Author, paramedic and Salmon Arm Secondary grad Matthew Heneghan shares his struggles with loss, trauma and addiction in his book, A Medic’s Mind. (Contributed)

Author, paramedic and Salmon Arm Secondary grad Matthew Heneghan shares his struggles with loss, trauma and addiction in his book, A Medic’s Mind. (Contributed)

Salmon Arm grad shares struggles with trauma and addiction

Writing helps author Matthew Heneghan through difficult rehabilitation

Barb Brouwer

Contributor

Matthew Heneghan is working his way out of a nightmare.

Moment by moment, the 36-year-old Salmon Arm Secondary grad is dealing with his demons and reclaiming his life.

Heneghan, who has been sober for 15 months, has documented his trauma-filled life and alcohol addiction in a powerful new memoir, A Medic’s Mind.

Heneghan’s trauma began in early childhood.

His mother suffered from undiagnosed mental-health issues and after leaving her abusive husband, fought cancer three times before dying by suicide in 2017.

“We relied on the social welfare system and the kindness of friends and community,” he said, noting most of his siblings had left the family home but his brother Jon returned to help both physically and financially. “We were also fortunate to have Crossroads Free Church look after us, especially after the illnesses.”

Heneghan became familiar with hospitals and was impressed by the kind and compassionate treatment his mom received from both doctors and nurses.

As he got older, Heneghan he remembers watching a CNN program about Bosnia and saw the Canadian paramedic emblem on a uniform.

He did some research and realized joining the military as a medic would provide both a way to give back to society, get an education, earn money and mature.

He enlisted in June 2001 at the age of 18 and graduated near the top of his class.

But life began to unravel as people he knew were returned home from deployment to Afghanistan in body bags.

Adding to his anxiety were increasing fights with his girlfriend.

https://videopress.com/v/5ZUqmokh

“I started having nightmares nightly and drinking everyday because if I got drunk enough, I’d pass out and get no REM (restorative) sleep because my body was fighting the effects of alcohol,” he said, noting that despite growing anxiety, he downplayed his feelings and was reluctant to share them.

Selected to join a combat unit in Afghanistan in 2008, Heneghan suffered another personal blow when a good friend was killed there.

“I made the decision to leave the army and my commander supported me, so instead of deploying I was released on July 1, 2008,” he recalled, pointing out that one of his best Army friends was killed five days later, launching Heneghan into another bender.

Read more: Writer-in-residence inspires next generation

Read more: Okangan author shorlisted in B.C. historical writing competition

Despite his affair with alcohol, Heneghan worked as a paramedic both in Alberta and Ontario over the next six years, often showing up hungover to deal with a variety of trauma calls.

In 2017, he was charged with driving under the influence in Toronto and, following his mom’s death, “dove into the bottle.”

Now graduated from a six-week intensive therapy program at a trauma and addiction centre in Toronto, Heneghan said he realizes alcohol was no longer an escape, it was a shackle that was preventing him from living the life he wanted.

“Writing came about because I needed an outlet; I felt I needed to scream but had no outlet, so I wrote about dreams and some of the feelings,” he said.

“Not only did I have friends reach out, they said I should have a blog.

His book was born when a publisher advised him he had enough material for a book.

“She sent me a package a day every day I was in rehab to remind me I was being thought about and on the last day, I opened an envelope to find a writing contract.”

A Medic’s Mind took almost two years to write and only four hours to sell out 30 copies at a Mississauga bookstore last weekend.

You can meet Heneghan, and get a signed copy of his book, at the Bookingham Palace bookstore between 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 9.


@SalmonArm
newsroom@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Carver Bara winds up to throw a pitch at his June 14 game. (Kristal Burgess Photography)
PHOTOS: 15 and under baseballers step up to bat

A June 14 Salmon Arm minor baseball game resulted in action-packed moments

Nash Bredick and Ian Calkins enjoying a ride at a previous Salmon Arm fall fair. (Cameron Thomson - Salmon Arm Observer)
Salmon Arm fair returns for 2021

Fair takes place Sept. 10-12 and features midway, vendors and special events

Starting in 2022, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District is extending dog control to the entire Electoral Area D area. (Stock photo)
Dog control bylaw passes in Shuswap area despite ‘threatening’ emails

CSRD board extending full dog control to Electoral Area D; director calls for respectful discussion

A key in the lock of a door. (File photo)
Sicamous residents say lack of long-term rentals detrimental to town

A couple who have lived in Sicamous for 27 years and want to stay might have to leave

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Most Read