Addiction Rehab Toronto’s Recovery Coach Jim McKenny has been featured in the Toronto Sun! Please see the story below or in the link provided:
Featured in the Toronto Sun
Jim McKenny healing himself as he helps those battling addiction
Jim McKenny was going to be the next Bobby Orr, or so the story went.
And maybe after all these years, after 13 years on defence with the Maple Leafs that could have been so much more, after his time on CITY-TV, after too many seasons of drunken nights and drunken afternoons, he has become a superstar in his own world in a very quiet way.
For more than a decade now, McKenny has spent his days and nights and weekends working with addicts, booze and drugs mostly, trying to save people’s lives, and all the while healing himself.
Years ago, McKenny got a call from two guys he hadn’t met, asking if he was interested in working with addicts.
“They wanted to open a treatment centre,” McKenny said in a lengthy interview. “I said: ‘I’m retired. I don’t feel like working.”
Then he made the trip from Toronto to Port Perry, took a look at the new facility being opened. They had a swimming pool, hot tubs, a chef and in the backyard was a golf course.
“And I’m thinking, this is meeting most of my criteria,” he said.
He said he’d try the work for a while and see how it went. “I’ve basically been doing it ever since.”
He’s moved from a facility in Port Perry to one in the appropriately named Port Hope to a place called Addiction Recovery Toronto in the Rexdale area.
“Addiction is a social disease,” said the lifelong addict. “It affects everyone around you. There’s no cure, really, that you’re going to get 100% better. It’s not like cancer. You can beat cancer. With addicts, about 5% get better.
“They don’t become addicts because they want to. They do it because we’re all a little insane,” said McKenny. “If you know that when you put a substance in you, you can’t stop, you wouldn’t put that substance in you. The disease is all about self, but you can’t (recover) on your own. You need help.
“And you can’t tell someone how to get better. That doesn’t work. You have to show them.”
McKenny understands. He was a kid easily distracted, easily influenced. When he was playing for the great junior Marlies teams at 15, one of his teammates took him under his wing.
“One day he said to me: ‘Do you want to go to school or do you want to go to Greenwood (race track)?” said McKenny. “That was basically the end of my formal education.”
McKenny has joked for years in a not-necessarily-funny way that he has lived his life backwards. When he should have been sober and in shape, he was playing in the NHL. Now that he’s 73 years old and sober, he runs 10 miles a day, he does hot yoga, he meditates daily, he still consumes horse racing and in between all that, he’s working from home through COVID-19, doing ZOOM classes every day.
“I have no idea how ZOOM even works,” said McKenny. “All I know is someone sends me a link and I click on it. And we go from there.”
More than 30 years ago, McKenny went to a doctor to try and quit smoking. The doctor told him that wasn’t enough. He had to quit drinking. In his own words, at the time: “I surrendered.”
And four years after that, at the age of 56, he had a major heart attack — he calls it a 17-hour heart attack. He had to be flown from Jamaica to Miami to Toronto to be treated. He wasn’t sure he was going to make it.
From then on, after his TV career ended, helping people, which he needed to get through the days himself, became his calling.
“I didn’t choose to be an alcoholic or a drug addict,” said McKenny. “And I defy anyone to say they chose that. You become one long before you realize it’s what you are. It’s nothing to do with having willpower or strength of character. You have to get (your) self and rebuild your whole character.
“I can’t lie on the couch and watch TV and say I’m OK. I can’t do that. I have to have my meetings. I like the meetings with newcomers. The most important person to be with is the newcomer … Maybe it’s only one out of 100 (we can get to effectively) but that makes it worth it. That makes a difference.
“Alcohol kills people and it’s a terrible death because it takes so long. You go to the liquor store, get hammered, pass out, get sick. And then you do it again. Its an awful way to die. And when I hear I’m a functioning alcoholic, I think what the f–k is that? It means you’re dying of addiction and you have a job.”
McKenny played parts of 14 seasons in the NHL in Toronto and Minnesota, and parts of seven in the minor leagues and now more than 10 years being motivated to help addicts.
“I’ve been really blessed,” he said. “I have friends from hockey, friends from media, and in recovery there are hundreds of people I have met. It’s like a gift.
“Some people have one or two friends. That’s mind-boggling to me. Every day I’m meeting someone new.”