Editor’s Note, November 2010

Journalism demands curiosity, rewards attention, and gives you licence to ask people just about anything. Most of us, if questioned about our lives and listened to carefully, speak openly and at length—perhaps because, in the normal course of events, nobody bothers to really ask us about ourselves.

Case in point: Darrin Sjoberg, 40, this month’s Q&A subject, who talks with enlightening, at times alarming, candour about the addiction that’s gripped him since his teens. Before going into detox a year ago, then moving into a recovery house in New Westminster to embark on a 12-step program, he spent virtually all he could earn, con, or steal on shooting crystal meth into his veins—a $1,500-a-week habit that cost him his health, his family, and very nearly his life. “I’d probably be dead today if I hadn’t hit bottom after a four-day bender and said to my roommate’s cousin, a nurse, ‘I can’t keep going.’ I’ll never forget what she said: ‘You don’t have to live like this, you know’—the right words at the right moment. In my daze, I thought to myself, ‘I don’t?’” So began Sjoberg’s brave, perilous journey back to a world of accountability and human connection. Most recovering addicts protect their anonymity, but he’s happy to tell his story, he says, “if it makes a single addict realize that no matter how isolated and walled-off you are, you’re not alone and you can get help. There’s a phrase we use in the program that you really come to understand: ‘The therapeutic value of one addict helping another.’ I’m clean today because other guys who’ve been in my shoes are helping me.”

This month we’re introducing a new element in the magazine, “First Person,” that also relies on people’s willingness to speak frankly about their lives. We asked Vancouverites to describe rare personal experiences—from a kidney recipient to an adoptee who found his birth mother after years of searching. What does it feel like to climb the Grouse Grind 14 times in one day? In an upcoming issue Sebastian Albrecht, who did it in June, will tell you—in stomach-churning detail. In addition, Mandy-Rae Cruickshank, the record-holding free diver (who appeared in the documentary The Cove), describes what it’s like to descend 288 feet, then swim up again, on a single breath.