WEYBURN – A community volunteer and soccer coach, Tyler Hillstead, shared some of the pain and struggles he has had with his mental health, along with the victories and happiness with eight years of sobriety.
The husband of a teacher and father of three wanted to share his journey through mental health issues to help encourage people to seek out help if they are facing struggles or issues in their own life.
His story is also in support of Mental Health Week, coming up on May 2-8, and the Community Connections door hangers that are going out in Weyburn This Week to homes and businesses so people can display them to show support for mental health.
“As a child growing up, I had depression and anxiety, and in junior high I found alcohol to help me cope with those,” he said. “Eventually the alcohol went into drugs. It’s coming up on eight years, on May 24, I was in such a bad depression and hurting everyone around me, I made an attempt to end my life.”
Hillstead noted there were attempts to have him access services to help him, but he was afraid to let people know he was having difficulties.
“I always thought I could quit with my own willpower,” he said. “I don’t know to this day what made me break it off, but I came home. There was something in that moment … and I went out to the garage and asked for help, and called my dad.”
He noted his parents were involved in a 12-step program and knew about Tyler’s addictions. They had developed a plan to put in place should the day come that he would ask for help, and he was then put on a plane for B.C. to enter a treatment facility, as well as ensuring he had access to resources in the community.
“They can’t help someone unless they want to be helped. What they did by getting help themselves was build a way to help others. I hit my bottom and asked for help on my own,” said Hillstead.
“I wanted to do it for myself. I was at the end of myself and tried killing myself. I went away to treatment, and coming back I was able to get involved in different resources, and I also started doing outreach. I went to various detox centres in the province and I spoke and shared my story anytime I’ve had a chance to share my story through my addictions.”
He added he works with an addictions counsellor still, as does his family through 12-step programs that are available.
“When you’re dealing with addictions, it often makes the family unhealthy. You don’t believe them, you don’t trust them, as a form of self-protection. When the addict gets healthy, the family is still protecting themselves, so it’s just as important for them to get help,” said Hillstead.
He stated that he’s a better family man and husband, and is very involved in the community, such as serving as technical director and coach with the Weyburn Soccer Association. Being a volunteer has been one way he’s been able to give back and to help and encourage others in their lives.
Hillstead noted that his relatively young age (he was 30 when he became sober) has also been a help as young people who are struggling are more apt to listen to him and share their struggles with him.
“If I hadn’t touched drugs, I wouldn’t be sober today. I was into hard drugs to the point that I hit bottom. I couldn’t stop and couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t stop,” he said. “Younger people are able to connect with me. I can relate to them and offer them a healthy solution. At the same time, it’s not me. I do my plan and I leave it to God, and God has a plan for that person.”
He added the program isn’t a religious one, but it does have a spiritual aspect to it. He also noted that he has successfully remained sober for the past eight years, as since the day he stopped he has had no desire to drink or take drugs.
Hillstead said the fear of what people in the community would say or think was a deterrent for a little while too.
“One of the biggest things that kept me from getting help is what the community would think of me when I came home. Weyburn is a small community and word travels rather quickly. People reached out to my wife, and it was very comforting to have people come up and say they were proud of me for going to get help,” he said.
Now, he is willing to help others in any way he can, as he feels he owes a debt.
“I was given a second chance at life,” he added. “I wouldn’t have my family today if I wasn’t sober.”