Inside the Mind of Kurtis J. Wiebe

Tag: anxiety

One Year

One year ago, I woke up with the worst headache I’d had in my life. By 11am, I managed to call a car to bring me home, as I’d spent the night at a friend’s place.

On my phone were several text messages from my partner, asking where I was. We had made plans for the day, and I had been expected home hours earlier. My responses were apologies, a sad recurring theme in the weeks and months leading to this fateful day.

The first thing that hit me as I crawled into the Uber was a familiar feeling of anxiety, an issue I had always battled but on this particular morning it was a goddamn demon. I’d been experiencing panic attacks more regularly leading up to the day, which was odd, I’d never had them until the Spring of 2019.

Back home, I could see through the car window that the day had long started without me. My daughter had set up her lemonade stand for the first time on the sidewalk outside. It was full of fanfare, yellow and bright, an excited child thrilled to see Dad stood behind it’s inviting storefront.

Dad had promised to help her set up the stand and sell lemonade alongside her.

It was well past noon. She’d been waiting for hours.

I apologized, fully ill and wracked with the early stages of another debilitating panic attack. I lied and told her I’d be back in a little bit after some rest.

I walked into the house, desperate for a dark room and enough pain meds to get me through the day. I realized in that moment I’d forgotten we also had guests from out of town visiting. They had already arrived, sitting and having tea with my partner as I stepped into the house like some horrific undead monster.

I made excuses about my headache, apologized that I needed to excuse myself and shamefully hid in the basement while I suffered through the worst few hours of illness and regret I had ever experienced.

I wasn’t sick.

I was hungover.

But this time, unlike the previous instances that were happening with alarming frequency, I couldn’t hide from the facts anymore.

I Am Not Deryk Whibley

I laid in the dark for hours, sweating, my heart racing, terrified that I was dying but too embarrassed to ask for help. I was desperate for escape, something to take my mind from the vomiting of poison from my body.

I reached out for my tablet, maybe music or a video could help with the escape.

I opened Youtube, and the first video that showed up on my suggestions was an interview with Sum 41’s Deryk Whibley, the singer who barely survived his battle with alcoholism.

It was a strange recommendation; I hadn’t watched or searched anything related to him or his band, and I couldn’t think of any association that would land this on my front page. But I watched it anyway.

Everything he talked about resonated with me, so much so that at the end I decided to take a break from drinking. I wasn’t like him, absolutely not, but I could use a break.

I could acknowledge that my drinking had increased, not only in how often, from once a week to every other night, but in the amount consumed. A 26oz of Jack Daniel’s for an evening wasn’t cutting it anymore.

But I wasn’t Deryk Whibley. He was an alcoholic.

By 10pm, I finally emerged from the basement. The whole day, all of its little bits of magic having passed me by, and a disappointed daughter long asleep upstairs.

I had a small measure of pride in my decision to take a break, as though it wasn’t something I’d done a dozen times before with delusional promise to my partner and to myself. As though it would make a difference this time.

I went to bed with a new awareness of what I was going through.

But I wasn’t Deryk Whibley. He was an alcoholic.

A Spade a Spade

The next day I felt a small return of confidence having confronted a demon and beat it back for awhile. I was considering looking up some local AA meetings as a support while I took a break. To be surrounded by people who struggled with alcohol and to be able to have open conversation about the topic without fear of judgement could be what I needed to get through this period of time.

After all, I wasn’t Deryk Whibley, he was an alcoholic.

Then, I received a phone call. A friend checking in, who said he’d been thinking about me and wanted to see how I was doing.

I confided in him that despite doing better today, I had a terrible few days leading up to it.

I relayed the story to him that I will relay to you now.

My Last Drink

It was the Friday night when I caught an Uber to a friend’s place for a BBQ. I had the request to bring some whiskey for everyone to share, which I willingly obliged. I brought a 40oz, more than enough for five people even though there was only going to be three of us.

It was a good night, but I don’t honestly remember much of the back half of it.

When I woke up the next morning, my friend came to check in on me, to make sure I was OK. I told him about the aforementioned headache, but I lied and said I was good. It was becoming a default fabrication, now more commonplace than ever.

I don’t believe he bought that lie, his worried expression didn’t dissipate when he told me that the entire 40 was empty. I didn’t believe him, there was still a quarter of it left when I went to bed. (Even though I didn’t remember doing so).

I found the bottle. And it was as he said. Empty.

Thing is, my friend and his brother only had one drink each from that bottle.

The rest was on me.

The Talk

After I relayed the story to the friend who had called, he went quiet for a moment, maybe trying to find the best way to have an important conversation. Meanwhile, I assured him that the AA meetings I’d planned to attend were merely a support system while I took a break from the drink and reassessed my life. I told him about the YouTube video I watched.

But I wasn’t Deryk Whibley. He was an alcoholic.

My friend opened up to me about his own experiences with alcoholism in his family. About the stress and sadness it spread from one person to many others. He talked about family meetings with Al-Anon, as the family members left to deal with the impact of an alcoholic they loved.

As he spoke, I felt a deep sense of dread coming over me. And as though to surface all of that pain, that denial and sadness, he told me to ask myself two things

One, can you have just one drink?

Two, is it taking from the joy in your life?

All I could think of in that moment was my daughter’s face when she saw me coming up the sidewalk. Joy. And the moment when I lied and it all collapsed into disappointment.

That would be the legacy I’d give her.

That friend saved my life. I hope he knows that when he reads this.

I owe you everything for reaching out and checking in on me. Because I couldn’t have just one drink. And I had no joy left in my life.

I am Deryk Whibley. I am an alcoholic.

One Year

Today marks the first year of sobriety in the rest of my life.


For the legacy I will leave for my daughter and my partner who never gave up on me through any of it.

There’s been an ongoing joke about how often our family moves. Over the course of seven years, we have moved nine times. Four cities, two provinces and two countries.

Every time I would see the change as a new start. A fresh beginning. Because, the truth is, I’ve been aware of my discontent and unhappiness all along. I’d deceived myself into believing that the sadness was somehow borne of external factors and that a change in them could right the course of my life.

There are many issues that led to a very quickly spiraling addiction to alcohol. Of the most relevant was when I faced a crippling blow to my professional comic career in 2016 that never recovered. I was desperate for approval with the community I had placed so much of my identity and worth in. I saw the trajectory of my career, what it could’ve been and how it crashed and could barely face the despair of it.

I placed so much value in my identity as a comic writer that losing it was tantamount to dying. I had no value. No worth. Even though I was loved by friends and family, that I was a papa to a beautiful daughter… I saw none of it with any value.

So I drank. More and more.

Until one day, I realized something.

It was a summer trip to Vancouver to work at The Coalition, a video game company, for a freelance gig. And, looking back, it’s funny to me now, but then I didn’t see it as potential career for me. My mind was still so focused on vindicating my reputation and pedigree in comics that my success in video games didn’t even register.

But, after a week at the studio, of being thanked for my work and feeling a continual sense of appreciation and welcome, something clicked.

I could turn my talents anywhere.

These two things, of realizing the depth of my addiction and how disillusioned I was with my identity, came together at the exact right time.

I decided I needed a new start, but this time with all the understanding of why and what needed to change.

It remained what the answer had always been: me.

I Am

IMG_20200727_190438A father and a husband.

I take pride in my writing, but it no longer defines me. I have spent fifteen years refining my skills as an author, but none practicing them as a father and husband. These traits do not, generally, come naturally, as I am slowly learning.

My sense of self isn’t weighted on the success or failures of my creative life, but rather by the legacy I will leave in my daughter’s life and by the support I can be to my partner. Because, when this all goes away, it’s ultimately the two of them I will have to answer to, and who will be at my side if I get this right.

And I won’t always. But I’m no longer living as a culmination of all my failures. Instead, I choose to celebrate the victories and fix the problems as they present themselves.

I am Kurtis Wiebe.

An alcoholic.

But a sober one.



This Side of Suicide

June 19th, 2016

It was an ordinary day, like any other that had come before. I’d struggled along, unaware that each ordinary day was one where I’d slipped just that little bit further. Not realising there was a weight pushing me down the tiniest bit more.

Every extra hour I’d spend in bed in the morning. Each additional day I’d go without showering. More days that would pass where I refused to leave the house. It had become a pattern, and I was completely blind to it.

But on June 19th of this year, the normal day ended in a very bleak place. I would say it came out of nowhere, but in retrospect, every sign was there from the beginning. I’d let my mental health collapse.

It was that night, after watching Birdman, where I had to admit to myself that if I didn’t have a family, I would’ve killed myself. Hell, I even sat with the thought of suicide all night. I’m lucky that the reminder of my daughter asleep in the other room spared me an awful decision that night. But I had to face the facts:

Family couldn’t save me forever.

Suicide in men has been described as a “silent epidemic.” It has a disturbingly high incidence and is a major contributor to men’s mortality. In British Columbia, suicide is one of the top three causes of mortality among men aged 15 and 44. Among men of all ages in Canada, suicide ranked as the seventh leading cause of death in 2007.

The above quote is from an article in the BC Medical Journal in 2011. It’s an excellent insight into leading theories behind the ‘silent epidemic’ and one I encourage you to read.

When I say that I’m lucky, I absolutely believe it. I have many securities that men in similar situations aren’t fortunate to have. Financial stability, family, and a community of trusted friends, just to name a few.

If you have all of those things, how did you get to this place?

The answer isn’t an easy one. Depression is a sly, subtle bastard. It hooks in quietly and is content to whisper for months and years. There have been rare occasions where I’ve been able to feel it settling in, where I have enough self-awareness to understand the feelings I’m having. It’s rare to happen that way.

It begins with something small and ends with you thinking tomorrow really isn’t worth waiting out. And it can happen slow or terrifyingly fast. That loss of perspective is almost indescribable and is deeply horrifying. I still can’t explain to you how I couldn’t see value in the life I was living. Even with everything being absolutely wonderful from the outside. I’m embarrassed to have taken it all for granted.

But, I can promise you this; it wasn’t taken for granted. I simply didn’t see my value in the equation.

That night I had a long talk with my wife. I told her everything I’d kept inside, the awful shit that swirled around in my brain day and night. I confessed the anxieties, my fear of going outside, the lack of desire to be a person anymore. It was scary, for both of us. She knew, of course. She’d been living with my depression as much as I had. I don’t think she understood how far down I’d spiralled emotionally. I hide well. If I had a superpower, that would be it.

The conversation came around to preservation. To stop the free fall and find some solutions. That support from my wife, unyielding and strong, kept me from the precipice. And three days later I was in a soft sofa overlooking Vancouver’s rainy harbour, talking to a professional about what led me to this place.

Life turned around at such a rate that it surprised me, and in a way that I am proud of. In a way that gives me strength even now. Because, yes, the support I had was invaluable in saving my life, but I did the work to get me out of that pit. I clawed my way out and demanded better.

I saved myself.

The Fight

1) Seek Help – There are many ways you can do this. There are hundreds of options out there. It is the most obvious of answers to those suffering from depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide. The problem is, we believe that because we have dealt with it our whole life, we are in control of it.

The reality is, mental health is taken less seriously than any physical injury. If you had a broken hand, you would go to a doctor to get it fixed. You wouldn’t shrug your shoulders and carry on. “Well, this is just who I am now.”

It’s not always easy to find the right help, either, but the struggle is worth it. I promise you. I know it seems like all you’re getting is common sense suggestions, and that you’re doing all the work while they’re getting paid for it. But here’s the truth:

You are responsible for the hard work.

It took my counsellor to point out the obvious because I’d lost that perspective. And there was an actual shift that occurred in my clouded brain. Like I could see again. That was the beginning.

2) Demand Order – I’ve been a professional writer for five years. I’m a freelancer, I create my own hours, my own work space and I’m ultimately responsible for my deadlines. Guess what?

Depression and chaos aren’t good partners. For me, it was a huge contributor to the spiral. A week would pass and I’d done so little work that it would trigger a collection of thoughts that carried over to the next week, compounding how awful I already felt.

Worthless. Lazy. Unhelpful. Irresponsible. Shameful.

Depression eventually devoured my ability to create, think clearly and be productive. I went from writing a few hours a week to a few hours a month.

In that time I had a conversation with a colleague and he said he’d started living by a daily schedule. He showed me his template, a really smart and easy to create day planner with Google Calendar. I thought little of it at the time, but when I was taking control of my life again, the idea resurfaced.

So I created one for myself.


It revolutionised my life. I went from writing a script a month to a script a week, sometimes even two a week. That built confidence, excitement and a growing motivation. I could look back at the end of the week and see everything I’d accomplished. Of course I missed personal deadlines here and there, but I could be proud of everything I’d managed to create.

I do a full calendar every month, and will continue to plan out my life with a more defined, ordered future. (Confession: that 7:30AM running thing has fallen off in recent months. Time to get back to it.)

3) Inner Dialogue – This was the hardest for me, and is still a struggle every single day. The first two points are excellent weapons to battle negative self talk.When that voice starts whispering about how lazy you are, or how useless you are, you have a reference point to fight that notion. You can strengthen the positive voice.

“No, I’m not lazy! I may have only written one script last week, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the zero I wrote before!”

To take that power back is an incredible tool to staying motivated and strong. Whenever I struggle with that negativity, I actively refute it with reassurances that I’m doing just fine. Doing this, even a little bit, every day, will make the next fight that much easier.

The Future

I can openly admit that I know I will struggle with depression in the future. My ability to accept that fact will help me beat it the next time it rolls around. For the first time in my life, I have the tools to combat a health issue that I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember.

The article above talks about some key factors that they believe leads to men, in particular, killing themselves at such a significant rate in my age group. And many of those factors applied to me, but the main one being a refusal to acknowledge the need for help. To deal with it quietly until it’s too late.

I understand. It’s easier to pretend and carry on. To let depression suck you in so deep that you can’t see the exit anymore. And when that happens, you’re only left with one option. And to everyone in your life that loves you, to the contribution you make to the world, it is not the one you should take.

I am many factors to many equations. I am a father. A husband. A brother. A son. A writer. I can see how my role plays out in all of these and I know that my life is important. That my existence does have meaning, even in the times I lose sight of that.

And even if you can’t see it, you are a part of not just one equation, but many.

Sometimes it takes one impossible phone call to change your life. And your life can change. How do I know?

Because mine did.


August, 2016. Two Months After Seeking Help.

If you’re in crisis, please visit the BC Crisis Centre.

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