Brody Van Velze of Chilliwack has been clean and sober for more than 600 days.
There’s a healthy glow about him. His smile is warm and genuine. The nineteen-year-old has a full-time job working as a plumbing apprentice, and plans to become a firefighter.
He wants to give back now. Sharing his story with his hometown of Chilliwack is part of that.
“I still have a long road ahead of me. But I know I will be OK.”
Upon hearing that a 20-bed youth treatment centre was going to be built next year in Chilliwack, he said it was precisely what was needed in this town.
He should know.
As a middle school kid growing up in Chilliwack, he felt he had a lot to prove.
He started drinking at 14, mostly at house parties and hockey tournaments. Later it shifted to smoking pot, then taking steroids and cocaine.
At his worst, he stopped going to school. He was kicked out of the Hockey Academy at school.
“I was in my own little world,” Van Velze said.
Then he suffered a hockey injury at 16, which led to a doctor writing a prescription for OxyContin.
“That’s when I got addicted to opioids.”
He’d manipulate everyone, including those closest to him, to get money to use.
“I turned to crime to pay for my addiction.”
He found himself in a bad way, spiralling downward quickly.
“That’s when things started to get super-bad. I pushed away my friends and started hanging out with the wrong kind of people.”
Fortunately those who cared about him were not willing to let him fall very far.
“I was one of the lucky ones because I had, and still have, some amazing people in my life who didn’t give up on me.”
He credits the unwavering support of his mom, as well as his hockey coach and school counsellor, who were instrumental in getting him into detox, and eventually residential treatment in New Westminster, at Last Door.
It was necessary to go with out-of-town for residential treatment.
“Eventually I had to come back home.”
Since he’s been home in Chilliwack, he thinks about how lucky he is all the time. He’s proud to say he hasn’t had a drop of alcohol or used drugs since June 2016.
But he’s heard about teens who have overdosed in Chilliwack, and close friends who’ve died. Many of the youth are hurting.
“I’ve had six or seven close friends die,” he said. “It’s crazy.”
Van Velze jumped at the chance to speak to The Progress soon after the new youth treatment centre was announced for Chilliwack, saying if it could help just one person who reads about his story, it would be a “great accomplishment.”
“I also think about how I can give back to my community. Maybe sharing my experience will help those building the new centre to find the right mix of programs and services for kids in need,” he said.
Chilliwack is getting a new specialized addiction treatment centre for youth, with supports like one-on-one counselling, recreation and life skills training. Fraser Health is opening what it calls the “first-of-its-kind” residential facility exclusively aimed at youth 13 to 18 years old, with a 20-bed centre at 45456 Yale Rd, just past Kerr Road.
The regional facility will serve youth across Fraser Health, with treatment programs tailored to meet their specific needs.
A youth treatment centre is “exactly” what Chilliwack needs, Van Velze said, “support close to home, and the people who love and care about you.”