After roughly 15 years as an on-and-off heroin user, Daniel Snyder faced the challenge of being publicly vulnerable about his experience years ago.
“I wrestled with it — certainly for a time — but emerged realizing that I really needed to own my story,” Snyder said.
That journey has allowed Snyder to co-host Off The Clock Toolbox Talk, a podcast launched by Mission’s Fraser House Society to create conversations with men who work in the trades and construction industry about health and substance use.
The Fraser House podcast is a two-year project that will include up to 40 episodes over four seasons, produced with a financial contribution from Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addiction Program.
“This funding will enable us to create podcasts for men in the trades that will provide tools and information on pain, trauma and substance use while enhancing awareness, decreasing stigma and encouraging shared lived experiences,” Fraser House Society executive director Cynthia Coyle said.
Snyder co-hosts the podcast with Karen Janzen, a health promotion specialist who has worked with vulnerable youth in the mental health substance use field for decades. Janzen also came up with the concept for the podcast.
“Fifteen years ago, I saw how a lack of psycho-social resources fueled the misery of tradesmen in my life,” Janzen said.
In the first episode, Snyder shared his experiences as a tradesman who used heroin on and off for 15 years — during which time he overdosed and survived.
He says if he were going through his addiction experience at any point in the last seven years, he wouldn’t be alive.
“I know that in my heart because of the way I used to operate alone — always kind of behind closed doors, locked in a bedroom or a bathroom, and very isolated, very secretive,” he said.
While Snyder is open about his experiences, he says finding others to be publicly vulnerable is a challenge.
“Often, one of the real challenges is finding people who are still struggling or people who are perhaps using drugs and it’s not dysfunctional — and that is actually a large majority of people,” he said. “If I’m a guy who uses molly a couple of times a year or likes to do cocaine once in a while, I’m not generally the guy that’s gonna open up about that, especially on a podcast.”
He says a challenge of hosting is being aware of his own biases.
“[My] ways of thinking about this issue do not necessarily translate out onto every other person,” he said.
However, Snyder hopes his own experience with drug use can help people to open up on the show.
“I have that lived experience in interaction with people on job sites, and I’m well aware of the kind of drive to hide behaviours that society deems less than desirable.”
Snyder says the classic view of drug use usually involves addiction or homelessness. However, a large number of overdoses are happening in private residences with many of those people employed in trade and transport.
“A lot of trades guys are working paycheck to paycheck in a difficult society. The financial burdens that people experience and… the wear and tear on the bodies of our tradespeople — it’s not a surprise to me that some of them are just hanging on and substance use is simply a way of self-medicating.”
According to Snyder, the trades industry has unique factors contributing to drug use that are difficult to research to truly understand why they are so impacted.
“I obviously don’t have all the answers,” Snyder said. “The podcast is an exploration of that and breaking down the stigma around drug use.”
The podcast hopes to drive home the idea that every story is unique and different and so are solutions.
The first season is now available on Apple, Spotify and Youtube with the second season on the way.