All over the world, substance abuse is a problem that plagues families and communities. The World Health Organization estimates that annually around 500,000 deaths can be attributed to drug use.
About 70% of these deaths are related to opioids, which include codeine, fentanyl, methadone, and morphine. While effective treatment interventions are available, including rehab, less than 10% who need treatment are receiving it.
Brayden Morton, 35, of Cranbrook, British Columbia is keenly aware of the horrors of drug use. For five years, his life was sabotaged by Fentanyl until he finally entered rehab and sought treatment after 16 attempts.
Now living a life free of drugs, an unexpected opportunity came to help others who suffered as he did.
In June, Morton was at his home office while his three-year old Chinese shar-pei Darla soaked up the sun on the deck. Suddenly, there was a loud noise, followed by the sound of the gate being opened.
When he ran out Darla was gone, and he saw a blue Ford truck back out and speed off.
Morton was desperate to get Darla back. After reporting the matter to the police, he was advised to search for the shar-pei on social media.
Posting the theft on Facebook, he offered a $5,000 reward to ensure Darla’s safe return. Out of thousands of tips, one seemed credible.
A woman reported seeing the same older model blue Ford truck, which she said was parked at an auto shop with a dog inside.
When Morton confronted the owner of the truck, Darla, however, was nowhere to be found. Later in the day, he received a call from the same woman.
Morton shared, “I picked it up and all I heard was what sounded like a young lady crying. I knew in my heart this person had Darla. I told her I wasn’t mad at her… and that I would grab the reward money and come to her.”
Morton called the police, but insisted on seeing the woman alone, not wanting to scare her away. When they finally met, the first thing he saw was Darla.
Relieved and overjoyed, he turned to the woman who had taken his pet. He immediately recognized an older version of himself, the one hooked on drugs before seeking rehab.
“She was very evidently hooked on drugs.” Hugging the woman, Morton told her, “I was addicted to drugs for years. I know what you’re on. I know what you’re doing. I completely forgive you.”
Fearing that the woman would spend the reward money on drugs, he asked instead to pay for her rehab. Fortunately, the woman tearfully accepted his offer.
The encounter brought back fresh memories of his life as an addict. Growing up in Red Deer, Alberta, Morton was surrounded by people addicted to Fentanyl.
He himself became addicted at 24. He said, “I was doing nothing good with my life. Everything was falling apart for me. I had nothing.” He became suicidal. He was also a drug dealer, and at different times was held hostage, shot, and stabbed.
At one violent encounter, a machete got lodged in his head. After doctors successfully removed the machete, his main concern was to leave the hospital and get high.
Fortunately, his life would turn around a few days after the incident. Walking home, he passed by a pay phone, and decided to call Tricia Hedrick, a family friend who was also a drug rehabilitation specialist.
Morton said, “It was one of those moments people always talk about, like God trying to tell you something. I just went over and dialed her number.”
Hedrick encouraged him to get clean and enter rehab, adding that his parents actually thought that Morton was dead.
That night he went on what became a final bender, along with fentanyl and sleeping pills. He told himself, “If I don’t die and somehow wake up, I’ll go to rehab. I don’t know how or what happened but I woke up.” He finally quit drugs and never looked back.
The woman who had taken Darla had been hooked on drugs since she was 16, and had taken the dog after being offered $150 by people who were looking for a Chinese shar-pei.
Wracked by guilt after seeing Morton’s Facebook post about Darla, she stole back the dog and decided to return the dog to her rightful owner.
Heartbroken by the woman’s circumstances, Morton decided to help her rid her life of drugs. He called Westminster House, a rehab facility that treats girls and adult women. He reserved a bed for the young woman and pledged to pay for her medical and rehabilitation treatment.
She has canceled her admission three times, and Morton completely understands. He said, “I did the same thing before. It’s not an easy thing to do, going to rehab, but I’m not going to give up on her. She knows this offer will always be here, whenever she is ready to go, it’s paid and it’s a done deal.”
Morton’s generosity also extended to the man he had mistakenly accused of stealing Darla. One day he saw the blue Ford truck and pulled over, with the intention of apologizing.
Surprisingly, the two became fast friends. The truck owner was also going through a difficult time and was homeless. Morton decided to help the truck owner get back on his feet.
Morton and his friends pooled money together so that the truck owner could stay at a hotel. He has since been able to purchase his own trailer and now has a full time job.
Losing Darla changed the lives of two other people for the better, thanks to Morton’s own past challenges. He remains in touch with both the young woman and truck owner, and is reminded that we need to help those who may not have anyone to turn to.
Morton reflected on this invaluable lesson, saying, “It was very humbling, and actually, those people helped me too. I was going through some personal stuff at the time and it was very emotional and they warmed my heart. I’m thankful for them.”