November 25, 2022 · 0 Comments
By Sam Odrowski
An Orangeville man who struggled with alcoholism for 10 years is now 400 days sober and has a message of hope for those who feel trapped in an alcohol addiction.
Kyle Kellie, 31, had no issues with alcohol growing up, but that all changed at the beginning of his twenties.
He was diagnosed with bone cancer, affecting his orbital bone and sinuses, which put him in the hospital for six months. Once Kellie returned home and recovered enough to hang out with friends again, they organized a camping trip in the Muskoka region to celebrate him beating cancer.
The trip was Kellie’s first experience with binge drinking and marked the beginning of his struggle with alcoholism.
“After that one camping trip of binge drinking, it didn’t stop for 10 years,” Kellie told the Citizen. “It was like a light switch went on during that trip and I was unaware of it… I just couldn’t stop.”
Once Kellie developed a drinking problem, he said he started losing the things that were most important to him one by one. It started to affect his relationships, job performance and overall health.
The addiction had a grip on Kellie for a decade following his camping trip, but he’s now 414 days sober and wants to help others who are struggling.
“It’s crazy because before, I couldn’t go one day without a drink,” he said. “The only time I went one day sober was when I was so sick from drinking that my body just needed to recover. But now I’m doing amazing things, I’m constantly volunteering.”
Kellie moderates a recovery group on Facebook, helps with local Alcoholics Anonymous programs and shares his story of getting sober through his YouTube channel @SoberLiving, aimed at inspiring others to do the same.
“A lot of my volunteering comes from my YouTube channel… I think it’s really important to see that somebody can recover because I think that in society, a lot of people look at people with addictions and say that they’ll never get better or they ‘re a waste case,” Kellie said. “I was at [rock] bottom, and I know what it’s like to get from the bottom all the way back up. I just want to encourage people, and I want to let people know that they can do it, there is a way to recover. It’s hard, but it’ll be the most rewarding thing you ever do in life.”
At the height of his addiction, Kellie says he was drinking 24 tall cans almost every day and couldn’t go more than five hours without having a drink.
“Years went by that I don’t really remember, which is sad,” he said. “In the last two years [before quitting]it got to the point where it was absolutely unbearable.”
A turning point for Kellie was when his mother suddenly became ill and passed away. He was partying with his friends when he got a call from his father saying he needed to go to the hospital with him to say his final goodbye.
“When we were at the hospital, the last time I saw her, I was loaded and that broke my heart,” Kellie recalled.
He said he always wanted to get sober while she was alive but that was no longer an option, so he wanted to do it for his 96-year-old grandmother before she passed away.
“It was really important for me to be able to do that because I missed that opportunity with my mom,” Kellie explained.
His grandmother said she would cover the cost of attending a privately funded rehab facility once Kellie was ready to go and that time came in the fall of 2021 when he hit rock bottom.
He was in the hospital on suicide watch following a suicide attempt and once he got out, he called his grandmother to say he was ready to get help.
Kellie started by going to Rapid Access Addiction Medicine Clinic (1 Elizabeth St.) in Orangeville, a walk-in facility that helps people with an addiction access resources. They connected him with a doctor to help deal with his alcoholism and got him prescribed medication that helps with cravings and withdrawal.
Three weeks after that, he was admitted to rehab, something he tried a few years into his addiction but wasn’t yet ready for. This time around Kellie had a strong internal desire to kick his addiction. He cut down on his drinking from roughly 24 tall cans a day to 16 before going and says he entered it with a clearer mind, ready to do the work.
“This time going into rehab, I was there 100 percent to get better,” Kellie remarked.
From the beginning, he had a strong resolve to not only help himself but help others at the rehab center who were on the same path towards sobriety.
While in rehab he opened up about everything – something he’s never done before – from past abuse to his struggles with an eating disorder. Kellie said opening up and being honest was an important step in his recovery.
“It was just a big healing thing,” he noted. “I thought if I was just honest, for the first time in 10 years, if I was truly honest, it would help me get better.”
As Kellie thrived at the rehab in being unapologetically true to himself and tackling his issues head-on, he became an ambassador, helping new people who arrived at the facility get settled.
“Whenever anybody new would come in, I would go and give them a tour and let them know that they’re not alone. I’d let them know that they have a friend in me,” he said.
It took about six months after getting sober for Kellie’s urges to use alcohol to subside and since then he said it doesn’t bother him anymore.
Just as Kellie felt fully in control of his alcoholism last year, no longer feeling the urge to drink, his grandmother began to get sick.
“Because she was 96 years old, I truly believe that God kept her on earth to get me sober, and see me get sober,” he said. “The moment that I said to her, ‘yes I’ve got a handle on this,’ she started passing away and then she was gone.”
Part of Kellie’s motivation to help others through his online advocacy comes from his grandmother, who was an incredibly compassionate and caring individual, helping people in any way she could. He said his work to get others sober is a way of continuing her selfless legacy.
Kellie’s life is much different now that he’s sober, he feels like a contributing and respected member of society with purpose.
He’s excelled in his job at Home Depot, where he’s received several awards since getting sober and is en route for a promotion.
“Now I’m a respected member of society,” Kellie said.
A message he has for people struggling with alcohol is to never give up.
“No matter what you can get better,” said Kellie. “You definitely can recover.”
He told the Citizen about the course of his addiction, he probably collected over 70 one-day sober chips from Alcoholics Anonymous, unable to go longer than 24 hours without returning to his addiction. Now, with 414 days of sobriety under his belt, he’s living proof that it’s possible to transform your life for the better and wants to promote that message.
“I’m just trying to help as many people as I can,” said Kellie. “That’s my goal in life now.”