The first person ever to be charged by Edmonton police with manslaughter connected to a fentanyl overdose spoke about his experience with addiction Tuesday.
“Now that I’m clean and sober I want to do everything I can, give back to the community, so that other people don’t fall down the same path and make the same mistakes that I did,” Jordan Yarmey said.
“I don’t want that for anyone.”
Yarmey has been providing guidance for an interactive exhibit in Strathcona County Tuesday evening called Opioids Don’t Discriminate – The Interactive Journey.
It’s the first time Yarmey has spoken publicly since he was charged.
“Once it got to the OxyContin and fentanyl it snowballed. At that point, I had no control over myself or my addiction,” Yarmey said.
He said he became a cocaine addict in his early 20s, which progressed to other drugs to manage pain and anxiety.
“Eventually it led me onto opiates where it started with Percocet and moved up to OxyContin. I wasn’t aware I was doing fentanyl until after I got into some legal troubles.
“That’s what’s so scary about it — the fact that I had no idea I was even using this stuff and I could have died at any time,” Yarmey said.
“By the end of my addiction, I was under 100 pounds. I was quite heavily addicted. I was using every day, from the second I woke up until the second I went to sleep.
In January 2016, the body of 33-year-old Szymon Kalich was found dead in the hallway of Yarmey’s south-side apartment building. Autopsy and toxicology results showed Kalich died of a fentanyl overdose. Police allege Yarmey supplied Kalich the deadly drug, knowing it could cause harm.
Oct. 2016: The parents of a young man charged with manslaughter in connection with a fentanyl overdose say their son is not responsible, but a victim of the deadly drug himself. Kendra Slugoski reports.
Yarmey didn’t talk specifically about his legal case, but said fentanyl took over his life.
“I’ve seen people get hurt. I’ve lost friends. Like I said, I carry a lot of guilt and shame of my own actions in the past,” he said.
“I see a lot of mistakes I made in my past and realize that’s not what I would have done, that’s not me. That’s not who I am today; it’s not who I was. It took over me.”
Yarmey’s manslaughter trial is scheduled for April 2019. He has also pleaded guilty to separate trafficking charges.
He’s been sober for two and a half years now.
The exhibit in Strathcona County focuses on the real faces and realities of opioid addiction.
“The exhibit follows three characters that were designed by individuals with lived experience,” organizer Michelle Jehn said.
The hope is these stories will challenge perceptions and dispel myths about addiction while educating participants about how easily addictions can be fostered.
“Build empathy for each of the characters, for participants to walk in the shoes of all three characters and understand how the journey takes place with very, very normal situations, circumstances and life events,” Jehn said.
“It’s a new way of thinking of addiction for the community… It proposes that addiction is very much in our backyard. It is happening here.”
The interactive exhibit will be on display at the Strathcona County Agora community centre from Nov. 5 to 9.
WATCH: The “Opioids Don’t Discriminate” interactive display in Strathcona County aims to shed light on the wide range of people killed by opioid overdoses every day. As Kendra Slugoski explains, the hope is to challenge the stigmas of people who use drugs.
— With files from Kendra Slugoski