It’s a simple fact that Marty Kubesch treats everyone he encounters with dignity and respect — everyone. His approach definitely isn’t lost on those he helps the most in his role as an Outreach Worker for Sanguen Health Centre. For Marty however, helping people isn’t a choice, it’s just a way of life.
Marty didn’t start his career in outreach. He joined his family roofing business at the age of 16. Long hours with no vacation became the norm for him — “I got really involved in work and it was my thing. We worked long hours — it’s just what you do when you have your own business.”
On the rare occasions when he had a night off — he would look for ways to spend his hard-earned cash — often partying and experimenting with substances. His struggle with addiction was gradual. He was able to manage for many years because he was working for his family. “Being in a family business made it easier to hide my problem. I could get picked up later and later for jobs — it gave me more ability to [use].”
Eventually the fun stopped and the struggle got very real for Marty. At the age of 42 he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C and was suffering with full blown liver-failure not to mention his ongoing struggle with addiction. His body had left him no choice — he had to quit using drugs and get on a path to better health. Marty’s first step to recovery was to fold his business, get the help he needed and “take a break from the chase.”
On his road to becoming healthy, Marty ended up at Sanguen Health Centre for Hep C treatment. He joined a weekly support group and started to build connections and trust with the people who worked at Sanguen. At the same time he sought treatment at a local methadone clinic and began to gain control of his addiction and overall health.
Because of his caring personality, Marty frequently offered his apartment as a safe haven for friends who were also struggling with addiction. This is when overdose sadly became a regular part of Marty’s life. Friends started overdosing in his apartment after taking opioids and he knew something needed to change.
Having a well-established relationship with Sanguen and knowing the work they did in harm reduction, Marty knew he could go to them for support. He asked if one of the outreach workers could come to his building and provide Naloxone training to some of the residents and from there Marty’s formal career in outreach was born.
Today Marty returns the favour by helping others in need. Whether it’s providing a supportive word to a friend or delivering nightly Naloxone training on the Sanguen Outreach Van — he is doing his part each day to make a difference.
He’s quick to point out that the difference he’s making isn’t always easy to see. Addiction is tricky and you don’t often witness big shifts like the ones that Marty has made in his own life. Shifts like that come over time and require ongoing support and acceptance from outreach and harm reduction programs.
Sadly, those shifts don’t always come in time. To Marty, the toughest part of his job is the loss that he still experiences all too regularly. “Losing people that I’ve worked with — it happens too often. I just try to enjoy my time with people and understand that sometimes it’s only a short time but I can still make someone feel better in a moment of need.”
When asked about outreach and how it helped him get on a path to wellness Marty wants people to keep in mind how important it is not to judge. “I just don’t think it should be held against us. We have a right to change. I don’t think we should give up on each other. That’s the biggest thing for me.”
Marty is in a good place now and it’s not lost on him that in part he’s here because of the support he received when he was trying to recover. “People didn’t give up on me so I just try to be there for others and give them the same opportunity to change. We all have a lot to offer and just because we find ourselves in a bad place doesn’t mean that people should be quitting on us.”
Thankfully there were people who believed in Marty and stuck with him until he was able to get better. Now Marty will be able to take his experience and help countless of others feel the dignity and respect that he believes we all deserve.
For more information, visit Sanguen Health Centre.