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Hope and purpose after substance use

Hope and purpose after substance use

Ever since he was a kid growing up in Vancouver, Shawn Kelly loved the outdoors, downhill mountain biking, working out, and acrylic painting. He also had a passion for cooking, and went on to become a professional chef, cooking at prestigious events like the Olympics, and on one memorable occasion, even for visiting royalty.

On the outside, Shawn led a happy and full life. But on the inside, he was struggling with substance use.

Shawn Kelly

He traces his struggles back to childhood. Shawn was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder as a young kid. As he grew up, he witnessed many traumatizing situations and was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. His turned to drugs to cope.

When Shawn first met his wife Stacey, she was having a hard time cooking for herself as a result of her Multiple Sclerosis. Shawn offered to shop and cook for her, and they soon became a couple. As Stacey’s illness progressed, the stress of her deteriorating condition took its toll and he used drugs to cope.

Shawn eventually found help through an Outreach Centre (now part of the Penticton Urgent and Primary Care Centre) where he found services that helped him learn better ways of coping.

In 2015, Stacey passed away. She was at only 37 at the time of her death. The pain of her loss caused Shawn’s most recent relapse. But with thoughts about his beautiful wife in his mind, he reached out for help.

When he walked back into the Urgent and Primary Care Centre in Penticton, he found an angel in his support worker Lisa Birch.

Shawn’s artwork

Lisa helped Shawn find a doctor who did a medical check on him, connected him with a psychiatrist, helped him find a place to live through BC Housing, and helped him to access disability insurance.

“Lisa is straight to the point and tells it like it is. That’s what I needed, and it built trust between us,” Shawn says. “You can help someone with their addictions but until they choose to do it for themselves it won’t work.”

Having overcome struggles with substance use, he’s now helping his community by sharing what he knows.

“The majority of my life I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror, but now I can. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it. If I can use the light that shines within me to help and guide someone else then that’s what I am going to do.” ~ Shawn Kelly

Now Shawn is substance-free, lives in his own apartment, has a steady job and continues with an active lifestyle. He wants to tell his story to help people who are going through similar situations. He hopes that through him, they can see what is possible to achieve.


The Penticton UPCC opened in March at 417 Martin Street in Penticton. It provides team-based care for people with mental health and substance use needs and is also open to the public who need health-care within 12 to 24 hours but don’t require the emergency department. For more information or to connect with a health-care professional, call 250-770-3696.