How music saved a Toronto man from drugs before he turned 21-years-old

cbc logoCBC News, Tuesday, November 10, 2015
“I had no friends, I was addicted, music pulled me out.”

What is it like to be addicted to painkillers?

What is it about those drugs that are they so seductive?

How to you break free from them? And how do you replace them in your life?

These are all questions that one young Toronto man has had to answer. Jobim Novak is in recovery from a serious addiction to the painkiller Oxycontin.

When Novak was just 15-years-old, he was already stealing painkillers from his parents medicine cabinet. “I started with Percocet and Tylenol 3,” he said, then kids at school offered him Oxycontin.

“Within the first month I started using it frequently, every day, I just couldn’t stop,” Novak told Metro Morning host Matt Galloway today.

Novak spent many of his teen years involved with the drug. He says it was his way of trying to cope with his mental health issues. Growing up he heard voices and had hallucinations, and he says the drugs were an escape.

“You feel great — it’s like being covered in warm blanket. You don’t care about anything, it takes away all the mental pain.”

But now at 21-years-old, he’s in recovery from his addiction and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, which he takes medication for. Novak credits his passion for helping with his recovery.

“Music was everything,” said Novak. “Music helped me when I was down. I had no friends, I was addicted, music pulled me out.”

After a stint in rehab, he started attending the Creative Writing Program run by the humanitarian agency Ve’ahavta in collaboration with the Toronto Writers Collective.

“At a very young age I was a poet. But when I got addicted everything stopped,” Novak said.

Through the program Novak started up again, nurturing his talent as a poet and a rapper. He believes he’d be dead today if not for the outlet the program provided.

This Thursday Novak will perform at Ve’ahavta’s annual gala, Starry Nights. q host Shad will be MCing the event, which celebrates people who go to extraordinary lengths to make a difference in people’s lives.

“You can become sober but it doesn’t mean your quality of life will improve,” Novak said. “You have to find something to replace it. For me that was my music. It saved my life.”

In addition to preaching about the ills of drugs in his music, Novak is now back in school at George Brown College. He wants to become a child and youth worker.

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