A former addict who cycled across B.C. and beyond says he’s on a mission to give others purpose as they come out of treatment programs – an area he’s identified as a “gap” in the system.
“There’s no real in between thing. For a lot of people, they go into transitional housing and they isolate,” said Tyler Waddell, who graduated from Surrey’s Phoenix Society earlier this year after his struggle with addiction led to him losing his job, his vehicle, his son and ultimately, a suicide attempt.
The former Williams Lake resident praised the staff at Phoenix for helping him get his life back on track, but said when he completed the Surrey program on June 10 he “didn’t really know what to do next.”
“I see that as kind of a common problem,” he told the Now-Leader. “A lot of people, even in their last week, end up relapsing because they’re afraid of what happens next. It’s a scary reality. Do you go back to your old home? Your old job?”
Waddell took a unique approach when he got out of treatment, embarking on a journey that would end up being an almost 2,900-kilometre bike ride through B.C., Yukon and Alaska that wrapped up in August.
“I bought a bike for $250 bucks online, bought a trailer for $80, and a Rubbermaid tote,” he said. “The longest I ever spent on a bike in treatment was about five minutes and I nearly keeled over and died. By the end of it, I was doing 120 kilometres a day. I was getting so strong.
“I learned so much ,” he said of the experience, saying it helped him mental health tremendously.
Waddell now has his sights set on creating a non-profit society that he’s named Light the Pathway, “to help these people get out of treatment experience their lives, and figure out what they want to do with their future.”
“Talking to people, helping people and creating hope for people so they don’t have to hit the deepest of rock bottoms to get the help that is out there,” he said. “It is an organization that will bridge the gap between the people in need of mental health services and the services available in all B.C. and Yukon communities.”
Waddell said he’s working to obtain grants and make corporate sponsorships, and just embarked on a second cycling trip late last week from Victoria.
He’ll be in Surrey this Saturday (Sept. 14) at Phoenix Society’s 30th anniversary celebration, and will have a booth set up to share his story and promote his efforts with his non-profit organization. The four-hour block party will run at Phoenix’s headquarters, at 13686 94A Ave, across from Surrey Memorial Hospital, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Meantime, Waddell is already busying planning what he refers to as his “main voyage” – an RV tour across B.C. from late November through to winter solstice.
“On my road trip I would like to connect with people in your city to help grow some events the lighten people up during the dark days of winter,” he explained. “I’m going to set up with talk to some community organizations and see what kind of events I can start up. I’ll be working with local First Nations throughout B.C. They’re a place where I’m going to focus quite a bit of my intention on. Also, local fish and game clubs, because they’re always out doing fun stuff and love helping people out.”
“My non profit is up and running now,” he added. “I will be looking for community sponsorship to start up events Dec. 1 to 21. Everything from ice fishing, to cross-country skiing, BBQs, speaker meetings, interactive things for teens and well, I always need more ideas.”
Looking further down the road, Waddell envisions his spring bike tour becoming an annual event, and he hopes to have other former addicts to join him as they leave treatment.
“They can discover themselves, they can learn, they can do outreach work,” he said. “We’ll talk at treatment centres along the way. And they can train for it while they’re in treatment. It’s helpful to have that purpose.”
And, he hopes to see the public get involved in future iterations.
“I envision this as something, a couple years down the road, there could be segments between say Surrey and Chilliwack, where a family can come and join on a bike tour,” he said. “Or maybe go from Penticton to Vernon over two days.”
“It’s not about cycling for speed – everything slows down and you see the world differently.”
For more information, to get involved or to follow Waddell’s travels, visit him on his Facebook page: “Light the Pathway.”