Shane Mugford spent more than 10 years as a drug dealer and addict. During that time he travelled across the country, looking for — and failing to find — happiness. And every dollar he made selling drugs was spent feeding his own habit.
“I made a lot money then,” says Mugford, 31, who was born and raised in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. “But, at the end of the day, you still ain’t got no money because of your habits. There is no money in selling drugs like people think.”
Mugford is coming clean with his life story, hoping to convince drug users and drug dealers to stop what they’re doing and make a fresh start.
“I have a lot of friends . . . still into drugs, still selling drugs, things like that,” said Mugford.
“In Labrador right now, it’s easier to get coke than it is weed. The problem is becoming more and more and more.”
Mugford was only 11 years old when he was introduced to marijuana in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Soon after taking his first puff, Mugford began smoking it every day.
“You could buy that at school — any of the older dealers would sell it to you,” he recalled.
“The money is what’s important to everybody. Nobody cares about anybody else, nobody’s trying to help anybody else.”
By Grade 8, Mugford and some of his friends had tried harder drugs, like acid. Even while in the classroom, they were often all high.
“We’d go to school, we’d pop tabs. Every day we’d be high. Recesses, lunches, those would be smoking-pot times,” said Mugford.
“It messed up my life. My whole childhood, my whole teenage years revolved around drugs.”
By the time he was in junior high, Mugford had even tried sniffing gas. It’s well known that the Labrador communities of Sheshatshiu and Natuashish have had problems with gas sniffing, but Mugford claims it also happened in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on a regular basis.
“People think it was just the Innu down in Sheshatshiu that was into it. But no, we were all into it,” Mugford said.
After a troubled childhood, Mugford moved to Fort McMurray, when he was 17. It was there that someone introduced him to the notion of selling marijuana.
“That’s when the more upscale drug dealing started,” said Mugford. “I ended up going to raves all the time in Edmonton, then getting on ecstasy and stuff.”
Mugford spent much of his adult life moving across Canada, never content to stay in one city for long. He would eventually be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In retrospect, he believes the disorder, combined with his drug addiction, is why he always felt like moving.
“(I was) never happy. I guess it comes along with being bipolar. I’m just never happy with my current situation,” said Mugford.
“No matter where you go, if you’re an addict, it’s always going to be the same. You can’t run from your addiction. You have to face it and beat it.”
During his time as a drug dealer, he said he ran some “illegal businesses,” which he wouldn’t elaborate on. He said even though he didn’t stay long in one place, it wasn’t hard to start up his dealings in a brand new city.
“(It’s the) easiest thing in the world to do,” said Mugford. “I can go out to any city and I can get a $50,000 loan in dope (from another dealer), no problem.”
At the height of his drug business, Mugford was bringing in a minimum of $1,000 a day, with the money going to satisfy his drug addiction.
“I came down to Newfoundland from Montreal and I had 20,000 pills of ecstasy. I bought myself a Cadillac and I was driving around Newfoundland for four months straight, selling ecstasy out of the back of a Cadillac,” said Mugford.
“And I made over $300,000 in eight months (selling cocaine) … and by the end of it I was $7,000 in the hole.”
Mugford’s personal drug of choice was cocaine. He was first introduced to the highly addictive narcotic in Grade 8 when he tried a tobacco-cocaine mixture.
Cocaine addiction turned his life into a nightmare.
“When you’re into something like coke, it’s powerful, it’s hard to let it go,” he said.
“It’s like this circle. You get depressed because you do the coke and then you do more coke because you’re depressed. It’s like this never ending vicious circle of just hell.”
Mugford said he has been clean for the last several months and is treating his bipolar disorder with natural means, such as nutrients and exercise. Now that he’s straightening out his life, he wants to use his experience to help others.
On March 4, Mugford began a gofundme.com website called “inukshuk counselling service,” with the hopes of raising enough money to start a drug treatment facility in St. John’s. His first goal is to get enough money to rent office space, before hiring staff.
“I’m putting together a rather unique private counselling service to help with our over-exhausted health-care system here in Newfoundland and Labrador,” Mugford posted on the site, describing himself as a young aboriginal entrepreneur who has worked as a family youth worker in a youth addictions treatment centre.
“Wait times to see a counselor starts with a minimum of 2 weeks, and wait times to get into a treatment facility could take as long as 4 to 6 weeks.”
After going through hell and back with his own addiction, Mugford hopes his story will translate into something meaningful for others struggling with drug problems.
“I’ve lived this and I want to get something started. I want to help. I’m determined to help.”