John “Johny” Moore of Niagara Falls is traveling the world to make a documentary about addiction.
The 34-year-old spent more than 15 years with serious addictions to a slew of hard drugs, like cocaine and fentanyl.
For a time, his world was like something you’d see in a drug movie starring Johnny Depp or Leonardo DiCaprio — he was using, selling and producing a lot of drugs, had guns, runners, foreign connections and criminal proceeds.
A “bad character” doesn’t really cut it, said Moore.
“It was a 24-7 cocaine-fuelled buffet.”
But like all good crime movies, his time of glory came to a dark end. Moore lost everything. The slew of drugs turned into a slew of criminal charges. His money was gone and some of his friends went to prison. He lost his girlfriend and wasn’t allowed to see his daughter. He had hit rock bottom and his addictions were stronger than ever, intensified by not having the amount of drugs he had become accustomed to.
During that time he suffered a nearly fatal overdose, one of many overdoses he’d had over the course of his addiction.
He says after the last one something “just clicked,” and he realized he needed to clean up his act or he was going to die.
Though he’s had some “slips” along the way, and admits he still struggles with addiction on a regular basis, Moore says it’s coming up on the second year that he hasn’t been on probation or stipulations or bail.
“I’m finally done all of my sentencing, I have nothing criminally holding me to court anymore. And that’s a major triumph.”
After getting himself on a “better path” at around age 32, Moore signed up for a broadcasting course at Niagara College with the dreams of being a filmmaker. And now he’s doing it.
Moore has been filming across Canada and other parts of the world to make a documentary series called Addicted to Addiction, which will explore addiction, as he says, “from Facebook to fentanyl.”
He says the series will explore a range of topics related to addiction, shedding a new light on how addiction — not just to drugs — can have a severe impact on mental health and look at the similarities between behavioural addictions and chemical addictions, as well as the similarities between the brain activity of people who are addicted to a wide range of things, like social media, video games, pornography and drugs.
It will also explore the different approaches communities are taking to handle drug problems, as well as what sort of treatment options are available, all the while promoting the message that addiction is a form of mental illness.
Right now Moore is in B.C., learning about the four-pillar approach to handling the opioid crisis, an approach which Canada adopted from Switzerland that is based on four defining factors: harm reduction, prevention, treatment and enforcement.
Moore has filmed while travelling with paramedics who revive overdose victims and says out west he’s seen a changing attitude towards mental health and addiction.
“One of the things I’m learning out here is that B.C. is really big on starting to deal with mental health in a not-so-clinical environment,” he said.
“Back home the treatment centres are built more along the lines of an institution, almost like an insane-asylum or something you would find in a ward of a prison. But out here it’s the opposite, there’s yoga, there’s meditation, there’s healing gardens — you know, the approach is different. And I think that’s why they have some of the higher recovery rates out here.”
The series will also explore more controversial forms of healing including the psychoactive substances ayahuasca and ibogaine.
Moore said he and some of his crew will be filming themselves taking ayahuasca in Costa Rica, after taking a van from B.C. to Mexico and filming along America’s West Coast.
“That’s one of the most interesting parts of the series, is you know, the director, and a couple people filming this shamanistic healing experience,” says Moore.
He says he wants to explore the healing potential of “spirituality without religion.”
When asked if he’d gotten any flak about the plan to take ayahuasca, he said he “doesn’t consider it a relapse” because it’s a “ritualistic and shamanistic experience.”
“Coming from the background of alcoholics anonymous and narcotics anonymous, they consider any substance you put in your body is a relapse. Now this is an 80-year-old book they’re using to treat people,” said Moore.
He said the purpose of exploring these routes is to promote his message that new methods need to be researched for addressing mental health issues.
Moore is also dedicated to “ending the stigma” about addiction and mental illness, having founded endthestigmamovement.com to help raise awareness about the attitude surrounding addiction.
“We need to change society’s outlook on addiction and people who live with addiction. Once you get sucked into that world and into that lifestyle it is so hard to get out.”
“People are afraid to come out of the closet and say they’re addicts for fear of being segregated amongst their peers or being put down or being shamed. You know, a lot of people carry that shame or guilt inside and they don’t want to tell anybody because of the stigma,” he explained.
“So our goal is to change that social outlook, to show people it really is a disease of the brain. It’s not hocus-pocus science. The World Health Organization has declared it a mental health issue, the Canadian government has labelled it as a mental health issue.”
The documentary series is still in production but is expected to be finished around October 2018. He says he is in the works of trying to get it on Netflix and that it will be airing at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Moore says he’s paying for the film through crowdfunding and is planning to launch a larger crowdfunding campaign in December.
The facebook page for the movement can be found at facebook.com/TheDocAddictedtoAddiction.