Matthew Fee’s face beamed with happiness and accomplishment as he rode his one-speed BMX bike into the parking lot of Duncan’s White Spot restaurant on Vancouver Island Monday afternoon.
Fee, 33, who was born in Duncan, was on the final leg of his more than 7,000-kilometre bike ride from Halifax to Victoria as part of his “Cycling for Sobriety” tour that began on May 1.
He said his long ride, intended to fight stigma and to raise awareness for the addiction-recovery services at John Volken Academy in Newton, was encouraging for him as he met and inspired many people along the way to make changes in their lives.
“For many people, there are lots of things they don’t want to do to change their lives for the better, but they have to reach down deep within themselves, not give up and look for support,” Fee said after he pulled into the parking lot, followed closely by his support team in a camper trailer covered in sponsorship logos.
“One of my best memories of the trip was when I left Medicine Hat. Ryan Kelly, who also rode a bike across the country on his Ride to Recovery tour, pedalled about 70 kilometres with me as he told me his story. It was quite the trip overall.”
The tour is also an attempt by Fee, a life-long bike enthusiast, to set a record for the world’s longest ride on a single-speed bike.
While born in Duncan, Fee moved to Terrace B.C. with his family when he was seven years old.
His young life was tough as he was the bullied and traumatized by peers, and he blamed himself when his parents divorced.
Fee said he began to “socially disconnect” and became an outcast in his teenage years.
“I started partying and hanging around with the wrong crowd,” he said.
“Hard drugs and drinking became my life at age 15. I lost a close friend and, unable to process the pain of that loss in a healthy manner, I simply did more drugs. I crashed my truck due to mixing drugs and medications, lost my job, overdosed and ended up in the hospital.”
While in the hospital, Fee’s mother, Tammy Lynne, showed him a news clip about the John Volken Academy, an addiction recovery program modelled after the therapeutic community approach to addiction treatment.
Fee said he had already tried numerous addiction treatment programs to no avail, but decided he wanted to get his life back in order and agreed to attend the academy’s two-year program.
“The academy really turned my life around,” he said.
“After I completed the program, the academy hired me as a mentor to help other people fight their addictions. I’ve been clean and sober for four years now and I’m really enjoying my life.”
Tammy Lynne joined the Cycling for Sobriety tour for its last leg earlier this week as it made its way through Vancouver on the way to the Island.
She said couldn’t be happier at the positive changes in her son’s life.
“We almost lost him 12 times over the years,” she said as she gleefully tucked herself under Fee’s arm.
“There are no words to describe what he has done with his life and I’m just delighted. Matt is now a catalyst for change for other people and families who are going through what we went through. By the grace of God, he’s alive to tell his story and help others.”
Fee said the tour was scheduled to end with a ceremony at the Legislature Building on Tuesday, after which he will dip his bike into the Pacific Ocean and return to work.
He thanked his many sponsors for helping to fund his ride across the country.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to work,” he said with a grin.