Biking to Fight Canada’s Hidden Prescription Drug Epidemic

Chris Cull is a recovering opioid and alcohol addict who recently biked across Canada to raise awareness about the Canadian prescription drug abuse epidemic. He founded Inspire by Example, an organization dedicated to highlighting the massive scale on which this issue has affected the country.

My name is Chris Cull and I’m in long-term recovery from an opioid addiction.

It started when I was 22 years old – my father took his own life after a long battle with Huntington’s Disease, and I wasn’t emotionally or maturely developed enough to manage the loss productively. I started using Percocet – one or two a day – just to numb myself out. That quickly tore my life apart, and I accelerated to using 580mg of oxicontin for two years. I lost my father’s home that he left me, spent six figures on pills and lost a girlfriend of three years, who I loved dearly at the time.

After losing everything that meant anything to me, I decided to go on a harm reduction program, which I was on for five years. During the latter two years of that program, I went without gas in my home, had to curtain off the living room just to keep the heat in, and heated water off the stove to clean myself. I also had to steal my food to survive and ended up losing an unhealthy amount of weight.

One day, when I was working as a cashier, a customer threw a plastic sign in my face to save fifty cents on three apples – that was the moment I decided I didn’t want to live that life anymore. I was tired of surviving and just scraping by.

I quit my job that day and realized I didn’t want another career where I was staring at the clock, hating what I was doing or where I was degraded as a human being. I wrote down four boxes for my passions, hobbies, interests and stuff I knew I hated – and thereby created my own system to help me figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

I quit the drugs, put my house up for sale and started my project, Inspire. I rode a bicycle across Canada to show people you can get out of that life and go on and do great things. I also filmed a documentary where I recorded stories to highlight how much the prescription drug epidemic has escalated in Canada. I was also able to do things I couldn’t do previously: I teed a couple of golf balls off of the Rocky Mountains, jumped out of an airplane in Montreal, went white water rafting in Northern Ontario and so much more.

Most importantly, I wanted to inspire people and show them that a drug addiction doesn’t have to be the end of their lives. Anything is possible if you want it bad enough.

This is an abridged transcript of an audio story submitted by Chris Cull for the “Toronto’s Untold Stories” exhibit hosted by Autobiography Magazine on December 28, 2016. Listen to Chris’ full story here and read more about his work here