Written by Maya Beninteso, NaloxHome Editor in Chief

It’s been over seven years since British Columbia declared the overdose crisis a public health emergency; a grim anniversary marked by increasingly grim statistics. In 2021, British Columbia broke the record for overdose-related deaths with a whopping 2,306 lives lost. The following year took second place at 2,272 lives lost due to toxic drug poisoning. Lastly, in the first four months of 2023, BC Coroners Service Report revealed that British Columbia has lost 814 people to toxic drug poisoning. 

British Columbia has seen broken records and, with that, broken hearts. While statistics may capture or contextualize the severity of the problem, people are not numbers. They are people just like you, the person reading this blog. These are people who were loved, who had hobbies, who had dreams and aspirations. They could have been on your sports team, your neighbour, your friend, or even sitting next to you in a lecture hall. The aim of this series, Behind the Statistics, is to humanize those who have experienced substance use and the impacts of British Columbia’s ongoing overdose crisis. While the statistics may speak for themselves, those with lived experience need — and deserve — a platform, too. With that, our first individual in the spotlight is Kelton Travis.

Kelton is originally from a small town outside of Calgary, but his true home was on the ice. From a young age, Kelton was a great student and an elite athlete playing AAA Bantam and AAA Midget hockey. Wanting to seek approval from his peers, and wanting to fit in, he conformed to the social norms in his hometown and started using substances. Afraid of ruining his reputation within his town, Kelton kept his substance use hidden. Unfortunately, it only went downhill from there. Despite only wanting to connect with his peers, Kelton noted that his substance use “flipped [his] life upside down”. Kelton got suspended from his elite hockey team for drinking alcohol on the team bus. Eventually, he turned to harder drugs, and was surrounded by — and engaging in — crime. It wasn’t until a stint in jail that he decided to seek treatment, a facility that would change his life forever.

 Kelton attributes his “entire sobriety” to Revolution Recovery, a treatment facility that aims to help men who struggle with substance use and alcoholism. Filled with gratitude, Kelton recognized several individuals at Revolution Recovery without whom he “wouldn’t have been able to get this far in [his] life”, including: Devin McGuire, Delphine Cam, Kurt Bellomy, and Ryan Bathgate. After becoming sober, Kelton knew his time at Revolution Recovery wasn’t over. He was provided with the opportunity to volunteer with the facility, which fulfilled his love of helping others. With the help and guidance of the team at Revolution Recovery, Kelton did become sober and had the opportunity to do what he loved, supporting others. Moreover, coming full circle, Kelton eventually became a full-time employee at Revolution Recovery. Today, Kelton works with clients, guiding them through detoxing, SMART recovery, Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) programs. 

However, while Kelton maintained his sobriety, he was faced with the harsh reality of the overdose crisis. Tragically, Kelton lost a “close friend” to an overdose during his early stages of recovery. He describes his loss as the “most impactful” overdose, especially given his employment at Revolution Recovery. 

“That’s how real this is,” Kelton stated. 

This tragic experience has remained with Kelton, now asking himself “is this person going to die?” whenever a client leaves Revolution Recovery — a reality the staff faces, and fears, regularly. However, this isn’t the sole fear that haunts Kelton, noting that “now it’s getting more scary”. Although he acknowledged that “having access to Naloxone is a great thing to have”, the variety of additives in British Columbia’s toxic drug supply now include more than fentanyl, including “[benzodiazepines] and muscle relaxants” — both of which are resistant to Naloxone. Kelton urged the need for the development of “more treatments” to address the different toxins within the current drug supply.

All in all, Kelton Travis embodies resilience, and his care for others shines through his work at Revolution Recovery. Although he remains forever grateful to Revolution Recovery, I’m certain that one day someone will be forever grateful to him, too.