HOW H2H R2R STARTED...
"No Dress Rehearsal, This Is Our Life" - The Tragically Hip
On March 31st, 2020 one time professional hockey player Brady Leavold recorded the first episode of Hockey 2 Heroin The Road 2 Recovery. Leavold had recently just been released from a nine month jail sentence stemming from a severe drug addiction.
Unfortunately this was not the first time I had experienced jail. Just a year prior I had been released from a twenty-one month jail sentence for robbery and a string of other offences. Seventy-six to be exact, yeah seventy-six. I plead out to something like twenty-three and was sentenced to twenty-one months plus 30 days. I was a long way from my days of professional hockey. I last played during the 2011-2012 after my first stint in rehab and a year and a half away from hockey. Things went surprisingly well. Until I got home that is, then I relapsed. Which has been the headlining story of my life in the past twelve years. I have been struggling with an extremely serious addiction to opiates, in particular heroin and fentanyl which originally stemmed from an addiction to the terribly addicting pain killer oxycodone. It was however not just opiates. My addiction did not discriminate. By the time I was 25 I was injecting every drug that was water soluble. Each time hoping it would kill me. Oxycodone is essentially theme as heroin, I just didn't know it and by the time I did I definitely didn't care. Brady Leavold, Heroin addict.
Upon my release from C.N.C.C in Penetanguishene Ontario in November 2019. I had no intention on even trying to step foot back into the hockey community though it was a constant thought a far fetched dream. In my mind though, it simply seemed impossible. After all of the carnage I had left behind and all the people I have hurt, lied to, taken advantage of and disappointed there was nothing I could do to make myself believe that I could make my dream a reality. Everywhere I have been in the past 10 years I have only brought hell. All I have lost, everything is at the hands of my addiction. I had no hope. Zero. I quickly turned back into a life of drugs and crime but in late February of 2020 things started to take shape. Not before almost ending up back in jail though, on purpose.
Though I was clean off hard drugs my mind was still very much sick. For the past 6 years prior all I knew was drugs, crime and violence. I had not worked a real job since 2013. Relying strictly on crimes such as trafficking narcotics, robberies and pretty much any low level thing I could get myself involved in. Theres was basically nothing I would not do to serve my master, heroin and fentanyl . I was a menace to myself and society. Like I said I just wanted to die. It took me awhile to get into this lifestyle but once I did it's like I made up for lost time. I had my hands in every low life thing you could think of. It only happened after I exhausted every resource close to me of course and taking advantage of absolutely anyone and everything close to me, primarily my father Brian who has lost the most financially. My dad has stood by and bailed me out of literally every life and death situation imaginable but he was also played a fool more by me more than once. He had no choice but to establish boundaries with me and cut me off. Though I was hurt at the time. I knew in my heart that I wasn't only destroying my dad financially but emotionally and physically as well. My self hatred only grew stronger but my addiction was constantly starving, always demanding to be fed at any and all costs. All that mattered to me was that I maintained my opiate addiction. On average it would cost between $500-$1000 a day. This was just for me to maintain not to get high. What I mean by maintaining is to not to feel the wrath of withdrawal symptoms and for that I needed at least $250 a day. Theres very few ways someone can sustain this lifestyle and for most its crime. I was no different.
Late one night in early March, about a month after I had injected fentanyl for the last time my old thinking was hard at work. With no direction and no idea of how to support myself and absolutely no hope of actually finding a way to support myself that could even resembling some sort of happiness. I truly believed at that time, though I was no longer using drugs myself that I needed to still be involved in the lifestyle. Drug dealing, drug collections and robberies that sort of thing. The lifestyle of crime, drugs and violence was the only option I believe suited to provide me with the life I wanted. Completely skewed thinking clearly. I was focused on establishing myself in the underworld and in any facet that would allow me to make money. The thought of having to go back to jail did not deter me at all. In fact I was combing the streets ready to be arrested. Equipped with tobacco and marijuana ready to be smuggled in to the jail. Contraband like that can fetch a large price tag. A short trip to the joint in exchange for a few thousand dollars was not only appealing to me I was actually excited about it at this time. I was watching a movie with my new girlfriend Taylor that night in February when I turned to Taylor and told her that I would be back in a little while. Or maybe I wouldn't, there was a good chance I could be arrested. I told her i had no real plan because I didn't have one. Only to find a vehicle in n a 5 km radius with the keys in the ignition, which is very common in the rural area of Ontario that we live. I planned to embark on a crime spree outside of the Muskoka area. I never liked to steal from my friends and neighbours so my plan was to drive at least an hour in any direction before I did anything, though stealing from anyone is completely wrong. I owed a debt to someone and I wanted to pay them back to I could once again start working for them in their illegal business, and this was the only way I thought possible.
Taylor begged me not to go. In fact she was in tears, but there was no stopping me. I left the house and started walking and instantly I remember being freezing cold and thinking I should turn around but I told myself I needed to do this and to not be a "Pussy." I continued down the dark road for 15 minutes and the sky was lit up with more stars than I had ever seen. All of a sudden I stopped and looked up to the stars. Shaking because I was so cold, I just took in the beauty for a brief moment and then continued on, but not for long. Seconds after that I started talking to myself out loud. Lucky for me know one was around or it would have been another trip to the psych ward. I started questioning what I was doing in that moment and what I had been doing in my life for almost thirty-three years. I was literally questioning myself out loud, "What are you doing right now? You're really going to go steal someones vehicle and go on a crime spree and go back to jail." Immediately, I turned around. It took me about fifteen minutes to get back home and I will never forget the look of surprise and excitement on Taylor's face. The next morning I made one of the best decisions of my life.
It all started with putting my skates back on for the first time in over half a decade. Where I now is in a rural community called Utterson in beautiful Muskoka Ontario. A small glimpse of hope lifted my spirits and gave me the belief that I could in fact regain the trust and respect of the hockey community. Utterson is wedged in between of Bracebridge and Huntsville. Utterson Ontario has been the beautiful tranquil and secluded setting that I have needed to break free from my old routine and it has allowed me reconnect with myself in nature. The Devitt family have been a staple on Mainhoods lake in Utterson since the 1930's. Steve and Bev Devitt, Taylor's parents live just up the road from her grandmother Judy's lake front cottage house on Mainhoods Lake. After that long cold walk that March night after I decided to turn around I got the desire to lace up his skates again. I slipped my brand new Bauer's on that were gifted to me by one of my junior teams after being released from jail, something I will eternally be grateful for. I actually skated from the end of "Devitt Rd." right down to the lake. The closest experience to the scene from Mystery Alaska I had ever experienced, something I will never ever forget. After I skated on the lake for close to 30 minutes I returned home with the biggest smile Taylor and her family had yet to see from me. I was ear to ear with that classic Bobby Clark grin. I lost four teeth during his days in the WHL. The ice didn't last long as Spring was rolling in but I soaked up as much time as I could on that lake and I was even able to get Hadley-Grace on skates for the very first time in her young life. She is Taylor's three year old daughter. It was her first time skating and now talks about one day herself being a hockey player. I knew without a doubt that I needed to somehow get back involved and connect with the hockey community. I just really had no idea how but i felt like I couldn't wait. I was motivated but had no idea where to start but I got the idea to email the local junior team, the Huntsville Otters.
I sent an email to then coach Marc Gagnon. I was able to acquire Marc's email from the Otter's website and I quickly fired him off an email. I outlined my past and current situations openly and honestly. I would be lying if I said I wasn't expecting a response. Certainly not the positive response I received from coach Gagnon. Marc Gagnon agreed to meet me after his teams playoffs had finished and in that moment I started to believe in myself again for the first time in over a decade. Possibly for the first time in my entire life. Just days after receiving that life changing email, my belief in my ability to redeem myself, not only in the eyes of others but in my own heart. The belief that I could actually turn my life around and possibly even help people started to grow exponentially.
On March 31st 2020 I borrowed Bev's laptop, headphones and even used her Honda CRV to record the inaugural episode of Hockey 2 Heroin The Road 2 Recovery. The first episode was roughly 20 minutes long. I shot completely from the hip with no plan whatsoever. I just spoke from the heart. I had hoped that my willingness to be honest and open about my experiences throughout childhood. My journey through major junior and professional hockey both on and off the ice and of course the abundant of troubles I have got myself into because of a string of terrible choices could some how help just one person. I do my best to offer a completely transparent and uncompromising truth into my 15 year struggle with unrelenting mental health and addiction issues. I am not afraid to speak my mind and I do not hold back. Often speaking without thinking, impulsive and no filter, however I hope there's no question that I speak from the heart. Following the first episode of H2H-R2R I started reaching out to past friends, teammates and coaches all of whom I had not spoken with in at least 5 years, in most cases longer. I will perpetually be grateful for all of his guests but in particular Kevin Pedersen and Jesse Paradis. Kevin Pedersen was the very first guest on H2H-R2R and took a chance without even asking questions. We did not even talk before hand, Kevin had no idea where I was at mentally and really had no idea what direction I was headed. He has heard nothing but negative things about me since we stopped being extremely close friends back in the early and mid 2000's but he did not hesistate to come on and help me. The same can be said for Jesse Paradis, former WHL Alumni and owner of Team Issued Ltd. H2H's main sponsor. I would really like to thank all my guest for giving me a chance. To my old teammates and friends thank you so much for being there for me when I needed you. By being on my podcast you allowed me to gain the confidence to stay on this path and continue to get the help that I need while I learn to help others a long the way.
Thank you once again to everyone who has listened to the podcast, there are no words for me to explain how grateful I am. I cry usually once a day, happy tear of course. I have a long ways to go, the battle is never over. Not for me and not for everyone else struggling. I know how hard mental health and addiction can be. Even though I am clean I still struggle. On July 11, 2020 I was diagnoses with ADHD for the first time in my life. I was 32 years old. I am also currently getting mental health, addiction and sexual abuse therapy. I am also looking into other ways of healing like CBD, exercise, meditation and diet. I may never have all the answers, in fact I know I will never have all the answers but that will not deter me from trying. Too many people need help. I am so lucky to be alive, I may never know why I am still here and so many others were not as lucky. I'm not going to wonder anymore I am just going to accept the reality that I am here for a reason and this is the reason. Even in the darkest places we can find light. I swear to god, if I can do it you can do it. I used to cringe when people would tell me that but today I know they were not lying and either am I.
I have also co-founded The Puck Support Foundation with my best friend and former pro hockey player Michael Hengen. It is very much in its infancy but we are going to change the world, I have no question. I am excited for all the new challenges and opportunities that lay ahead. This is a very exciting time for myself and my family. We thank you for all of the support.
If you would like to support me I would truly truly appreciate it. I have taken a sales position with Verbero Hockey. Verbero is the "Bugatti" of hockey without the high price points. My focus is primarily team sales. We not only have player and goalie equipment. Which includes the worlds lightest and most balanced stick on the market and the only fully one piece carbon skate on the market. We also do full custom team apparel including jerseys, socks, track suits and under wear. Please visit www.verbero.com or co