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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Salmon Arm Council pleased with plans for Habit for Humanity housing project

Twenty-unit building, mainly for 55-plus seniors, in the works

B.C. highway widening job reduced, costs still up $61 million

Union-only project scales back work to widen Trans-Canada

Salmon Arm pool to reopen for limited programming, not drop ins

Strict sanitization protocols in place including one-hour closure between scheduled swims

Vehicle incident stalls traffic on Highway 1 east of Salmon Arm

Drive BC reports road closed, assessment underway

Sicamous business duo broaden downtown beach vibe

Jody Boychuk and Eddy Johnston enjoying bigger, brighter Sicamous location

Lower Mainland woman says llama farming neighbour shot her 11-month-old pup

Young dog was on owner’s Maple Ridge property when it was killed on June 21

B.C. records 31 new cases, six deaths over three days due to COVID-19

There are 166 active cases in B.C., 16 people in hospital

Police issue warning after baby comes across suspected drugs in Kamloops park

The 11-month-old girl’s mother posted photos on social media showing a small plastic bag containing a purple substance

Kamloops man pleads guilty in vehicle-ramming incident that injured a Mountie

Adam Hibbert was arrested following a collision during a police pursuit on May 26, 2019

Greater Victoria nanny pleads guilty to child porn, sexual interference charges

Johnathon Lee Robichaud pleaded guilty to slew of sex crimes

Victoria man dies after skydiving incident on Vancouver Island

34-year-old had made more than 1,000 jumps

Most Read