Rick Duerksen


A friend once gave me a Thanksgiving Day challenge. Make a list of 25 things for which you are grateful. Be specific and write down why. I’ll start this year’s list with some of the people whose gifts started me up the road to recovery:

• Christine Leger – Your gift was not just the call to 911 which resulted in a trip to the hospital, but knowing me well enough to discern, merely by the sound of my voice, that I was in dire straits.

• The WFPS – How much did I cost the taxpayers because of choices I made? Four times I found myself in need of medical intervention. As you tended to me at my place you would have seen my living conditions. It would have been obvious why I was in need of your help, but there was no judgement, just professional care.

• All the ER and hospital staff – Every person who treated me at the various ERs were professional and caring, treating me with a dignity I did not deserve. Even at 2:00 AM, when you came to check on the alarm my ECG set off, I could see the smile behind your mask. Many people complain about lengthy wait times or lack of beds. You should direct your frustration towards me and my abuse of the system, not the people on the front lines.

• The doctor at the Victoria Hospital CCU – I don’t know your name, but you gave me the gift of directness. Using your best bedside manner, you said “Rick, you are a bleeping idiot if you think you can go from the hospital straight back to your place, without detox, and not be back here in a week. My bet though is that you’ll be dead.” You made the calls that sent me to the HSC detox ward, for further treatment.

• The social worker at the HSC detox ward – You said that while my body might be detoxed, I was far from ready to attempt to pick up the remnants of my life. You asked if I wanted to go to the Addiction Foundation of Manitoba (AFM) for their 28-day in-house program, said that there was a bed available and that you could arrange for me to go. I couldn’t accept that gift fast enough.

• Deb Chaboyer, my counsellor at AFM – You showed me how to learn about myself. You never told me what I needed to do. You guided our conversations, asked me questions that I had avoided, let me know it was OK to be angry. You told me that you believed in me.

• Envirotech Ag Systems – You extended to me consideration and grace that was completely unwarranted. My last fall wasn’t the first time but you chose to support me. I look forward to coming in to work, every day.

• Christine Torres – You knew me as the person who would contact you when I needed some yard work done or when my sidewalks needed shoveling. You ran a crew and would send someone over. Sometime you would be there yourself. The few times you saw me I was probably drunk and looked like a bum. Yet you took it upon yourself to clean up my house, no small undertaking. You replaced the stained throw cushions, added some floor mats, replaced some missing dinnerware and cutlery, and restocked the fridge and cupboards. As a finishing touch, you put a bowl of candy on the end table. When I was hauled away from my place it was a filthy hovel. I came back to a home. I called you and asked you what I owed you for your time and for all the things you had bought. I couldn’t see you but I could hear your smile when you said “You don’t owe me anything, Rick. I was happy to help.”

• Recovery and Beyond – The support group that has become like a family to me.

• My family and friends – This column is too short to write about all you have given me.

• Donna – As you know, I am seldom at a loss for words. I am now.

How do I adequately express my gratitude? At times I think there aren’t enough words, but maybe, sometimes two words from the heart are sufficient. Thank you.

A friend once gave me a Thanksgiving Day challenge. Make a list of 25 things for which you are grateful. Be specific and write down why.

Do I have to stop at 25? What’s on your list?

I can be reached at [email protected].