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Séan McCann shares story of hope and recovery at Friendship Dinner

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Séan McCann shared his story of addiction and recovery at the 22nd Annual Friendship Dinner.

House of Friendship welcomed 500 of its closest friends and supporters to Rockway Mennonite Collegiate on Saturday, Oct. 21, at the 22nd Annual Friendship Dinner.

Séan McCann, formerly of Great Big Sea, shared his story of addiction and recovery to a packed house, and sang special selections from his CD, Help Your Self.

McCann said that he was a good student, played hockey, and never really got into trouble. “I was the kind of guy you wouldn’t mind your daughter dating, generally.”

When he was in high school, as a Catholic, it was part of his practice to go to confession every Friday. One day, he met a charismatic new priest in his congregation, who singled him out for attention. McCann and his family was flattered by his interest. When the priest suggested that McCann accompany him to Rome to meet the pope, it was easily arranged.

On that trip, the 15-year-old McCann was introduced to alcohol, cigarettes and “to a lot of other things I should never have been introduced to.”

He was also sexually assaulted by the priest.

“And I didn’t know who to tell, or even what to say,” said McCann. “I was angry, at myself, mostly, and I was ashamed. I chose not to say anything, and I kept that secret for 37 years. I need to tell you that now, because I’ve come to tell you that a secret can kill you.”

“It was only after I sobered up that I was able to share my secret.”

McCann said that it was only five years ago, through the power of music that he was finally able to tell his mother about the abuse, with the song, Hold Me Mother.

“The truth is often very hard to face, but I believe that only through facing it I was able to move forward,” said McCann. “I was very grateful to have that guitar, because I was unable to speak that truth out loud. I kept the secret in, and I carried it around, and I covered it in booze and drugs, and I didn’t live a life. I couldn’t say that until I sobered up, and sat down with that guitar, and that song came out.”

“That’s what I wanted to come here and tell you about,” said McCann.

He had a simple message for the audience at this year’s Friendship Dinner.

“People drink for reasons,” said McCann. “I did for sure, and now you know mine.”

During his years with Great Big Sea, McCann drank heavily, and started to experience blackouts, not remembering what happened the night before. That, combined with an ultimatum from his wife, Andrea, helped him quit drinking for good on Nov. 9, 2011.

This change made it hard for him to continue touring with Great Big Sea, which McCann described as “Canada’s party band.”

Now, McCann tours on his own, sharing his music and story, helping shed the light on abuse and addiction.

“I’m not a victim anymore,” said McCann. “I’m a survivor.”

CLOSE TO HOME

At this year’s Friendship Dinner, House of Friendship Executive Director John Neufeld also provided an update on the progress of this year’s capital campaign, Close to Home.

The campaign, aimed at transforming the way House of Friendship provides men’s residential addiction treatment programming in Waterloo Region, has as its goal to raise $2 million to relocate the current program from Waterloo to the former Haven House in Cambridge.

“These days, we hear in the news about the national opioid crisis, which has equally affected our Region, as it has all parts of this country,” said Neufeld. “In our community, leaders are responding, working on solutions.

“Our Close to Home project is one important piece of the solution,” said Neufeld.  “Addiction is a treatable health issue. It’s no different than any other health issue, and the Close to Home capital campaign will continue to offer healing and recovery for many more adults.

“I’m really pleased tonight to share with you that the Close to Home campaign has received tremendous support in this community, not surprisingly, knowing your track record.”

At the Friendship Dinner, Neufeld announced that $1.5 – three-quarters of the fundraising goal – has been raised for Close to Home since its initial launch at the Annual General Meeting in June.

The Close to Home capital campaign continues. For more information, visit www.houseoffriendship.org/closetohome.

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