The following is a first-person account by Patrick Jackson, an associate manager in our Levi’s® West Edmonton Store 7104 and a member of our Thrive ERG. In recognition of World Mental Health Day, Patrick is sharing his own well-being journey.
Note that the content may be triggering—if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
My life used to be a disaster.
I was a long-time daily binge drinker. I was hopelessly addicted to cocaine and opiates. I was homeless at one point. I also witnessed unspeakable violence.
I struggled with substance abuse and finding my place in this world after the passing of my mother, which eventually led to a dysfunctional family dynamic. Eventually, my life deteriorated to the point that I didn’t care if I lived or died.
Fast forward to today—I’ve been given another chance to discover who I am. Every morning, I start my day from a place of gratitude; I am driven, passionate and have found purpose in my life.
I grew up in a loving middle-class family and was the oldest of three. My father was a university professor and a pioneer in his field, and my mother was a teacher and a community leader. They were very present in our lives and instilled strong values and ethics in my siblings and me. I hold memories of my childhood very close, and there is certainly no single traumatic event that sent my life spiraling towards addiction.
But the way I felt on a daily basis never really reflected reality on the surface.
I will never forget the first time I consumed an alcoholic beverage. I was at a high school party when someone handed me a drink, and the moment it hit my lips I felt my insecurities washing away. It felt like a fire was ignited in me and I was reborn.
When I graduated from high school, I began working in restaurants and bars where an alcohol-fueled lifestyle was normalized. There, I was introduced to other substances and I didn’t realize how quickly and deeply I was becoming addicted.
I had a turn of events over the course of a few months back in 2008 where I struggled financially and dealt with the loss of several loved ones around me—my mother lost her battle to cancer, one my friends was murdered by gunshot, and a woman I was dating died when she fell off her balcony during a drug-fueled psychotic episode. During this time, I couldn’t resist the impulse to drink and abuse other substances, and that’s when I realized how tightly I was held in the grips of addiction.
This took a heavy toll on my family, and that is one of the hardest realities I had to face. When my mother passed away, she was fully aware of my habits, lifestyle and behaviors and we were not on good terms. This has always weighed very heavily on my heart, and it has taken years to reconcile.
I knew something had to change, and I sought help for the first time. I entered a treatment facility but I realized I had no sense of identity without drugs and alcohol at that time and all my insecurities came flooding back in a suffocating way. I knew the dangers of going back out were detrimental, but that was what felt familiar.
The next nine years were a blur as I fell victim again to alcohol and other substances.
I became what I now know is passively-suicidal. I reached a point on December 26th, 2018, after spending Christmas alone again, that I didn’t want to live at all and made an overt attempt to end my life. I was unsuccessful, but only ashamed that I had failed.
A few days later, everything changed and my life seemed to pivot in an instant. I had a chance encounter with someone who was kind to me. To her, I’m sure our connection was par for the course of her life. For me, it changed everything. I felt invigorated by our short time together and, more importantly, I felt a spark of hope. I began to believe that I could attempt to turn my life around.
A second chance, a new career
After enrolling in a recovery center for the second time, I became more receptive to the idea of learning from others who had successfully overcome their addictions.
It has been nearly five years since I had a drink or any substances.
I had some ideas regarding the kind of person I wanted to become, but I realized I was going to have to live those values authentically. My first few years in sobriety were messy, but they were wonderful! I made a lot of mistakes, but for the first time in my life I realized I could learn from those experiences and grow. My life finally began to feel like it had some sense of direction.
I was beginning to find a strong sense of purpose in helping others and this has been the keystone to my sobriety—through volunteering and being involved in sober communities, I was finally growing comfortable expressing myself authentically.
Building and upholding these values are what attracted me to Levi Strauss & Co.
When I joined LS&Co., our Thrive Mental Wellness Employee Resource Group caught my attention and I reached out to get involved. Today, I’m a proud and active member of the board, and I am learning about the wonderful support systems LS&Co. has in place for all its employees.
I am sharing my story of addiction and recovery because I will never forget what it felt like to want sobriety and having no idea where to turn. Not everyone who struggles with alcohol and substance abuse will hit rock-bottom as I did. If you feel like drugs or alcohol are affecting your personal or work life, do you know where to turn for support? If you are a manager, if someone on your team approached you asking for support or guidance in dealing with their substance use, would you know where to direct them?
LS&CO. offers support to all our employees by means of phone counseling and even assisting in finding support outside of work. Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder has been an ongoing crisis for years, and the pandemic has amplified this issue in the lives of so many people. I am humbled and so grateful to be a part of LS&Co. and our Thrive ERG where I can advocate for support for those in need. I am making it my mission to add to the conversation of mental wellness, both within LS&Co. and out in the world.
My life is very different than I ever thought possible. I have a job that I love—I’m now an assistant store manager at Levi’s® West Edmonton Mall —and I am so excited about being involved with Thrive! I just bought a house with my beautiful fiancé, and we are getting married next summer. I have relationships with my friends and family that are deep and meaningful. I still don’t know what the destination is, but I know my life is heading in the right direction.