The long road

Steve
Steve Bartlett
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Recovering addict pedals country filming stories of drug abuse

Former addict Chris Cull doesn’t know what kind of high to expect when he reaches St. John’s.

Chris Cull expects to arrive in St. John’s this morning after a cross-Canada bike ride.

He’ll likely get here today, after he finishes biking from Victoria, B.C. — not popping the pills that almost destroyed his life.

“I couldn’t tell you how I’m going to feel until I get there, but I’m sure it’s going to be one of the greatest things in my life,” Cull said from Arnold’s Cove Tuesday morning.

The 7,500-kilometre ride has been tough.

Pedaling across Newfoundland this week has been “brutal,” Cull said, as hours of cycling in heavy rain and over mountainous terrain have taken a toll.

Cycling across Canada is nothing compared to the Ontario man’s life journey, though.

Seven years ago, his dad — his hero — committed suicide.

Thrust into an emotional tailspin, he constantly cried.

Percocet, he thought, would numb the pain.

“But that was like putting a Band-Aid on a broken leg,” he said. “It created a bigger problem.”

Enter Oxycontin.

Cull became highly addicted, downing five 80-milligram tablets a day. He paid a price.

“I lost everything to that over the course of two years,” Cull said.

That includes his personal savings, his girlfriend and “any kind of respect I had from anybody.”

At rock bottom, he finally realized he had a demon to slay.

He entered a methadone program. Slowly, it helped him clean up. There were many challenges.

With personal savings long gone and invested in his addiction, Cull struggled to pay bills.

There were two winters when he didn’t buy gas to heat his house. He’d often go four days without food.

“That was probably my lowest point,” he said.

Off the opiates, Cull needed to test himself — and to make a difference.

Cycling across Canada was his challenge of choice, interviewing people affected by prescription drug abuse along the way.

He sold his home to make it possible and began a rigorous physical training regime.

Since leaving B.C. May 8, Cull has seen breathtaking sights and taped harrowing stories of drug abuse — an odd mix of beauty and beast.

Those tales, which are being collected with the help of two videographers, will become a documentary.

Through making the film, Cull, 29, hopes to assist those struggling with addiction, as well as their family members.

He said the stories he’s heard in this province are no different than in other places. That doesn’t seem like a good thing.

“(Almost) everywhere I go, you’ll hear the comment, ‘Oh, you’ll find a lot of that around here. When people say that everywhere … we have a big problem on our hands,” he said.

An all-too-familiar problem in this province.

Lives and families torn apart. Sons and daughters lost. Crimes committed. Time served. Addicts alienated. … There are all kinds of addiction-induced predicaments here, each as tragic as the next.

Hopefully, Cull’s recovery and his subsequent trek from the Pacific to the Atlantic will inspire those affected by prescription drug abuse and show that things can turn around.

“It’s been quite a ride,” Cull said, not specifying if he was referring to the trip or the recovery.

It doesn’t matter, though. Both are true.

Steve Bartlett is The Telegram’s

managing editor. Reach him via mail at sbartlett@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Band-Aid

Geographic location: Canada, Victoria, Newfoundland Ontario Pacific

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