The Q & A: former Bay Streeter Andrew Galloway sympathizes with the crack addicts he counsels on Intervention Canada—because he used to be one

The Q & A: former Bay Streeter Andrew Galloway sympathizes with the crack addicts he counsels on Intervention Canada—because he used to be one

Andrew Galloway

Now you’re a successful rehab therapist, but 10 years ago, you were working on Bay Street, hooked on booze and crack. How bad did things get?
I had a few seizures. I would collapse to my knees and crawl to my couch. Finally, I drove over to my parents’ place. My mom opened the door and I burst into tears. She asked, “Who died?” and I looked at her and said, “Me.”

Do you think they suspected all along?
They never knew the extent of it, but they knew something was wrong. I remember one year having a bunch of great ideas for what to get them for Christmas. Then all of a sudden it was Christmas Eve, and I hadn’t gotten them anything. So I cut out pictures from magazines and gave them as IOUs. I wanted to get my dad a putter, but I couldn’t even find a picture of a putter. God. I can still see the pencil drawing I made. You want to talk about shame? But you know what? Now I get my Christmas shopping done in October!

At the time, you were a venture capitalist, running a number of companies. How much were you making?
Six figures. I was 25 and a director of four or five publicly traded companies. I had a house on the water, a swimming pool, an amazing sports car. But I lived a double life. My friends didn’t know.

When did you first do coke?
In Grade 12 in a prefect’s room at UCC, during a school dance. Back in Grade 5, I was the kid who thought, I’ll never drink, I’ll never do drugs. By Grade 8, something had changed. Then it was, I’ll never do cocaine, I’ll never do heroin, I’ll never do hallucinogenics. By Grade 12, that had changed too. I kept moving the bar.

How exactly did you get into crack?
I was watching 60 Minutes on the crack epidemic in America, and I thought, look at all these people who smoke crack! It must be really good. The show basically demonstrated how to make it, so I made it and thought, wow, it is really good.

Isn’t crack a poor man’s drug?
It’s called crack on the street. Rich guys call it freebase. As for the high, cocaine is like being on Mount Everest; crack is like being in heaven.

How often would you get high?
I got high four to six times a week. I drank every day.

You went into rehab in 2001, got clean and then enrolled in the addiction care worker program at McMaster. When did you know you had fully recovered?
The day I graduated from McMaster. I was told I’d be receiving the award for academic excellence. I went outside and cried. I’m crying just telling you about it.

What drugs are you seeing most among your patients these days?
Coke remains big on Bay Street. Oxy is huge—you’d be surprised how many people are using it. I’m seeing heroin more and more. Meth is bigger outside of Toronto; it’s more of a suburban drug. Ketamine—a hallucinogen usually called ket or Special K on the street—is popular among kids.

You have two young kids. How will you keep them from going down that path?
Educate and support them as best I can—and pray like hell they don’t get involved.

Do reality shows like Intervention Canada—which facilitates and documents interventions with addicts—increase or decrease the stigma attached to substance abuse?
I think the show gives viewers hope that there’s something they can do to help their loved ones. You can relate, whether you’re the addict, the mother, the brother or a friend.

So how do you get your rush today?
I bought a Harley-Davidson Fat Bob. I’m totally having a mid-life crisis.