There are many reasons people find themselves in debt. For our guest today, the underlying cause of his financial difficulties was drug addiction. James inspires us with his story - both how he battled his addition and why bankruptcy was a part of his recovery.
James actually contacted us with a moving letter about his recovery, which is what inspired us to ask him to be on our podcast.
James grew up in a small town in Ontario. He "hung out" with his older brothers and their older friends, and to fit in he did what they did. He started smoking cigarettes at age 10, and by the age of fourteen he had graduated to harder drugs. He was unable to hold a job for an extended period of time. He had a six month period of sobriety where he went back to school, but he was unable to finish. His periods of work lasted just long enough for him to be able to qualify for credit cards and student loans.
Eventually he resorted to illegal activities to generate the cash he needed to buy drugs, and those activities resulted in time in jail.
By the time James was released from jail he had a young son who he couldn't support. This was when James realized he wanted out.
I didn’t want to be in drugs anymore. I had been into it for 14 years. I had lost my son, lost my family, lost every job I had.
Amazingly it was his pill dealer who offered to help him start a new life. She saw that he was a good person, and he needed some help to get a fresh start. She let him sleep on her couch until he could find work, and she refused to provide him with any more drugs, even when he pleaded.
James entered a methadone program and finally, at age 27, he was clean and sober for the first time in 13 years. That was three years ago. Today James has a good job, and he sees his eight year old son every day. He is a new man.
Drug Addiction and Debt
Unfortunately for James, his drug addiction led to periods of unemployment, and when he eliminated the drugs from his life he was deeply in debt. How did he know?
My phone was ringing sixty times a day and I didn't know what to tell the people. I was getting threatened to go to court and to go to jail. I've been to jail and I really didn't want to go back.
James didn't realize at the time that a credit card company can't put you in jail just because you are late on your payments, but it scared him, and he took action.
He did some research on the internet, found our hoyes.com website, and booked a no charge initial consultation. He was very nervous before that first appointment. Would we judge him for his past sins?
No. We put his mind at ease by explaining that the past is the past; our focus is on the future. We want to help him get a fresh start.
After reviewing all of his options he decided that personal bankruptcy was the best option to eliminate his debts and get a fresh start.
I felt relieved that I had finally had a plan, you know, I no longer had just what am I going to do? What am I going to do?
We explained his duties during the bankruptcy period. He completed them, and at the end of nine months his bankruptcy will be over.
James got a fresh start, first by dealing with his drug addiction, then by dealing with his debts.
For more of James' amazing story listen to the full podcast or read the transcript of James' addiction and debt recovery story.
- Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario Methadone Program
- Debt relief options your trustee will review at your consultation
FULL TRANSCRIPT show #79 with James
Doug Hoyes: Today we're going to do something we've never done on Debt Free in 30. This is show 79 so I've done 78 weekly shows where we've talked about debt and money and even bankruptcy. But never before have I had someone on the show who was actually bankrupt. That's not surprising because most people who are going through bankruptcy don’t want to go on the radio and talk about it.
But today we're going to change that. My guest is a gentlemen who filed bankruptcy in 2015 and he's agreed to talk about his experience. His first name is James. I'm not going to tell you his last name because it's not important to the story and I'd like him to be able to keep his privacy. James was actually willing to have me use his full name because he's not embarrassed or ashamed of his story. Here's how he put it.
James: I'm not ashamed of it in anyway. It's given me the opportunity to change my - to actually have a life. You know, if I just racked up all this debt sober and then was trying to get out of having to pay things that I have all this money that I have all this stuff for - I racked up all this debt when I was in mad addiction, the life of addiction. So, it's not like I'm really ashamed of it. It's the way I'm able to provide for my son a life, you know, that I wouldn’t be able to in any other way.
Doug Hoyes: As James eluded to, he was a drug addict. He started using drugs as a teenager and it just got worse from there. I asked him to start at the beginning and tell me his story. Here's what he told me.
James: So, I started doing drugs when I was 14. Well, I started smoking cigarettes at 10. And I started doing drugs at 14. And I did all of them, I did cocaine, I did crack, I smoked weed, I'd do anything, any drug I could get my hands on. That's what we did. And all my buddies did that and that was just what we did. We lived in a small town up north and we didn’t think there was anything else to do on the weekend except get as smashed as you could. And then it became an everyday thing. Then years and years went by and it just got worse and worse. And by the time I was 20 I was a full fledged opiate addict and crack addict and just unbelievable.
Doug Hoyes: So, tell me how at the age of 14 you're able to get access to all these different drugs?
James: I had a lot of older buddies. I was hanging out with, I was 14 but I was hanging out with 19 year olds, 18 year olds, 20 year olds. I had about three or four buddies that were my age that all had older brothers that were all cool with us 'cause we could do lots of drugs and they were into drugs. So, like I could keep up with the 19 year olds so they were like oh, you're cool and I was 14 and sick of getting picked on at school and stuff so I started doing drugs. And I was good at something and people liked me for it and nobody picked on me anymore because I had lots of buddies. So, it was kind of, you know, I just put everything I was into it and stopped going to school. I did good in school. I would get like 90s and stuff and then not do anything, not go to class and pass with a 50. It was just stupid, right? And you go and get high instead.
Doug Hoyes: But it was something you did to allow you to fit in.
James: Yeah, pretty much. Pretty much and I liked the way it made me feel, I didn’t have to feel sober.
Doug Hoyes: But all this costs money so, at the age of 14 who's paying for all this?
James: I have to say I did a lot of illegal activities to provide for it.
Doug Hoyes: Got you, so that's how you got into it. So, okay it started off, you know, as something to do and be cool in front of your older friends and it was kind of a weekend thing and then it just kind of escalated and escalated. So, it started when you were 14 so tell me what it was like when you were 20?
James: By the time I was 20 I was doing Oxycontin. And fully addicted to Oxycontin and selling Oxycontin and it was bad. I was doing enough to probably kill a normal person. Like just ridiculous amounts of ODs and also smoking at that point. So, I was spending a lot of money and like you said it cost a lot of money and I was just racking up anywhere I could on loans from buddies and family and this and that. And eventually that runs out, right?
So, I guess it was about when I was 23, 24 when I started using my credit as a way to provide for my addiction. Once I realized that these people will give me money because I had a job for a little bit, right? So, I was able to hold a job and I'm guessing that's what I was thinking. You know, this is another way to provide for my addiction. You don’t think long-term. You know what I mean? You don’t know if you're going to make it through the week so you don’t really think too long-term about the consequences. You know what I mean?
Doug Hoyes: Yep. So, you're 23, 24 years old and you have a bunch of different jobs? You work at a place for awhile or do you stay at a job for a long time?
James: I'd work at a place for maybe six months or so and then onto the next, like temp jobs and this and that. And then my son was born when I was right in the middle of my Oxycontin addiction so that was harsh. But luckily he's got an amazing mother who took care of him when I wasn’t able to and she always told me get sober, be sober and you can have 100% of your son's life and she stuck to that 100%. All she wanted was for my son to have a sober dad.
Doug Hoyes: I want to talk more about your son 'cause obviously that goes into the whole family thing. But back to the job then, did your addiction have a significant impact on your job?
James: Oh yeah, oh big time. 'Cause I would get to work and I wouldn’t want to be there 'cause I'd want to go get high. Or I'd be high when I got there and so I wouldn’t want to stay 'cause I'd be too high or I would want to go get more high. You know, everything was about getting high. There was no - even with total disgrace and, you know, nothing to be proud of but what I'm about to say is it came before my son. When I was - it came before everything.
Doug Hoyes: This wasn’t just a weekend thing at this point.
James: No, this was an every day. If I didn’t have two Oxycontin on my side table I couldn’t get out of bed.
Doug Hoyes: Wow. And so, it's kind of amazing you were even able to have any kind of job.
James: Yeah, really. I was working for one job as a delivery driver and I couldn’t get pills the one day. And I went into the pharmacy to get wake ups and the pharmacy called the cops and the cops wouldn’t let me back in the truck. They told my boss, come pick your truck up I looked too sick. I was literally on death's door. I shouldn’t have been driving, no way. They didn’t ticket me or give me a charge or anything 'cause I wasn’t intoxicated. I was just totally dope sick and tired. I had been up forever trying to get pills.
Doug Hoyes: And I assume you lost that job?
James: Oh yeah. I lost that job. Well, they told me I could come back if I got a letter from a doctor saying I was okay to work. And there wasn’t a doctor on earth that would look at me and give me that letter.
Doug Hoyes: So, you had to go find another job and then another job and then another job.
James: And another job and another job, yeah.
Doug Hoyes: And so at what point were you able to start getting things like credit cards?
James: Credit cards I got when I was - there were stints of like five months where I would do okay and I got clean for a little bit and then I started going to school. When was that? That would have been about 25 when I went to school, something like that, 26 maybe. And I was clean and sober at that point when I got my credit cards 'cause I had money and I had student loans and - you know, I had been working before I went to school so I had a bit of - so, I was able to get these small credit cards. And then like CIBC just upped my credit card without even asking me, upped it from like an $1,800 credit I think it was up to like what is it, $6800 or $7000? Something like ridiculous, it was a ridiculous amount increased when I was in school. I wasn’t even working.
Doug Hoyes: And it wasn’t a secret that you were in school.
James: No, no, no I was on OSAP and everything.
Doug Hoyes: And so, this just continued until at some point you reach a breaking point I guess.
James: Oh yeah and then I got so far into it my credit card was so high up and everything was maxed. And so then I started doing payday loans. And I realized I could go around and get all the payday loans higher than a tree all on the say day before my - before they called my work and found out that I quit. So, I walked in so out of my tree and they gave me my payday loan and I went and got high and that was that.
Doug Hoyes: And so, why did you stop then?
James: Why did I stop doing drugs?
Doug Hoyes: Yeah.
James: Well, I got arrested three times in a very short amount of time. And you'll never believe this but my pill dealer told me when I got out of jail the last time - I just so beside myself for about a year. I hadn’t talked to my son in about seven months. My wife, we're separated right now, but she didn’t let me talk to him. I hadn’t seen him in a year. I was just beside myself. I was on the methadone program, I was clean off the opiates and I really wanted my son. I didn’t want to be in drugs anymore. I had been into it for 14 years. I had lost my son, lost my family, lost every job I had.
So, my pill dealer told me you come in and you keep a job I'll give you a room to live in and I'll get you off the pills and we'll get you 100% ready to go to work and get your kid back and this and that. So, I moved in and she totally did, she got me a place to live, she - even if I asked for them she wouldn’t sell them to me. And I got clean and once I was clean I started getting my son back in my life and that was that. And when I realized my son could be back in my life I just threw everything I was into it and walked out on it - an amazing job. I just applied for jobs like crazy. I was working as a temp and I was just trying to make more money to be able to pay my child support for once.
And so, I applied for this job and I got a call back. And I went in with no experience and I have no idea how I got the job but I walked out with the job and finally had a job that could go to a career. And I just steadily bettered myself in that business. And yeah, now I'm doing really good.
And that's when I went to see you guys was last year when I first started this new line of work. And you guys helped me get - figured out right away how to deal with all this credit that I had racked up over the years and had no idea how to deal with.
Doug Hoyes: So, I'm still amazed that what you said it was your pill dealer who helped you get clean.
James: Yeah, she was something else. She was selling them to get by but she was one of the few people in that lifestyle that I can honestly say had a big heart.
Doug Hoyes: Wow.
James: She just wanted to see my son have a dad that - she knew I could be a good guy but she knew I was just messed up on the pills.
Doug Hoyes: Wow and she was selling the pills because she was trying to get by as well.
James: Yeah, just trying to get by.
Doug Hoyes: You were both kind of in the same situation. So, how old are you now?
James: I'm 30, I'll be 31 in May.
Doug Hoyes: And you have been clean for about three years now?
James: Two and a half, three years. I don’t keep exact track of it because when I did that before it was like I was counting down to use again. And so, I didn’t keep track of the exact day, just around the time. And it's been about between two and a half to three years.
Doug Hoyes: Well, I guess what matters is today you're clean.
James: Yeah and I've been clean for I can't even imagine going - like the life seems like such a different life now. I couldn’t even imagine living that life. It makes me tired to think about it.
Doug Hoyes: And so, what are the big differences between today and five years ago?
James: I have something to live for. I didn’t care about life before. And I had never been sober since I was 14. And I was always in trouble before that, like when I was a kid I was always suspended, always in trouble, always in the behavioural program, you know, and always with bad temper and so I never knew anything better than the life that I was living.
And now that I've had two years of, yeah I had my ups and downs but nothing, there's just nothing that makes me want to go back to that. No, my worst day now is better than my best day then. And I look at my son and the pride he has in me. And he says daddy don’t ever get sick again please. And I said no problem buddy.
Doug Hoyes: And how old is your son now?
James: 7, he'll be 8 in April.
Doug Hoyes: So, he would have been about sort of 4 or 5 years old when you came back then.
James: Yeah, yeah 5. He was 4, just turning 5. Oh yeah, he remembers me being gone, yeah. He doesn’t remember - he didn’t see any of the drugs. When he was first born I walked away, I can't get sober, I can't stay sober and I don’t want him to be around it. So, I walked away. I'd go and see him every week and try to be sober when I went to see him. But never do drugs around him, never. Never brought him around the people that did the drugs, I always kept him away from that. So, he doesn’t know the drug side, he just knows daddy's not around side of it.
Doug Hoyes: And so, he was a key reason then that you made this change.
James: Oh yeah, he melted my heart the other day. He's so amazing. I'd never give him up for the world again.
Doug Hoyes: And so, the job is going good then.
James: Oh it's going awesome. I work hard, I work - every day I go there with the attitude that I don’t care this is the best job that I've ever had and, you know, you hear people complaining. And man this job like you guys should be thanking your lucky stars that you have a job that's stable, that's okay, that's decent. There's not big money or anything by far but it's a good job. It keeps me to being able to provide for me and my family.
Doug Hoyes: So, if someone's listening to us right now and they're either battling drug addiction themselves or they've got a friend or family member who's going through it, what do you tell them?
James: Oh that's a hard one 'cause everybody's different, right? Everybody's so different. The best I can say is just pray that they see a different reason to live other than drugs. You know, like when you're into the drugs it's your only reason to get up in the morning. You've got to find something that replaces that. You know what I mean? Something to look forward to, something to get up every morning for and that's hard to find. But for the people that know someone in drug addiction all I can say is just believe that they can be a better person and trust that one day they'll believe it.
Doug Hoyes: And are there any resources out there that you would recommend to people? Is there other agencies?
James: For opiates addiction?
Doug Hoyes: Yeah.
James: I would recommend a methadone program 100% if you want to use it correctly. If you want to go and use a program the way it's meant to be used and work with your doctor and get your life manageable and then get off of that, that definitely works. Like I've been clean for two and a half, three years and meth is a major player in it. My doctor needed a drug test every week. So, I got drug tests for the past two and half, three years that prove that I've been clean every day.
Doug Hoyes: So, explain to me how the methadone program works? What's involved?
James: You got and see your doctor. You leave a sample, they give you a drink that makes you not go through the withdrawals and not be able to get high off the opiates as well.
Doug Hoyes: So, it helps with both the symptoms but it's also a prevention thing.
James: Yep, exactly. And you have to do a drug test every week to prove that you're sober if you want to be able to get any like to take home with you.
Doug Hoyes: So, it's a long process.
James: Oh yes, it is a long process. But it's not a short process to get there either.
Doug Hoyes: It isn’t a short process to get there, that's a great point. Most people with debt didn’t get into debt overnight. Whether it was a problem like drug addiction or something else, debt builds up overtime. At some point we reach our turning point like James did and we take action. I'll have more with James after the break. You're listening to Debt Free in 30.
It's time for the Let's Get Started segment here on Debt Free in 30. My guest today is James who was a drug addict, starting when he was 14 years old. He got sober after 13 years when he was 27 and he's been sober for about three years now. He's now 30 years old. Last year he realized that he had more debt than he could handle so he decided to go bankrupt. Here's how he described it.
James: You know, everybody says that bankruptcy is such a horrible thing but it saved my life. There was no way I could provide for my son if it wasn’t for you guys, there's no possible way. I would guarantee I would be back into the life. Why bother being clean if everything that you did when you were high is just making your life miserable still?
Doug Hoyes: So, tell me about that. Tell me about what's going through your mind when you realized, okay I've got the drug addiction problem, which I'm dealing with but now that I'm sober I realize, uh oh I've got all this debt. In your case you mentioned that you had debt with a credit card company, a bank, you had debt with student loans I think you said as well.
James: Yep, student loans, payday loans, phone companies, anything that you can get credit on?
Doug Hoyes: At what point did you realize I've got too much debt?
James: When my phone was ringing 60 times a day and I didn’t know what to tell the people. And I was getting threatened to go to court and go to jail and I had been to jail before and I didn’t want to go back.
Doug Hoyes: What made you think to contact someone like us then?
James: I sat down and went on the computer and tried to figure out what I could do to try and pay them back and there was just nothing I could figure out to plausibly pay them back individually. So, I tried to think about maybe I can consolidate and even that was like ridiculous, me trying to afford the payments for so long.
So, like looking online, without talking to anybody and I came across your guy's ad online and I called the number and I talked to Ianina and I talked to somebody who set me up an appointment and I came in and I met Ianina and she saved my life. She made me feel so at ease and, you know, relaxed once I got there and, you know, not to worry that this is undealable like that, I was dealable. I could deal with this and my life wouldn’t be over because of it. You know, she just made everything seem not so bad.
Doug Hoyes: What do you remember about that first meeting with her?
James: That first meeting with her I remember being so nervous about okay, what am I going to do with my life? I was just beside myself. And she helped me go through all my different options just for like debt consolidation and all the different ones. And we decided together that bankruptcy would be the best route for me. And I remember walking out of there feeling like the weight of the world had been lifted off of my shoulders. And that's the biggest thing I can remember. Feeling like I finally have a chance that I can give my son the life that he deserves, not dealing with the consequences of my choices as a child and a teenager.
Doug Hoyes: So, was it a hard decision to make to go bankrupt?
James: Not really. I just kind of knew that that was - I thought about other options and I had spoken with somebody that knew what they were talking about. And this is what we - that we had come to together so I kind of felt relieved that I had finally had a plan, you know, I no longer had just what am I going to do? What am I going to do? That's all I could think, what am I going to do? And now it was okay, this is what I'm going to do. And finally having a plan was so relieving.
Doug Hoyes: And was the process of the bankruptcy, so once you went bankrupt, was the process difficult? Was there a lot to do? Was it really hard?
James: Not really, just do what they tell you to do. Keep your receipts, hand in your receipts every month, make sure you do the work. You know, as long as you - I even put reminders in my phone so I would make sure I had my payment in the bank for the proper day and the stuff faxed in on the proper day. And if I had any questions I'd just call the office or call or text Ianina and they helped me through it. It was really in very good company. It was an easy process compared to what I thought it was going to be going into the office.
Doug Hoyes: And so, you're talking about sending in your pay stubs every month so we know what your income is, that sort of thing.
James: Yeah, all my - anything medical, anything that is income or expenses.
Doug Hoyes: And so, what would your advice be for someone that is listening to us right now who's struggling with debt. What would you tell them?
James: Pick up the phone and call Hoyes and Michalos and Associates and ask to speak to somebody and go into the appointment that you make. Go into that appointment, don’t get to the appointment and say, oh I'll make another one. Go in and talk to somebody 'cause they will make it all better or at least a way to make it better or some choices to make it better. And you won't so alone and distraught leaving that meeting I promise.
Doug Hoyes: Thanks James for sharing your powerful story. I will be back with my thoughts after the break. That was the Let's Get Started segment here on Debt Free in 30.
Doug Hoyes: Welcome back. It's time for the 30 recap of what we discussed today. On today's show James, who's just finishing his bankruptcy told the story of how he started using drugs at age 14 and spent 13 years with a severe addiction on drugs before getting clean three years ago. He explained how his addiction lead him into debt and he filed bankruptcy as a way to eliminate his debt and get a fresh start. That's the 30 second recap of what we discussed today.
My goal when I started this show back in 2014 was to interview with people with interesting stories. And I think you'll agree that the story we heard today was about as interesting as it gets. James described what it's like to go through the bankruptcy process. The first step is the realization that you've got too much debt. So, when did James realize that he had too much debt?
James: When my phone was ringing 60 times a day and I didn’t know what to tell the people and I was getting threatened to go to court and go to jail. And I've been to jail and I really didn’t want to go back.
Doug Hoyes: James didn’t realize at the time that you don’t go to jail for owning money on a credit card but it was a threat that scared him so he searched for information on debts and bankruptcy in Ontario. And found our hoyes.com website and gave us a call and came in for a no charge initial consultation. We didn’t judge him. We're not the judge, we're not here to worry about the past, it's over. Our goal is to understand your current situation, present you with your options and help you choose the best option for you so that you can have a fresh start. I asked James for his final words of advice for anyone with debt problems and here's what he said.
James: Pick up the phone and call Hoyes and Michalos and Associates and ask to speak to somebody and go into the appointment that you make. Go into that appointment. Don’t get to that appointment and say oh, I'll make another one. Go in and talk to somebody 'cause they will make it all better or at least a way to make it better, some choices to make it better. And you won't feel so alone and distraught leaving that meeting I promise.
Doug Hoyes: So, there you go, pick up the phone, call us at 310 plan and we'll help you, it's that simple.