To hell and back

Derek Montague
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Former drug dealer and addict shares life story, hopes to start new treatment centre

Shane Mugford spent more than 10 years as a drug dealer and addict. During that time he travelled across the country, looking for — and failing to find — happiness. And every dollar he made selling drugs was spent feeding his own habit.

Shane Mugford

“I made a lot money then,” says Mugford, 31, who was born and raised in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.  “But, at the end of the day, you still ain’t got no money because of your habits. There is no money in selling drugs like people think.”

Mugford is coming clean with his life story, hoping to convince drug users and drug dealers to stop what they’re doing and make a fresh start.

“I have a lot of friends . . . still into drugs, still selling drugs, things like that,” said Mugford.

“In Labrador right now, it’s easier to get coke than it is weed. The problem is becoming more and more and more.”  

The beginning

Mugford was only 11 years old when he was introduced to marijuana in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Soon after taking his first puff, Mugford began smoking it every day.

“You could buy that at school — any of the older dealers would sell it to you,” he recalled.

“The money is what’s important to everybody. Nobody cares about anybody else, nobody’s trying to help anybody else.”

By Grade 8, Mugford and some of his friends had tried harder drugs, like acid. Even while in the classroom, they were often all high.

“We’d go to school, we’d pop tabs. Every day we’d be high. Recesses, lunches, those would be smoking-pot times,” said Mugford.

“It messed up my life. My whole childhood, my whole teenage years  revolved around drugs.”

By the time he was in junior high, Mugford had even tried sniffing gas. It’s well known that the Labrador communities of Sheshatshiu and Natuashish have had problems with gas sniffing, but Mugford claims it also happened in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on a regular basis.

“People think it was just the Innu down in Sheshatshiu that was into it. But no, we were all into it,” Mugford said.  

Drug dealing

After a troubled childhood, Mugford moved to Fort McMurray, when he was 17. It was there that someone introduced him to the notion of selling marijuana.

“That’s when the more upscale drug dealing started,” said Mugford. “I ended up going to raves all the time in Edmonton, then getting on ecstasy and stuff.”

Mugford spent much of his adult life moving across Canada, never content to stay in one city for long. He would eventually be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In retrospect, he believes the disorder, combined with his drug addiction, is why he always felt like moving.

“(I was) never happy. I guess it comes along with being bipolar. I’m just never happy with my current situation,” said Mugford.

“No matter where you go, if you’re an addict, it’s always going to be the same. You can’t run from your addiction. You have to face it and beat it.”

During his time as a drug dealer, he said he ran some “illegal businesses,” which he wouldn’t elaborate on.  He said even though he didn’t stay long in one place, it wasn’t hard to start up his dealings in a brand new city.

“(It’s the) easiest thing in the world to do,” said Mugford. “I can go out to any city and I can get a $50,000 loan in dope (from another dealer), no problem.”

At the height of his drug business, Mugford was bringing in a minimum of $1,000 a day, with the money going to satisfy his drug addiction. 

“I came down to Newfoundland from Montreal and I had 20,000 pills of ecstasy. I bought myself a Cadillac and I was driving around Newfoundland for four months straight, selling ecstasy out of the back of a Cadillac,” said Mugford.

“And I made over $300,000 in eight months (selling cocaine) … and by the end of it I was $7,000 in the hole.”  

Cocaine addiction

Mugford’s personal drug of choice was cocaine. He was first introduced to the highly addictive narcotic in Grade 8 when he tried a tobacco-cocaine mixture. 

Cocaine addiction turned his life into a nightmare.

“When you’re into something like coke, it’s powerful, it’s hard to let it go,” he said.

“It’s like this circle. You get depressed because you do the coke and then you do more coke because you’re depressed. It’s like this never ending vicious circle of just hell.”

Mugford said he has been clean  for the last several months and is treating his bipolar disorder with natural means, such as nutrients and exercise. Now that he’s straightening out his life, he wants to use his experience to help others.

On March 4, Mugford began a gofundme.com website called “inukshuk counselling service,” with the hopes of raising enough money to start a drug treatment facility in St. John’s. His first goal is to get enough money to rent office space, before hiring staff.

“I’m putting together a rather unique private counselling service to help with our over-exhausted health-care system here in Newfoundland and Labrador,” Mugford posted on the site, describing himself as a young aboriginal entrepreneur who has worked as a family youth worker in a youth addictions treatment centre.

“Wait times to see a counselor starts with a minimum of 2 weeks, and wait times to get into a treatment facility could take as long as 4 to 6 weeks.”

After going through hell and back with his own addiction, Mugford hopes his story will translate into something meaningful for others struggling with drug problems.

“I’ve lived this and I want to get something started. I want to help. I’m determined to help.”  

The Labradorian

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Happy Valley, Goose Bay Sheshatshiu Fort McMurray Edmonton Canada Montreal

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Recent comments

  • Shirley Snow
    May 31, 2014 - 07:01

    Hi Shane, I am not sure if you are the person who contacted me about my product. I did a little research and I think you may be the one. I read your story and I am very impressed. Like you I would like to make the world a better place by helping others. I have not been involved in drugs but I know it is very easy to get caught up into something like that, especially if needing money. I am looking forward to launching my product and when it begins to make good revenue, I intend to pay it forward by helping others have a better life. I intend to start by helping those in shelters start over and to believe in themselves , I would love to help those who (like myself now get started) . I am divorced and I know what it is like to start over and raise children and work two and three jobs just to get through. My children are raised and they are my pride and joy. I have a grand daughter and another on the way. I currently work two jobs and I am so looking forward launching my product to help others and in turn enhance my life so I can have time to enjoy my family and work on creating more of my product, travel to help others and enjoy life. I am hoping you are the person who contacted me , I look forward to your reply. Shirley

  • Melissa Manning-Best
    March 19, 2014 - 10:46

    I think this is a wonderful thing to see happening in Goose Bay, I grew up with Shane and saw many of the same things happen. I am so proud of him to be able to tell his story, turn his life around and use his past mistakes to help educate others.

  • Stephen
    March 16, 2014 - 14:26

    Im wondering why this guy need to raise funds.... why not get a business loan like other new business do? Or get a partner to help with funding?

  • Agatha
    March 15, 2014 - 15:27

    Shane! I wish you all the best and I pray that you keep yourself clean. You only have that to prove to YOU and nobody else, you will have people that will try to bring you down with their stupid comments but they don't matter.Good Luck

  • Shane Mugford
    March 15, 2014 - 10:46

    I don't want you to send me money to open a center lol, I'm trying to start a simple counselling service inorder to prove how important my methods actually are. I'm only in need of a small office space for counselors to meet with people who are struggling with addiction. And no I'm not a counselor and I won't be counselling. I will go to churches and ask to borrow office space in return for donations if I have to. This is not about money and can be done without it.

  • Loretta
    March 14, 2014 - 19:34

    Keep going forward xoxo

  • Shane Mugford
    March 14, 2014 - 18:24

    You can find out more on my fb wall or my gofundme campaign. Addiction isn't a joke and everyone knows atleast someone who's struggling with it.

  • Marina Penney
    March 14, 2014 - 17:03

    so proud of you shane good luck with everything .

  • Barbara Mesher
    March 14, 2014 - 16:32

    I Don't Know You But I Really Proud Of You.Take Care

    • lol
      March 14, 2014 - 21:50

      I understand u wanting to help others, maybe u shud go to school for that and get a job counselling, but for you to want us to send you money to open a center is ridiculous, u haven't even been clean a year yet