis bone infections [including] one in my lower back where I had to learn how to walk again,” he explains. “I survived six overdoses in 2012 and 2013 when fentanyl hit the streets. That last overdose, which was February 18th 2013, just took a lot out of me.”
Today, he is a counselor and an advocate, and his name is a familiar one in local media circles, as a trusted commentator on addiction issues. He’s even hosted his own TED Talk.
“Everything I have in life today is a direct result in me helping others and giving back. I wouldn’t have anything without that,” Felicella says. “I have a really beautiful life today. But all of it, all of it, is a direct result of me giving back.”
Today on @NEWS1130: Our series on the recipients of the 2021 @CoastMH #CourageToComeBack Awards begins with @guyfelicella, who is being recognized in the Addiction category. "I have a really beautiful life today. But all of it is a direct result of me giving back,” he says. pic.twitter.com/L0v5lCKw4b
— John Ackermann (@jackermann) May 31, 2021
These days, Felicella splits his time between working for Vancouver Coastal Health, the BC Centre for Substance Use, and the provincial Overdose Response Center.
“I just do things to help people. That’s really who I am as a person today.”
Felicella says if even one person is inspired by his story, then his efforts have been worthwhile.
“We can get support. We just have to make that first step and that first step is always the hardest.”
NEWS 1130 is a proud sponsor of the Coast Mental Health Courage To Come Back Awards, which raises critical funds for people living with mental illness right here in B.C. You can make a difference by donating today. Visit couragetocomeback.ca to learn more.
Watch the full show below: