Canadian rapper Madchild celebrates recovery with Winnipeggers at The Forks.

By Riley Hastings. Video by Christopher Sigurdson

Last five years I got lost in the Matrix, now I need a whole set of teeth and a facelift.

Canadian hip-hop veteran Madchild paces back stage at Recovery Day at The Forks. He’s coy with the cameras as he does his pre-show interviews.

The former Swollen Member has “hit rock bottom twice.” Once with opiates, and more recently with Xanax addiction. He’s 17 months sober, and he’s rebuilding his career one tour date at a time.

Rapper Madchild
Canadian hip-hop veteran Madchild spits rhymes and talks addiction at Recovery Day Winnipeg./RILEY HASTINGS

“I’m only doing fine in my career cause I’m off drugs. My first addiction, I lost 4.5 million dollars. Does that sound like a fun thing to do?”

Madchild takes a quick drag off his cigarette before approaching the media. He says he’s nervous, but today he has a message.

“We’re just celebrating the concept of saving your own life, and other lives.”

Recovery Day, today’s event hosted by Aurora Recovery Centre, aims to “tackle the stigma surrounding addictions” and features speeches from recovering addicts and grieving family members.

Recovery Day Winnipeg speaker
Roberta Grant pays tribute to her 29-year-old nephew and her brother, who died from their addictions./ RILEY HASTINGS

A quick scan of the crowd shows the weight of Winnipeg’s drug crisis. Friends and families embrace each other. Many shed tears while listening to the speakers, including Mackenzie Philips—star of American Graffiti and Orange Is the New Black.   

Mackenzie Phillips talks to Winnipeggers.
Mackenzie Phillips (American Graffiti, Orange Is the New Black) had a decades-long road to recovery./ RILEY HASTINGS

1:30 p.m.—Madchild hits the stage. His nerves disappear as he launches into Monster, a hard-hitting banger off his 2012 full-length, Dopesick. The 43-year-old steps with his signature Battleaxe swagger as he whips up his fans.

Madchild on stage
Madchild rose to fame with Vancouver group Swollen Members. His latest record, Demons, gives his unfiltered perspectives on addiction./RILEY HASTINGS

He takes a moment to level with the crowd. He talks about his struggles and the sacrifices he’s made for sobriety. Fans and dozens of Aurora volunteers hang on to his every word.

Jonathan Meikle, one of today’s speakers, went through Aurora’s program and is now in recovery. He’s been an addict—he’s also an Afghan War veteran, competitive boxer, Bear Clan volunteer and public speaker.

Meikle recently enrolled in the Social Innovation and Community Development Program at Red River College’s Notre Dame Campus. The program, part of RRC’s School of Indigenous Education, prepares students to bring “new perspectives to existing ways of decision-making in today’s world.”

RRC student Jonathan Meikle spoke at today’s event. He says he wants to help others as part of his own recovery./ RILEY HASTINGS

“Part of my recovery is helping others. It really gives me joy and purpose.” said Meikle. “A lot of people are out there struggling. They need people out there to provide that help.”

Meikle is building himself a platform to speak about addiction—he previously talked at TedxWinnipeg in July.

“Real changes are going to come from the ground up, instead of the usual top-down approach.”

As Madchild heads off to his Sudbury tour date, Meikle spars with his Stingers Boxing Academy colleagues. Their lives, and the lives of Winnipeggers affected by addiction, go on.


A candid word from the editor

Students, if you’re struggling, I want to you to know that help exists. Addiction is a complex disease. You might feel hopeless, but it’s not too late. When you’re ready, you can beat this thing. Jonathan’s done it. Madchild’s done it. I’ve done it.

Here’s a list of the college’s mental health and counselling resources. Please consider using them—you’re entitled to them as a Red River College student, and I’d love to see you become another success story.

  • Counselling at RRC
  • Urgent/crisis support:
    Crisis Response Centre
    24/7 walk-in service
    817 Bannatyne Avenue

    Mobile Crisis Service
    Someone will come to you
    Call: 204-940-1781

    Klinic Crisis Line – 24/7
    TTY: 204-784-4097
  • Red River Reliefline
    An online safe space for emotional support via text
    School code: RRC_rebels

Upcoming events

  • Sept 24 – Volunteer Information Session – Interested in mental health and looking to get involved on campus? Attend the information session to learn more about fun and supported volunteer opportunities.
  • Nov 4-8 Thrive week – A week filled with free self-care events and activities. With therapy dog visits, paint night, a lunch hour comedy show and much more, there’s something for everyone. Watch for the full calendar, published in October.