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Courage to Come Back Awards 2018: Josh Dahling

Courage to Come Back: Josh Dahling
Josh Dahling was exposed to drugs and alcohol in his childhood - quickly turning to a life on the streets. But it was the death of a father he never really knew that would be his biggest challenge to overcome. And dealing with that grief opened his eyes to the power of healing. Lynn Colliar has the story of how this former addict is now helping others dealing with loss.

Celebrating 20 years of ordinary people doing extraordinary things – the Courage to Come Back Awards highlights people in five categories who have overcome adversity or illness and who inspire and give to others.

In this second installment, we highlight the winner of the addiction category: Josh Dahling.

Josh Dahling works at a charity store called Kerry’s Boutique in New Westminster.

For Dahling, it is a charity close to his heart as the store basically saved his life.

“I used to tell people I was an entrepreneur,” Dahling told Global News. “I would say I’m going to go get ketchup and then I’d be gone for three months. Selling drugs.

Dahling spent years trying to be a drug dealer, but basically ended up using all the drugs himself and drinking until he passed out.

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Life was a continuous destructive party and he overdosed multiple times.

But the last time he woke up from an OD was different.

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“‘m not used to waking up handcuffed to a hospital bed with people standing over me telling me I’m going to die.”

Dahling has now been sober and drug free for 20 years, working as a counsellor and helping others with their addiction journeys.

READ MORE: Courage to Come Back Awards 2018: Alisa Gil Silvestre

There has still been a shadow over Dahling’s life however.

He has never been able to deal with the death of his father.

Then he was asked to help at a youth camp named Camp Kerry.

“A girl came up to me and said ‘when my dad died’, ‘I’m like oh your dad died, mine too’!” said Dahling.

“Someone I could connect to. Difference was she was talking openly about it and I hadn’t spoken to anyone about my loss. This other kid’s sitting there and he said ‘oh my dad died too’. What are the odds?”

“And that’s when it hit me. I’m going to a grief camp.”

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READ MORE: Courage to Come Back Awards pay tribute to those who overcome the odds

Dr. Heather Mohan started Camp Kerry at Lions Gate Hospital to honour a local mother who died from colon cancer. The camp has grown exponentially as the need is great and Dahling has become a major part of it, not only helping others, but helping himself.

“I described him once to someone as a piped piper,” said Mohan. “So if you’re at one of our retreats you’ll see people working with the little kids, the elders then there’s this big group of youth that’s usually following Josh.”

The loss of his father will always be with him but it has pushed Dahling to be the best father he can to his three children and to be there to help people deal with loss.

“If you can contribute to your community, to give back, you can use your loss as part of your strength as a tool to help others.”