This post was originally published on August 26. 2014.
If there’s one thing all Americans know about Canada, it’s that it’s enormous. Riding a bicycle from Victoria in British Columbia to St. John’s in Newfoundland is no small feat. But neither is overcoming a painkiller addiction—and Chris Cull has already checked both off his list.
On August 26, the 29-year-old recovering addict wrapped up a cross-country bike trip to raise awareness about prescription drug abuse, which it turns out is just as big a problem north of the border as it is stateside. He plans to make a documentary from the filmed footage of his 102-day ride and the people he reached out to along the way.
At age 22, Cull began using Percocet to cope with the pain of his father’s suicide. His drug use escalated until he was buying Oxy off the streets. After two years of pill-popping, he spent another five years on methadone trying to kick the habit before cleaning up for good in January.
“I lost my sense of ethics, my sense of wonder of the world to explore,” said Cull of his drug-using days. “I lost everything. I wouldn’t wish that upon anybody, but unfortunately, more and more people are going through it.”
Cull dreamed up the idea for the ride last summer, when he spoke with a film producer about his desire to make a documentary. But one doesn’t just hop off methadone and onto a bike for 4,600 miles. Cull was serious about getting in shape and trained five days a week from December through May. And to help fund the project, he actually sold his house in Ontario. Talk about commitment.
During the journey he battled rainstorms, butt chafing and a stretch of road construction that totaled his GoPro camera. He also teed golf balls off a mountain and soaked up plenty of breathtaking scenery. But the whole documentary won’t just feature Cull on his bike. Over the course of the trip, he interviewed active and recovering addicts and their families as well as medical professionals to gather stories and discuss potential ways to combat addiction.
“I’ve had a passion for film my whole life,” Cull told one paper. “There’s a huge responsibility that comes with doing it the right way. These are common people. When you hear these stories, it makes you realize how it can happen to anybody. A lot of the interviews I’ve been doing have made me reflect on my own actions. I really put people through a lot of crap through my own actions.”
Cull had to take a ferry to the island province of Newfoundland to reach St. John’s, the final stop on his tour. Videos and photos from the trip are available at his website. He hopes the success of his project inspires addicts to seek help and persevere in their recovery.
“Just remember,” he writes on the site, “if you or your loved one is suffering through addiction, your life is not over. Just because mistakes were made, it doesn’t define you or them as a person.”
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