I am a counsellor, a coach, and an explorer of consciousness.
I live in Vancouver, Canada with my wife Sheleana, surrounded by a close community of friends and family. Right now, I have so much to be grateful for. A healthy body, a great relationship with a woman who adores and respects me, a successful business, and I lead a thriving men’s community that is creating leaders all around the world.
But my life didn’t always look this way…
In fact, it used to look very different.
I grew up in a home full of turmoil and dysfunction.
On the outside, it looked like my family was normal, but behind the curtains there was often fighting and abuse. Bullying and a lack of emotional safety was an everyday challenge for me, as my older brother’s aggressive behaviour dominated the home. This stuff boiled out into public spaces, as my brother and I caused a lot of trouble in school, so the truth is that my family probably DID NOT seem normal.
My parents were happily married. My dad was a doctor, and my mom did her best to raise 3 difficult boys while working part time at the hospital as a Respiratory Therapist. She was (and is) a resilient, and powerful woman who grew up in her own abusive household.
We lived in Calgary, Canada for 20 years, in the same house on the same street, and terms of living a life of privilege, I had it good. But on a daily basis growing up, I endured the abuse of my dominant, addicted older brother (the middle child) whose shadow I could not escape. My brother spent many years with therapists, in special schools, medicated, and locked away in institutions. As the focus was constantly on him, and I became increasingly traumatized, I also learned to model his behaviour. I followed in his footsteps.
It started in grade 2, and by grade 4 was medicated by the same psychiatrist who medicated my brother. ADD, it was, they said. My mother watched helplessly as her “good boy” turned into another rebellious problem child. Because of her own trauma, she did not know how to help her children self-regulate.
Come Junior High, I was getting expelled from multiple schools for defiance and general oppositional behaviour, and by the time I hit 13, I was addicted to escape and would do anything to change my inner world, mostly by the use of drugs and alcohol. I spent time in group homes and accumulated a few charges for theft, with threats of jail time. At age 15 I was admitted to a long-term rehab facility, against my will.
So here I was, in rehab. Fifteen years old with tons of suppressed pain, pretending I had it all figured out.
Rehab wasn’t a smooth process, and I spent the first few months rebelling against the therapeutic process. I had a big ego, and was determined that I wasn’t an addict like my brother. I eventually came to realize that I was the same as the other people in treatment: lost, hurting, and itching to escape my pain. Slowly, I dug into my pain, opened the floodgates, and did the work. I experienced a full spiritual breakdown, and found my identity shattered. I had been living a lie to cover my pain. I surrendered to the recovery process and opened my mind.
Over a period of 13 months, my life changed dramatically. I built a new set of principles to live by, guided by the 12 Steps. I learned how to recover from addiction and how to gain power over my own life. I finally learned how to ask for help, and custom-built a spiritual connection that worked for me.
I finished rehab, graduated High School, then returned to work at that same treatment centre and learned to facilitate group and 1-on-1 counselling. I was a counsellor at age 18, and I practiced walking people through their pain and towards the freedom that comes on the other side.
After a few years of practice, I committed 4 years to attaining a Bachelor of Health Sciences degree in Addictions Counselling, from the University of Lethbridge, Canada. As it turns out, my brains still worked after all that abuse 😉.
At U of L, I studied the major philosophies of many different counselling paradigms, but Humanism, Existentialism, and Transpersonal work drew me deeper into self discovery. These philosophies had a huge impact on my coaching and counselling style, and influenced which teachers I’d choose to study with in the future.
After graduation, I joined a new government funded team to start a wilderness experiential treatment centre in Alberta, called Shunda Creek. We built a 90-day treatment program for young men from the ground up. We worked with a holistic treatment model and used wilderness and other challenging experiences to expose the animal brain (or “default brain”), in order to work directly with addiction – which can be seen simply as a dysregulation of the reward system. We taught addicts how to rewire their brain pathways by way of attention and intention. This was the best job of my life.
After a couple years there, fed up with the Alberta winters and looking for more growth, I moved to Vancouver Island and spent a year working with adults at Cedars, on Cobble hill. This was a job I had aspired to have for a long time – to be a professional in a “top-notch” facility. This perceived peak was anticlimactic, and wrought with the kind of lacklustre effect that often occurs when one achieves a dream of many years. I loved my clients and my role, but something didn’t fit. Something bigger was calling. I had to play my own game. So I moved to Vancouver.
In Vancouver, I met many great teachers, most notably Phil T. Mistlberger, who rekindled my love for shadow work, Transpersonal therapy, and showed me men’s work. Phil helped me connect with my masculine core and understand where I’d been holding myself back in my relationships, and in the world. He also facilitated the creation of a group of men called The Arka Brotherhood, a weekly meet-up group where we support each other to connect with our truth, our power, and our responsibility in the world.
I joined the 3rd ‘squad’ a few years ago, and I now manage the organization – and we’ve grown to 50+ squads (500 men).
My personal squad of men held me accountable to become a coach, and begin working for myself. They are the reason my podcast exists, and the reason you are reading this now.
These days, my time is spent supporting men’s groups and individual men in finding their truth, their power, and their freedom. I use all the tools – from transpersonal work, to shadow work, to breath work – to help men recover from addictions, conquer their fears, and find their inner King.
A bio would not be complete without mentioning that I am married to a powerful woman whose beauty almost stops my heart every morning. I practice what I preach with my wife Sheleana Aiyana, who challenges me with her intensity, her wildness, and her constant calling for me to rise up. The rewards that come from leaning in to those challenges cannot be overstated.
My relationship with my wife is the vehicle that can most directly connect me to the divine, even as my ego wants me to stay safe and isolated. We practice going deeper every day, and use our life together as the catalyst for spiritual growth. We created a course for couples to share the skills that have helped us the most in our journey thus far.
Today, I have a lot to be grateful for, but things aren’t picture perfect. I still have struggles with my family relationships, and life is always tossing me challenges. Today, I use every-day life as my platform for personal growth – not seeking outwardly for that growth, but inward. I owe much to my brotherhood circle, my close friends, my fantastic parents, and my amazingly supportive partner.
If you’re dealing with addiction or are seeking your next step on your recovery journey, get in touch with me for 1-1 Coaching. I work with men on 1st stage recovery (the basics), but also work with guys looking to level up their growth after multiple years in recovery.
I occasionally run 7-day-Advanced-Addiction-Retreats for very small groups of men. These immersive retreats involve group work, plant medicines, breath work, and a diet overhaul to help men get to the next level of their healing process. Get in touch if you want to know more.
Thanks for coming along for the ride.