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Roadblock on the road back: Islander talks about his path back from addiction

Former Vancouver Island drug user says checkered past makes it tough to find work
Robin Norbury pictured last year before his motorbike trip to the Arctic Circle. File photo

When Robin Norbury was wrestling with a substance use disorder, his body weight had dropped to 112 pounds on his six-foot frame.

He had been addicted to drugs for about 20 years. The last 10 to 12 were particularly bad. In and out of hospital, the 60-year-old Courtenay man had reached a point where he thought his life was over.

“I basically resigned myself to, ‘This is it, nothing else is going to happen. I’m going to do this until it’s all over’,” Norbury said. “All you’re thinking about is getting high. There’s not a lot of spiritual thought going on at that point.”

But in recent years he managed to get clean and discover “a whole new life.” He has met a woman, he weighs a healthy 190 pounds, and he plays and officiates slopitch. Last summer, he and a friend rode motorcycles to the Arctic Circle.

Norbury works occasionally as a housekeeper, but he is having trouble finding a full-time job because he has a criminal record after committing a theft three years ago. He had his hopes up for a job as a bus driver, but was denied the opportunity, even though he had letters (evidence of clean living) from doctors and counsellors.

“I’m just trying to move on,” said Norbury, who had managed the Van Isle Marina in Sidney for 15 years. “I’m not going to work at Tim Horton’s. I’ve blown a lot of my life. I need to get a decent job. I only have about 10 or 15 years left to work.”

Norbury has mixed feelings about B.C.’s three-year exemption to remove criminal penalties for adults who possess a small amount (combined 2.5 grams) of certain drugs for personal use, the idea being to reduce stigma, and encourage access of health services.

READ MORE: Downtown Courtenay businesses react to drug use, pilot project

Had drugs been decriminalized when he was using, he might not have cleaned up his act because drugs would have been easy to obtain, and he wouldn’t have had to lie, cheat and steal.

“Do all the things we have to do to get high as a drug addict. They’re taking that away, and that’s a good thing, but is anyone going to get clean now? I don’t know.”

Norbury said 2.5 grams of heroin is 25 points, which could get a user by for a week.

“It’s time to leave that life behind completely, but every time I go to a job interview it comes smacking back at me,” he said. “If they want to get rid of the stigma behind drug abuse, they’ve got to start hiring people that did the work, that got clean, that claimed their lives back.”

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