Everyday is now Father’s Day for Aron McKenzie.
So it’s not a surprise the 38-year-old Penticton man hugs his little 10-month-old daughter Etta just a little tighter than when they were a family together not so long ago.
McKenzie now lives at Discovery House where he has spent several months slaying the demons who brought his soul to the very depths of hell.
At rock bottom, his very life literally hung in the balance when he tried to end his pain for good.
“I, uh was just dangling there and my buddy walked in and just ripped the cord right down and sat on me and called my ex. She came and got me and took me to the hospital,” said McKenzie about that horrific day. “I was more than willing just to end my life right there because I just felt so hopeless and I’m almost 40 and I’d tried to clean up so many times and it never worked I always went back to it so I just didn’t trust myself to ever do it.”
That event was the culmination of many years of addiction to drugs and alcohol which began when he was 15.
Part of the problem he now believes was also the physical and emotional abuse he suffered as a child.
“I grew up being told I had to fight every day because if I didn’t I would be taken advantage of, so I fought every day I was just an asshole kid, but that’s what was beaten into me. I was told I had to take it like a man and dish it out like I was a man, but I was a kid,” McKenzie remembered. “So that stayed with me and along with that I was no good and I would act out on that. I was never going to amount to that. I was a piece of (expletive) so I guess subconsciously I said well, I might as well act like one and I did. Losing jobs, losing friends ripping them off or just lying to them treating them like their idiots.
“I almost left my son and daughter without a father and my parents without a son and I can’t believe that I did that,” he continued. “I knew the hurt that I was causing, but if that was all it took to clean up everyone would be clean.”
He had tried other rehab sessions without success, but at Discovery, through the program and the people he has met, McKenzie has a new lease on life and that includes the responsibilities to Etta and his eight-year-old son Boden who lives in Vancouver.
“I just want to be there for my kids and I see what people in the fellowship (in the Discovery programs) have and I want that. I want to have what they have. I want to be there for my kids,” said McKenzie. “I want to see them grow up, I want to see them have kids of their own, be happy and no matter what it is I want to be there.
“I want them to want me there, I want them to have a father they respect and know he loves them, which I didn’t know how to do any of that before but I do now.”
He now calls Boden almost every morning and at night before bed to tell him he loves him, which was something he couldn’t do before.
“I was in their lives but I wasn’t totally in their lives,” he recalled. “My addiction was everything. I was just being half dad. I was there but I really wasn’t really mentally there but all that’s changed.”
At Discovery House telling his story to people who have been to the very depths he has, who understand and have also pulled themselves up, has been one of the most important things to help him cope.
“To go to these meetings and talk to these men and women who have been sober for 20 and 30 years they’re my inspiration, they’re the reason I’m excited when I wake up every morning, to know that I can do that too,” said McKenzie. “I wasn’t able to do that before, but now I have the tools to make me a better person, it was hard but in a way I guess I had to hit rock bottom to get better.”
He added a big part of the fellowship and his own recovery is also helping new people the way he was helped when he first went to Discovery House.
“I have a sponsor (another member of the fellowship) who told me, ‘by you picking me as your sponsor you’re helping me more than I’m helping you,’” said McKenzie. “But really, everyone here has helped me one way or another. I scared a lot of normal people, as we call them, off because I’ve been honest with them about who I am, but I go by the saying that normal is a setting on a washing machine.”
So this Sunday, Father’s Day, will be an extra special celebration for Aron and his kids and another day closer when they will once again be a family in the truest sense of the word.