At an early age Guy Felicella fell into a cycle of addiction, gangs, jail, and recovery – a cycle he would repeat for 30 years of his life.
In May the Richmond native is coming to Maple Ridge to tell his story and advise parents and caregivers how to talk to youth about substance use and abuse.
Felicella was born and raised in Richmond, but spent 20 years of his youth living on the streets in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
For the 2021 Courage to Come Back Awards Felicella described a point of desperation he reached in his life in his nomination video.
He described how he went to booth five at a supervised consumption site where he did “his shot” like many times before.
The next thing, he found himself on the floor with a tube in his throat and a nurse leaning over him with tears in her eyes.
He said he pulled the tube out of his throat and asked her why she was crying. She replied to him, “Because I care.”
“Inside I had built this prison. I just couldn’t trust anybody,” said Felicella in the video.
He recounted a childhood where nobody was there to support him through his own youth, how he was bounced around from group home to group home and through different school districts, and how he had an undiagnosed learning disability.
“All these things factored into me being scared of the system,” he said, adding that he never had stability in his life.
He said how it didn’t take long before he was selling drugs and using even harder drugs.
“Really where I got stuck and never left was about 1993 till 2013 where I pretty much was consumed in a two block radius, homeless for those decades,” he said.
Felicella credits harm reduction to his success of kicking drugs and getting his life back together again.
According to the Fraser Health Authority harm reduction refers to policies, programmes, and practices that aim to reduce the health, social and economic consequences of substance and drug use, without necessarily reducing the amount of drugs or substances the person uses.
Felicella now works as the peer clinical advisor for the B.C. Centre on Substance Use Vancouver Coastal Health’s Regional Addiction Program and the Provincial Overdose Emergency Response Centre, and he has a wife and three children.
He is an advocate for people who use substances and travels to different communities to educate people on harm reduction to eliminate the stigma surrounding it. He provides in-school education, and he speaks at corporate gatherings and community events. He talks to youth about his personal struggle, and addresses the stigma surrounding mental health and addiction, drug policies, and making informed decisions.
Felicella will be speaking at 6 p.m. on May 10 at Thomas Haney Secondary School, 23000 116 Avenue, with Hudson Campbell, event facilitator and youth leader.
The evening will include lite refreshments, Felicella’s presentation, and a panel discussion with local experts around creating safe spaces for conversations with youth.
Panelists include Alana Ramsey with the Fraser River Indigenous Society, Aldo Bonator with Integrated Child and Youth Teams, Conner Craig with Foundry, Katelyn Ross with Alouette Addictions, and Wilf Leung with PLEA.
Free tickets can be reserved at eventbrite.ca/e/lets-talk-about-substance-use-tickets-320881123077.
Have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.