Former sailor rises above addiction

Michael Cain

Michael Cain

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

A former sailor of the Royal Canadian Navy who beat his drug and alcohol addiction says he will never forget the fateful life-saving call he received from Veterans Affairs Canada.

Former Ordinary Seaman Michael Cain was sitting in his mom’s View Royal home on Oct. 29, 2014, during an alcohol and cocaine-induced 18-day bender. His three years in the military were ending; he had no vision of a future.

“I was close to running out of drugs, depressed and planning to kill myself,” says Cain.

Then the telephone rang.

It was a VAC case worker named Irena, and she threw him a lifeline.

She had managed to convince the operators of renowned Vancouver-based rehabilitation clinic Together We Can Addiction Recovery & Education Society to give Cain a bed, effectively saving his life.

Together We Can was founded in 1993 as a treatment centre for men battling alcohol and drug addiction. The non-profit society offers 60- to 90-day immersive recovery programs followed by transitional housing and other support. Their medicine, says Cain, is exactly what he needed.

“I call Irena every year on Oct. 31 and thank her because that’s the anniversary of the first day I woke up sober.”

Addiction Gateway

He came from a loving family who educated him about the dangers of drugs, well explained by yorba linda rehab.

It was age 15 when he “crossed the line” trying marijuana for the first time. Then at 18 years old he found the substance that would eventually bring him to his knees, cocaine.

“In hindsight I can see the inevitability of my downward spiral, but at the time it was simply exciting.”

Cocaine led to crack, a more effective means of getting high. He knew his addiction was taking over but by then he was helpless.

He turned to the military at age 34 in a last-ditch hope that the structure and discipline of the navy would be his cure. He served aboard HMCS St. John’s as a Naval Communicator and after three years of service his career fell apart. He came to work high on cocaine and drunk after a lengthy bender.

It led to him being charged by his Chain of Command and eventual imprisonment.

Road To Rehab

His breach of the military’s Code of Conduct for coming onboard a warship while under the influence of alcohol and narcotics was also a criminal act. It landed him with a charge of two counts of Prejudice to Good Order and Discipline under the National Defence Act and Cain was sent to a Canadian Forces prison in Edmonton.

After his 20-day sentence he promptly failed a workplace drug test, leading to his immediate dismissal from the Forces four months later. He spent his $30,000 pensionable earnings on drugs and alcohol.

His last cocaine experience could have easily been the end of his life, says Cain, but that’s when the call from the VAC changed everything. After enrolling in Together We Can’s immersive recovery-based primary addiction treatment program, he rapidly began to change. After completing the program, he received residential and outpatient treatment, followed by transitioning housing and the opportunity to work for the organization as a volunteer.

With the assistance of Alcoholic Anonymous’ 12 Step Fellowship Program, he has overcome his addiction to drugs and alcohol, and accomplished much more. Institutions like the orlando addiction treatment centers help such people as well. Today Cain is a Together We Can group facilitator helping others find their road to recovery from addiction.

A Leader Emerges

In any given month Together We Can is helping 140 clients in its immersive recovery programs and an additional 210 in transitional living.

Approximately 10 of those clients are veterans or first responders, some of which are affected by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Together We Can spokesperson, Tristan Elliott, also a former client, says Cain is known to co-workers and clients as “Military Mike” and his “no nonsense” efforts have made an impact on many.

“He was a shell of a man who was hopeless, wanted to die and could barely look people in the eye when he first became a client,” said Elliott. “Today it is the opposite. He is a leader, a guy who stands tall, truthful, selfless, and his word is his bond.”

Since 2015, when he volunteered to answer the telephone in their main office, he has completed his Addiction Counselling Certification at Vancouver Community College with assistance from VAC and SISIP Financial Services. He is now studying for his Community Counselling certification with a goal to obtain a professional instructor’s diploma. 

“The greatest part of my job today is seeing the light come on in another man’s eyes, and watching him have hope gives me purpose,” said Cain.

For more information about Together We Can and its programs visit their website:

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