Cyclist, activist, public speaker and recovered addict Chris Cull made Sudbury his final stop for his Inspire by Example talk series before heading out on his second cross-Canada bike trip.
Sponsored by the Sudbury Alcohol and Drug Concerns Coalition, the Greater Sudbury Community Drug Strategy, Greater Sudbury Police Services, Sudbury District Health Unit and the provincial government, Cull discussed opioid use and prescription guidelines with doctors and pharmacists on April 5, prior to an evening public talk in which he shared his message of hope and recovery with members of the public.
In 2014, Cull cycled through Sudbury on his 7,900 km journey from Victoria, BC to St. John's, Nfld. and he was back in the Nickel City on April 5 to discuss his ongoing journey to inform and inspire as many people as he can.
On his first cross-country trek, Cull recorded interviews with addicts and recovered addicts talking about their experience with prescription drug addiction.
One of the stops on his journey was in Greater Sudbury, where he conducted interviews with some local people about their experiences with opioid addiction. That documentary is soon to be released.
During his discussion, Cull spoke openly about his tragic past, where at just 22 years old he lost his father to suicide and turned to prescription drugs as a way of coping.
Cull battled addiction for nearly a decade and was alienated by family and friends along the way, but is now using his experiences to empower others to make the most of their lives.
“My talks aren't exclusively about dealing with addiction,” said Cull. “It's about sending the message that you can do something with your life, that you can find something you love to do and go out and do it. It's about finding what's important to you and focusing on that.”
Now 31 years old, Cull is clean and taking action against addiction and standing up for mental health. He says that prescription drugs like Oxycontin are a far bigger issue than a lot of street-level drugs such as cocaine, due to what can be perceived as a lack of knowledge about prescription drugs and ease of acquiring them.
“Painkillers are getting more and more powerful, and there's issues like irresponsible prescriptions,” said Cull.
“The FDA in the United States just OK'd presribing Oxycontin to kids for things like cancer, and I'm not against painkillers, but you have to look at whether you're creating a problem to solve another one.”
Chris' passion on the subject has led to a number of opportunities for consulting with various levels of government, professors and doctors, advocating for necessary changes to society both nationally and internationally.
He has advised organizations such as the Canadian Ministry of Health, the Canadian Centre of Substance Abuse and the National Advisory Council on Prescription Drugs.
“This is a big problem in our society,” he said. “If terrorism killed as many people as (prescription drug addiction) we would be all over it.”
Chris will hit the road later this month and make his way to Vancouver by car to start his second bike trip across the country, where he will be stopping in a number of communities to share his message.
“I've got a few weeks of training two hours a day, six days a week to get ready for the ride and then I'll have a little going away party with friends before I head out,” said Cull.
You can follow along with Chris' journey at InspireByExample.ca. He has also created a GoFundMe page to help fund the trek with a goal of raising $15,000. All money raised beyond the $15,000 goal will be donated to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).