Hi, I'm ben,
I’m a counsellor, a coach, and explorer of consciousness.
Today, I live in Vancouver with my beloved Sheleana, with a close community of friends and family. All in all, I have a lot to be grateful for. A strong and healthy body, a great relationship with a woman who adores and respects me, a successful business managing short-term Airbnb vacation rentals in Vancouver, and a brotherhood of men who lift me up and challenge me to be better every day.
But my life didn’t always look this way, in fact it was very very different.
This is my story:
I grew up in a home full of turmoil and dysfunction.
On the outside, it may have looked like my family was normal, but behind the curtains there was constant fighting, negotiating, and behaviour management. Bullying and terrorism were everyday challenges for me, as my older brother's aggressive behaviour dominated the home. Some of this stuff boiled out in to public spaces, as my brother and I caused trouble in school, so the truth is that my family probably DID NOT seem normal.
My parents were happily married, my dad worked as a Pediatric Anesthesiologist, and my mom did her best to raise 3 difficult boys while working part time at the hospital as a Respiratory Therapist. She was and is a resilient, and powerful woman.
We lived in Calgary for 20 years, in the same house on the same street, and terms of living a life of privilege, I had it good. But on a daily basis growing up, I endured the abuse of my dominant, addicted older brother (the middle child) whose shadow I could not escape. My brother spent many years with therapists, in special schools, medicated, and locked away in institutions. As the focus was constantly on him, and I became increasingly traumatized and yearning for soothing, I began acting out in destructive ways at school.
It started in grade 2, and by grade 4 was medicated by the same psychiatrist who medicated my brother. My mother watched helplessly as her “good boy” turned into another rebellious problem child.
Come Junior High, I was getting expelled from multiple schools for defiance and general oppositional behaviour, and by the time I hit 13, I was addicted to escape and would do anything to change my inner world, mostly by the use of drugs and alcohol. I spent time in group homes and accumulated a few charges for theft, with threats of jail time. At age 15 I was admitted to a long-term rehab facility, against my will.
So here I was, in rehab. 15 years old with tons of suppressed pain, pretending I had it all figured out.
Rehab wasn’t a smooth process, and I spent the first few months rebelling against the therapeutic process. I had a big ego, and was determined that I wasn't an addict like my brother. I eventually came to realize that I was the same as the other clients in treatment: lost, hurting, and itching to escape my pain. Slowly, I dug into my pain, and opened the floodgates. I experienced a full spiritual breakdown, and found my identity shattered. I had been living a lie to cover my pain. I surrendered to the recovery process and opened my mind.
Over a period of 13 months, my life changed dramatically. I built a new set of principles to live by. I learned how to recover from addiction and how to gain power over my own life, so I didn't need to constantly seek escape. I integrated deep lessons surrounding community support, spirituality, and making small changes one day at a time.
After I left rehab and finished High School, I returned to work at that same treatment centre and learned to facilitate group and 1-on-1 counselling, taught 12 step philosophies and managed my own continuing recovery and sobriety.
Finally, I committed 4 years to attaining a Bachelor of Health Sciences degree in Addictions Counselling, from the University of Lethbridge. As it turns out, my brains still worked after all that abuse ;)
At U of L, I studied the major philosophies of many different counselling paradigms, but Humanism, Existentialism, and Transpersonal theories drew me deeper in to self discovery. These philosophies later informed my method on how to coach and counsel people, and which teachers I’d choose to study with.
After graduation, I joined a new government funded team to start a wilderness experiential treatment centre in Alberta, called Shunda Creek. We built a treatment program for young men (18-25) from the ground up. We worked with a holistic treatment model and used wilderness and other challenging experiences to expose the animal brain (or "default brain"), in order to work directly with addiction - which can be seen simply as a dysregulation of the reward system (Dr. Kevin McCauley does a great job of explaining this). We taught addicts how to re-wire their brain pathways by way of attention and intention <-- Best job of my life
After a couple years there, fed up with the Alberta winters, I headed to Vancouver Island and spent a year working with adults at Cedars, on Cobble hill. This was a job I had aspired to have for a long time - to be a professional in a "top-notch" facility. This perceived peak was anti-climactic, and wrought with the kind of lacklustre effect that often occurs when one achieves a dream of many years. I loved my clients and my role, but something didn't fit. Eventually, I had to move on, moved to Vancouver, and took a hiatus from counselling.
In Vancouver, I met many great teachers, most notably P.T. Mistlberger, who rekindled my love for shadow work, Transpersonal therapy, and men's work. Phil helped me connect with my masculine core and understand where I’d been holding myself back in my relationships, and in the world. He also facilitated the creation of a group of men called the Samurai Brotherhood, a weekly meet-up group where we support each other to connect with our truth, our power, and our accountability in the world.
In my coaching work with men, I use elements of men's work, Shadow work, Transpersonal work, and incorporate techniques from my addictions work over the past decade. I also often incorporate breath work to connect with the body.
I am married to a VERY powerful woman, whose beauty almost stops my heart every morning. I practice what I preach with my partner Sheleana Aiyana, who challenges me with her intensity, her wildness, and her constant calling for me to rise up, higher and higher. My relationship with Sheleana is the vehicle that can most directly connect me to the divine, even as my ego wants me to stay safe and isolated. We practice going deeper every day, and use our life together as the catalyst for spiritual growth. Check out our latest podcast on Weddings, Shadow Vows, and Ceremony.
Today, I have a lot to be grateful for, but things aren't picture perfect. I have no relationship with my brothers (I have a much older brother, with Schizophrenia), and I have my daily challenges. Life does its thing, and challenges are never-ending. Today, I use every-day life as my platform for personal growth - not seeking outwardly for that growth, but inward. I owe much to my brotherhood circle, my close friends, my fantastic parents, and my amazingly supportive partner.
Join me as I evolve, learn and grow. Check out The Evolving Man Podcast, the blog, and follow my work on Instagram and Facebook.
If you’re dealing with addiction issues and want help, check out my Freedom From Addiction Online Program, or get in touch with me for Coaching.
I also run 7-day-Advanced-Addiction-Retreats for small groups of men, once per year. These retreats involve group work, plant medicines, breath work, and diet to help men go deeper in their healing process. Get in touch if you want to know more.
If you want to know more about men’s groups, check out the Samurai Brotherhood page, or get in touch to join the Online Mens Group that I started for SB.
Thanks for coming along for the ride.
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